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She reread the typed note, smiling.

The phrase "the typed note" is serving as a direct object to the verb "reread" as it raises the question of what. While the participle "smiling" is telling the manner how she was reading the typed note, so it is an adverb of manner. Adverbs of manner usually take place right after the verb they serve to. Can we write it like:

She reread smiling the typed note.

The use of the comma before the word 'smiling' also refers to its displacement.

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  • "smiling" isn't an "adverb modifying a verb" in the same way as She quickly read the note. It's a present participle that's part of a participle phrase, and personally I'd say its syntactic role is more that of an adjective modifying "she" (while she's reading the note). With or without commas, you can't validly put "smiling" immediately before or after the verb "re-read" - it can only really go at the start or end of the entire utterance. Commented May 17, 2023 at 11:02
  • @FumbleFingers I agree that "smiling" doesn't work well in that position in this sentence, but I do think that present participles in general can go in that position. E.g.: "They went laughing all the way to the bank." Yes, you can put "laughing" at the beginning or end, but I prefer it in the middle. Commented May 18, 2023 at 1:08
  • "Adverbs of manner usually take place right after the verb they serve to." This is not true.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 18, 2023 at 21:00

1 Answer 1

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In this context, "smiling" isn't an adverb of manner, and it does not directly modify the verb itself.

Rather, "smiling" is a reduced form of "while smiling", or "while she was smiling", and it modifies the entire clause, "she reread the typed note". It could just as easily be placed at the beginning of the sentence:

Smiling, she reread the typed note.

Your version of the sentence sounds like "reread" has no object, and that "the typed note" is the direct object of the verb "smile", which makes no sense. It's easier to see this interpretation if you expand "smiling" to its non-reduced form in your version of the sentence:

She reread while she was smiling the typed note.

Adverbs of manner mostly have "-ly" suffixes, and come before or after the entire verb phrase they modify, not just the bare verb:

She smilingly reread the typed note.
She reread the typed note smilingly.

Note that neither of these two sentences is as natural as the original.

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