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I have taken the following sentence from this website.

The Jews were also enjoined to confess their sins individually to God, and in certain cases to man.

We all know that adverb modifies verb, adjective, and another adverb. But in above sentence, the adverb "individually" sits between two nouns. Is this correct? I think "individually" modifies the infinitive "confess". If so, can I move the adverb beside the infinitive?

The Jews were also enjoined to confess individually their sins to God, and in certain cases to man.

If the adverb "individually" modifies the noun "sins" (confessing their sins one-by-one) as mentioned by @user3169, can I rephrase the sentence to

The Jews were also enjoined to confess their individual sins to God, and in certain cases to man.

If not, please explain.

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An adverb can modify the entire predicate.

He removed the lid of the paint can carefully.

It could appear before "removed"

He carefully removed...

or after it, as a parenthetic, for special emphasis

He removed, carefully, the lid...

or at the end of the phrase, as shown at the top.

If I wanted to make clear that individual sins should be confessed, I'd use the adjective individual rather than rely upon placement of the adverb.

The Jews were enjoined to confess their individual sins.

It's not clear in any case what "confess their sins individually" means. Not as a congregation, but one person at a time, standing before the congregation? Or sin by sin? Additional context would be needed.

  • Here is additional context "Among the Jews it was ordered that on the Day of Atonement the high priest should make confession of sins in the name of the whole people, and the day is still kept by the Jews with fasting and confession of sins. The Jews were also enjoined to confess their sins individually to God, and in certain cases to man." encyclopedia.jrank.org/COM_COR/… – ARYF May 13 '16 at 13:08
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    In that case, in light of "in the name of the whole people", I'd interpret individually to mean individual persons not individual sins. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 13 '16 at 13:09
  • I think this must be the answer "The Jews were also enjoined individually to confess their sins to God, and in certain cases to man." Am I right? As it is adverb modifier it must be placed near the word that modifies. – ARYF May 13 '16 at 13:11
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    The grammar doesn't care which of the valid places it goes. Clarity demands that it be placed where it does not result in an ambiguity. It could go at the head of the sentence. "Individually the Jews were enjoined..." or before or after "enjoined" ... "The Jews were individually enjoined..." or "The Jews were enjoined individually". If it appears after "sins" "....their sins individually" or "their sins to God individually" it might be thought to modify "sins". – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 13 '16 at 13:17
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Maybe it is a matter of interpretation, but I would put it this way.

The Jews were also enjoined to confess their sins individually to God, and in certain cases to man.

Here "individually" modifies "sins" (confess their sins one-by-one).

The Jews were also enjoined to confess individually their sins to God, and in certain cases to man.

Here "individually" modifies "confess" (each of the Jews confess).

  • Is it possible to rephrase the first sentence to "The Jews were also enjoined to confess their "individual" sins to God, and in certain cases to man"? Here I have modified adverb to adjective. – ARYF May 13 '16 at 6:43
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    Looks good to me. It is clearer this way. In the same way, you could write (with different meaning) "Individual Jews were also enjoined to confess their sins to God, and in certain cases to man." – user3169 May 13 '16 at 16:09

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