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How should I say, "he was already dead" or "he already was dead"?

The second way does not sound entirely correct to me, but I couldn't find a rule stating that it is wrong.

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  • books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – TimR
    Apr 11, 2016 at 15:35
  • 2
    We can also say "he was dead already" and "already he was dead", the former being far more common than the latter nowadays.
    – TimR
    Apr 11, 2016 at 15:37
  • Oh, alright. So I guess there is no rule about it then, and me thinking it was wrong is just because it is usually not used in that order? @TRomano
    – Alfro
    Apr 11, 2016 at 15:38
  • Best to swim in the mainstream on such matters.
    – TimR
    Apr 11, 2016 at 15:51
  • books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – Khan
    Apr 11, 2016 at 17:42

3 Answers 3

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This link offers some useful guidelines on adverb positioning. Other possibilities exist, but you might strain to justify using them.

It has two suggestions for already. These are (in no particular order):

he was dead already - at the end of the clause or sentence

He was already dead - between a 'be' word and the main verb

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Both are grammatically correct. However their common usage differs.

For example if you're telling a story about someone who was walking up to a body hoping to revive him, you'd say "he was already dead".

The other expression is used to emphasize "already". Imagine one doctor saying to another "you only do that if they're dead!" and another replying "but he already was dead."

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  • I'd disagree, the latter is akin to splitting an infinitive and is definitely wrong unless AE treats the phrasing differently to BE
    – Jon Story
    Apr 11, 2016 at 18:16
  • I'm Canadian, so our English is more American, but we do have some commonalities with British. "He already was dead" doesn't sound wrong at all. We construct sentences like that all the time. Apr 11, 2016 at 18:26
  • Righty-oh, time to recolonise then I guess.
    – Jon Story
    Apr 11, 2016 at 18:26
  • I'd rather be British than American, that's for sure... but I digress. Apr 11, 2016 at 18:29
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For this discussion "already" is superfluous. Write or read the two sentences without it. He is dead. He was dead.

You can only use the second sentence if the person is no longer dead. Therefore, unless they have risen from the dead, he already was dead is grammatically incorrect. He is already dead means he is still dead.

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    There is an example where you can use "was dead". He was dead before you shot him. This implies he is still dead now. So you could in this case say "he was already dead". Note, again, the "already" is superfluous and adds nothing to the meaning of the sentence. The "was dead" is valid because of the implied "is still dead". Apr 19, 2016 at 6:02

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