1

When my friend says "I'm going to sleep" (while I'm with my family) I can think of three different ways to reply to him:

a) We are going to sleep in 10 minutes, too.

b) In 10 minutes we are going to sleep too.

c) We are going to sleep too, in 10 minutes.

I am not sure whether all of these choices are correct, or if it's just a matter of style, but more to the point, I'm not sure how I should choose between the options. I know from my studies that there are multiple ways to construct any sentence to say the same thing, how do you decide which way is better for your situation?

3
  • You seem to be asking about the position of the adverbial phrase "in 10 minutes". Have you done any research concerning the placement of adverbial phrases? That topic is discussed quite a bit on this site, as well as various other sites. Jun 14, 2023 at 0:28
  • 1
    I edited the question slightly-- I'm pretty sure this rephrasing still gets at the heart of what you wanted to know, but refocuses it on the process, not the specific examples. I think this refocusing works better on Stackexchange and will be more useful to you. I've also answered accordingly. Jun 14, 2023 at 6:45
  • Does your friend mean that he is retiring for the night? In that case, he would say "I'm going to bed". He might say "I'm going to sleep" if you were all sitting comfortably and he felt as though he was about to fall asleep in his chair - which would be a reason for his deciding to go to bed! Jun 14, 2023 at 7:09

1 Answer 1

1

The way to select which sentence to use is to understand what the focus of the sentences are. You would then choose the appropriate sentence that focuses on the part you wish to focus on.

In English, unlike some other languages, the focus (that is, the most important part) should come earlier in the sentence. A lot of optional rephrasings are possible in English in order for a speaker or writer to be able to move the more important parts earlier. Note that interrupting the flow of a sentence to interject an auxiliary fact can also draw extra attention to that fact, but even with the extra attention, being placed later in a sentence may make the extra fact feel like an "afterthought".

Let's look at your three example sentences (all of which are gramatically correct and need no adjustments):

a) We are going to sleep in 10 minutes, too.

Pretty basic SVO sentence structure at first, and that's what we focus on— the subject (we), the verb (are) and the object (going to sleep in 10 minutes). The final "too", however, is out of place and thus an afterthought. It's almost like the speaker just realized after speaking that they are not the first to declare they are going to bed, and want to contextualize their sentence, but it's not really the important piece of information.

b) In 10 minutes we are going to sleep too.

Here, "10 minutes" is the first part of the sentence, so that's the emphasized important thing to focus on. In this construction, "too" is not separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma, so it isn't an afterthought, it's part of the information that describes what will happen in 10 minutes.

c) We are going to sleep too, in 10 minutes.

In this sentence, the "in 10 minutes" part is the afterthought. The information the speaker wants to convey is that they are also planning to go to bed in addition to you, and then as a side note, less important to them, they are also telling you when they plan to do it (in 10 minutes).

These are not the only ways to rearrange the words in this sentence to put the focus on different parts of the information. For example...

We are also going to sleep in 10 minutes.

This moves the "too" much earlier in the sentence (changing it to "also" for grammatical reasons) making it a much more important piece of information— you want to emphasize that you are doing the same thing as the other person.

I hope this gives you an idea of how to decide which word order and structure to use for a given situation.

2
  • "We too are going..."
    – bakunin
    Jun 14, 2023 at 7:29
  • Yep, there are so many rearrangement possibilities. Jun 14, 2023 at 7:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .