there is no evidence that scholars tried to document precisely the toilet habits of our predecessors.

In the sentence above, I found the word "precisely" weird because of its position. Is it okay or do I have to move it to the end?

  • 1
    It's a bit unusual, but perfectly understandable. Traditionally, the recommendation was to avoid splitting an infinitive; this construction follows that "rule". However, we got past that silly restriction a few decades ago ["To boldly go where no man has gone before".....Star Trek]. So put the adverb before or after, whichever seems/sounds best to you. – Brian Hitchcock Aug 21 '15 at 9:16
  • Please wait at least a couple of days before selecting an answer. You might get a much better one! – Araucaria - Not here any more. Aug 21 '15 at 16:13

It's not possible to pinpoint precisely the time of death (Cambridge Grammar Today).

In light of this sentence from a grammar book, I think there's nothing wrong with the placement of the adverb precisely after the to-infinitive (to document precisely) in the sentence presented by the OP.

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The normal place to put an adverb of manner like this is after the verb phrase, in other words after the Object or any other complements of the verb.

However, when the Object is very long we sometimes use heavy noun phrase shift (this is usually written heavy NP shift).

This just means that if the object is very long, we can move it to the end of the sentence:

  • I have in the attic a baboon who can recite the entire works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Here the direct object, a baboon who can recite the entire works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe has moved to the end of the sentence and appears after the Preposition Phrase in the attic. Note that we do not require any commas around in the attic.

The Original Poster's sentence

The Original Poster's sentence is fine. We can put the adverb precisely before the Direct Object here, because the Object is long. If we had a very short Object, like the word him, the result would not be good. Most people will find the following sentence ungrammatical:

  • It's not possible to pinpoint exactly him.
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"tried to precisely document the toilet habits of our predecessors." (before document).

You could use accurately as well.

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