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Correct sentence: The dog roams the streets every day.

Incorrect sentence: The dog roams every day the streets.

Every day is an adverbial phrase that means "each day."

I know the second sentence is incorrect, however, I cannot explain why. Adverbs modify verbs. "Every day" is modifying "roams." However, when it's position is changed in the sentence, the sentence becomes wrong.

Can anyone help me understand why?

Thanks!

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  • It's incorrect because you cannot normally insert an adjunct between a verb and its direct object.
    – BillJ
    Dec 11, 2023 at 14:24
  • In I go to work the final three words are effectively an "unbreakable" sequence, because I go isn't really a meaningful verb use without the prepositional phrase to work. Those three words collectively are the "verb phrase" being adverbially modified by every day - which could also be "fronted" as Every day I go to work if you wanted to emphasize the frequency rather than the activity itself). If that helps. Dec 11, 2023 at 14:58
  • Have you heard of the SVOMPT rule? It's a bit simplified, but it should help you here. It describes the basic word order you need here. It stands for: Subject, Verb, Object, Manner, Place, Time. Stick to that word order and you can't go wrong really. In reality you can change that word order, however you need to learn to walk before you can run.
    – Billy Kerr
    Dec 11, 2023 at 18:13
  • @BillyKerr I disagree with your assertion that "in reality you can change that word order" once the OP becomes more knowledgeable. That's simply untrue as far as inserting an adjunct between a verb and its direct object is concerned. To imply otherwise may be considered reckless.
    – BillJ
    Dec 12, 2023 at 14:10

2 Answers 2

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Adverbs modify verbs.

This statement is correct, but misleadingly incomplete with respect to English. Adverbs can modify verbs, but also verb phrases.

In English, but not in some other languages, verbs form units with following objects that strongly resist being separated by adverbs. "Roam the streets" is such a unit. For the average English speaker, "every day" modifies the verb phrase "roam the streets," and not the verb individually. Some grammarians, following older traditions based on the grammar of French and Latin, might state this differently.

The only time a verb and an object can be broken up is when the object is very grammatically complex. For instance, you might say: "The dog roams every day the streets it knew and loved as a puppy." Even here, however, it would be more usual to move "every day" to the beginning of the sentence and say: "Every day the dog roamed the streets it knew and loved as a puppy."

It would also be possible to replace the direct object with a prepositional phrase that would have more independence from the verb. For example, you might say: "The dog roamed every day through the streets." Here again, this order is less optimal because the prepositional phrase tends to bind with the verb into a unit. It would be overwhelmingly more common to say: "The dog roamed through the streets every day." If the prepositional phrase were more complex, it would become idiomatic to insert the adverb before it, as in "The dog roamed every day through the streets and alleys of its neighborhood."

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  • Thanks so much! I appreciate the long explanation! <3
    – Mira
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:53
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[1] The dog roams the streets [every day].

[2] *The dog roams [every day] the streets.

[1] is fine, but [2] is unacceptable because an adjunct can't be inserted between a verb and its direct object.

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  • I definitely hear your dog example as ungrammatical. But there appear to be exceptions."The dog roams every day the avenues of western San Francisco." Does it have to do with the "weight" of the object? Dec 11, 2023 at 17:37
  • Thanks so much! I learned a new term!
    – Mira
    Dec 12, 2023 at 13:52

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