1

Consider the simple question

Are you trying to tell me, …?

and its short answer

I am.

What is the correct way to emphasise this answer with an adverb, like

I am precisely. or I precisely am.

Both possibilities sound equally weird to me. The first sentence seems incomplete to me, instead

I am precisely trying to.

would sound more correct but loses its terseness. The second sentence feels a bit odd but follows the same pattern as “I certainly will.” which is definitely a correct answer to a question “Are you going to …”.

I hope someone can shed some light here!

  • You may be confusing the meaning of the word 'precisely' with something else. To say to someone you are telling them something 'precisely' could be interpreted as insulting. It doesn't carry the emphasis that I think you are looking for. – Chenmunka Mar 11 '16 at 15:35
  • Would it be appropriate when talking to a child? What would be otherwise a non-offensive way to carry that emphasis? – Michael Le Barbier Grünewald Mar 11 '16 at 15:47
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    I would suggest "That's exactly what I'm saying" or similar. – Chenmunka Mar 11 '16 at 17:09
2

It depends on the word(s) chosen and on the question posed.

Are you laughing at me, punk?

I am indeed.

Indeed I am.

no I indeed am.

To be sure, I am.

I am, to be sure.

noI, to be sure, am.

I certainly am.

a little odd Certainly I am.

somewhat outdated I am, certainly.

Do you feel lucky, punk?

I do indeed.

Indeed I do.

no I indeed do.

I certainly do.

Certainly I do.

no I do certainly.

But things change if we complete the phrase:

I do certainly feel lucky.

  • Thank you for your detailed and helpful list. Just to be sure I understand you correctly, is there some grammatical explanation behind this or is this just a question of usage? – Michael Le Barbier Grünewald Mar 13 '16 at 11:19
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    Grammatical rules are derived from usage. When enough people say something, it's grammatical, and when most or nearly all speakers tend to avoid it, it's considered ungrammatical, or perhaps marginally grammatical if enough people think it sounds only a little "odd". The spoken language is a seething soup. The only clear rule that seems to work is that the adverb or adverb phrase (when a reply is a barebones "I do|will|am|have|etc") is that the subject + tensed verb not be interrupted. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 13 '16 at 11:30
  • I understand that grammatical rules are derived from usage, my question was to understand “is there a structure in what we can observe or does it just look random?”. Thanks for your precisions! – Michael Le Barbier Grünewald Mar 13 '16 at 12:22
  • ... not be interrupted by a prepositional phrase (or by what once was one), or an infinitive phrase, or complemented by a lone adverb. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 13 '16 at 12:28

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