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He walked on the road with pace.

In the example above, there are two prepositional phrases: 'on the road' and 'with pace.' These both function adverbially, modifying 'walked.' Is this grammatically sound, or should it be rewritten?

We have various items from different locations to purchase.

Here is another example. This one combines a prepositional phrase, 'from different locations,' with a to-infinitve, 'to purchase'. In theory, we could rearrange these two modifiers, but should this be rewritten to avoid ambiguity?

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  • In your head, what happens if you change the two modifiers in your second example? If your sentence reads 'We have various items to purchase from different locations', does that change any meaning in your opinion? Does it create ambiguity?
    – JMB
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 11:12
  • In my example, I would say that 'to purchase' functions like an adjective and modifies 'items.' If we swap them around, I would say that the prepositional phrase 'from different locations' functions adverbially and modifies 'to purchase.'
    – MJ Ada
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 13:07

2 Answers 2

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To answer the title of your question: yes, we can use multiple modifying phrases in succession. Generally speaking, we should respect the order of adverbs:

  1. Manner (how)
  2. Place (where)
  3. Frequency (how often)
  4. Time (when)
  5. Purpose (why)

However, there is quite a bit of flexibility available to us. (Consider the above to be a guide, not a firm rule) More importantly, the order is best determined by what we want to modify. Your first sentence is nice and flexible*. I think it sounds fine in whichever order you place your modifying phrases - and there isn't any ambiguity.

He walked at pace on the road

He walked on the road at pace

*I think 'at pace' is more natural than 'with pace'.

However, in your second sentence, we need to be quite careful.

Consider:

We have various [items from different locations] to purchase.

'From different locations' describes the 'items'. That is, that the items are from different locations.

If we switch the order of the modifying phrases, consider what is being modified:

We have various items [to purchase from different locations].

Now we've modified the meaning! We are saying that the purchase of the items can be made from different locations.

In essence, consider what you are modifying when using modifying phrases, and think about if you may be creating ambiguity.

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Yes, multiple modifiers may be used. Indeed one is not limited to two modifying phrases. In some cases changitnm the order of the modifiers can change the meaning, or can introduce or remove ambiguity. In this particular case, I don't see a significant chan ge o meanign in the second example.

Let us consider

(2A) We have various items from different locations to purchase.

This culd mean that the items themselves are from different locations (cheese from france, beef from South America, say) but the items will all be purchased at the same store. But it is more likely to mean that we intend to visit several stores to purchase the items. Now consider the variant:

(2A) We have various items to purchase from different locations.

Here it is clear that different purchases will be made at different locations. This eliminates the possibility that it is the items that come from different locations, and so eliminates ambiguity, but there is no change in meaning if the original intent was that purchases would be mad e at various locations, as seems likely to me.

Now let us consider the first example

(1A) He walked on the road with pace. incorrect, shown by red X

"with pace" is not normally used like that. One might say "with a slow pace" or more commonly "at a slow pace" (or "fast pace" or "with a shaky pace" or any other designation). But "pace" alone is not used like that. It is a noun, in this sense indicating a rate or manner of walking. as a noun being used adverbially, (it modifies walk here) it must have an article and to make sense in this case, a qualifier of some sort. If th noun were "cane" instead one would say

  • (1B) He walked on the road with a cane correct, shown by green check mark
  • (1C) He walked on the road with a heavy cane correct, shown by green check mark

but not

  • (1D) He walked on the road with cane incorrect, shown by red X

So the original exmaple might be rephrased as:

  • (1E) He walked on the road at a rapid pace. correct, shown by green check mark
  • (1F) He walked on the road with a tired pace. correct, shown by green check mark

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