A. Government immediately took action after the unexpected tragedy.

B. Government took action after the unexpected tragedy immediately.

C. Immediately the Government took action after the unexpected tragedy.

D. Government took action immediately after the unexpected tragedy.

The given answer is D.

Is immediately an adverb of time? Is it because of this immediately is placed after the object?

  • Just to be clear, what was the exam question? Aug 2 at 7:36
  • B looks wrong (don't know why grammaticaly but the word immediatly gives urgency to the government taking action, delaying it till after the extra info loses the entire sense of urgency). . C sounds somewhat weird to me. I cannot tell why A or D would be prefered so really interested in the answer to this question.
    – Imus
    Aug 2 at 7:37
  • And I'd say that it's D because it's preferred that the adverbs go after the verbs, but English grammar is so fluid. Actually it going before the verb might emphasize the speed of the government action, so politicians of the ruling party would say A, all the time. Aug 2 at 7:45
  • I think they're all wrong. A and D would both be acceptable if you added "The" before "Government", but without it they're all wrong. "Government" is just the process of governing; it can't in and of itself take any action, it is the action. "The Government" is the administrative body that governs, which can indeed take action. (Though I've heard people use "Government" without the "the" in this context frequently enough, still technically wrong, I'd say.) Aug 2 at 19:40

There is flexibility in the placement of an adverb.

For example, all of these are fine:

  • The government took action immediately.
  • Immediately, the government took action.
  • The government took immediate action (using adjective instead of adverb)

However, with your example, you have the qualifying phrase "...after the unexpected tragedy". You cannot separate this from the adverb because what you are trying to say is that the action was 'immediately after' this. If you separate them, it doesn't make sense - something cannot be immediate (meaning 'right away') and then be said to be after something else. So, what you actually have is an adverb phrase "immediately after", not an adverb operating indepdentently. This is why only option D is correct.

  • Oh, so true! "immediately after" is the key here. Aug 2 at 7:54
  • mostly agree. But what if instead of meaning "immediately after" it's meant more as some time after the tragedy, the government took action immediately instead of the usual delays for discussing the problem and comming to a majority vote. Doesn't that allow for option A to still be correct as well?
    – Imus
    Aug 2 at 8:05
  • @Imus It might be grammatically okay, but it's odd. It sounds like the sort of thing a government might say. "We acted immediately... after the fact". It's like saying "He immediately left after he'd finished his breakfast". That sounds more leisurely than immediately.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 2 at 8:22
  • "He immediately went to the hospital after hearing his wife was in a car crash" doesn't sound any less right than "He went to the hospital immediately after hearing his wife was in a car crash" tho ... I'd say that it works in the case the "after X" is the trigger for doing it "immediatly". So it's not about the time when to do it "after ..." but providing context "X happened and then after that ...". So I'm still not convinced why A would be considered "wrong" unless if you specifically intend it to be understood as "immediately after".
    – Imus
    Aug 2 at 8:33
  • 1
    @KRyan Sorry, I can't agree. A, B and C are not well-thought-out sentences and the one place I'm certain you wouldn't hear them is spoken by a newsreader. "Immediately", when used in isolation, means "instantly". It doesn't make sense to say something is "instant", and then separately say it was after something else. However, 'immediately' can be qualified as in this example to mean "as soon as" something else occurred. That conjunction has to be clear, and the only example given where it is clear is D.
    – Astralbee
    Aug 2 at 18:57

Both A and D are in widespread use. Neither is better than the other, and if the test only accepts D, then it's wrong. Sentence B is one I can easily imagine myself saying sometimes, but I'd be less likely to write it. However, I wouldn't consider it wrong, even though I prefer A or D. Sentence C is uncommon, but it could be used when you want to emphasize the word immediately. So I wouldn't say it's wrong, either.

In addition, most sentences omit the before government, even though we need an article here.

The upshot of this is that it appears that this presumed test question was written by someone who isn't a native-level English speaker and who is relying on some set of rules they heard of rather than how people actually use English. I wouldn't rely on their ability to teach English at the level of this question. Remember that correct English is determined by how a large segment of the population uses the language in a given context, and quality learning materials will reflect this.


Upon rereading the question, I note that option D can be interpreted in two ways, whereas the others can't. Options A-C mean that the government took immediate action. Option D can be interpreted that way, but it can also be interpreted slightly differently as the government's action was immediately after the tragedy. However, the difference in meaning is so slight that I doubt it would make any real-world difference.

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