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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Aug 4th, 2010, 06:36 am
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Default 2 confused new esl teachers

I could use some help in a grammar discussion between a fellow English teacher.

The sentence in question is:

Football has always been the biggest thing in David Beckham's life.

vs

Football has been always the biggest thing in David Beckham's life.

My thought is that the 1st sentence is correct but then how do I go about justifying my reason.

always is modifying been. Been is acting as a verb or is acting as a helping verb? Then what is has a verb or a helping verb?

The more we try to break this sentence down the more we go crazy
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  #2 (permalink)  
Unread Aug 4th, 2010, 05:37 pm
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Default Re: 2 confused new esl teachers

have is an auxiliary verb (helping verb) used for making the present perfect tense of the verb "to be"
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Unread Aug 5th, 2010, 08:28 am
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Default Re: 2 confused new esl teachers

The problem with the second sentence is the position of the adverb of frequency "always". Adverbs of frequency (always, often, sometimes, occasionally, never etc) have a specific position in the sentence - and in your first sentence it's correct, in the second it's wrong.

To understand the rule you have to know that there are two types of verb : Simple verbs and complex verbs.

Simple verbs are made up of one verb only :

I like horses
I lived in Finland for a year.

Complex verbs have more than one verb - eg :

John is working in Rome this week.
I haven't seen David recently.
It can't have been working properly
etc

In any verb (or more accurately verb phrase) one verb will be the main verb - that's the verb which carries the "meaning". In the sentences above it's underlined. If there is only one, then clearly that is the main verb. If there's more than one, then it will be the final verb, and all the others are auxiliary (or "helping") verbs. In the examples, they're in italics.

Auxiliary verbs come in two types - the primary auxiliaries be, do and have don't have any "meaning", just a grammatical function. Be careful though - they can of course also be main verbs. So eg:

David has a new car : "has" has meaning - it means possesses. It's the main verb.
I have lived here for 3 years : the main verb is "live" - have as auxiliary combines with the past participle of the main verb "live" to express an event which lasts from the past to the present.


That means that in the sentence I have had my car for 3 years you have two occurrences of the verb have : the first is the auxiliary (combining with the past participle of the main verb as above) and the second the main verb with meaning (=possess).

The other type of auxiliaries are the secondary or modal auxiliaries : can/could, will/would may/might, must (and sometimes need and ought, though these can also be main verbs). These do have a meaning of their own - for example, can expresses possibility and must obligation.

Back to the question. The rule for the position of adverbs of frequency like always and never is that in simple verb phrases, or when there is only one auxiliary they are placed in front of the main verb. Look at the next examples - the main verb is underlined and the auxiliaries are in italics:

I always go to the gym on Fridays.
I always have dinner at 7.30.
I have never seen John so angry.
He's always interrupting me!
Football has always been the biggest thing in his life.

If it's clear up to now, that explains why the first of your examples is correct, and the second wrong : in the second always has been placed after the main verb rather than in front of it, thus breaking the rule.

The only exception to this is when the main verb is Be in a simple verb phrase - ie one verb only. Then always/never follow the main verb :

He's always late.
I was never so embarrassed in my life.

It does get more comlicated though, when the verb phrase gets more complex. When you get two or three auxiliaries in the verb phrase, the rule changes and the adverb goes after the first one :

I have never been asked about it.
He must always have been hoping for that to happen.


Other one-word adverbs of frequency (sometimes, often occasionally etc) follow the same rules when they are combined with the verb phrase ...

I often wonder about it.
I have occasionally seen him there.
I have sometimes been asked about it.

... but are more flexible as they can also be placed at the beginning or end of the clause :

I wonder about it often.
Sometimes I wonder about it.
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Last edited by susan53 : Aug 11th, 2010 at 08:18 am.
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Unread Aug 7th, 2010, 02:29 pm
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Default Re: 2 confused new esl teachers

Quote:
Quote susan53 View Post

Other one-word adverbs of frequency (sometimes, often occasionally etc) follow the same rules when they are combined with the verb phrase ...

I often wonder about it.
I have occasionally seen him there.
I have sometimes been asked about it.

... but are more flexible as they can also be placed at the beginning or end of the clause :

I wonder about it often.
Sometimes I wonder about it.
susan, can we say that these adverbs are put at the beginning or end of the clause when we want to emphasise them?
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Unread Aug 8th, 2010, 04:45 am
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Default Re: 2 confused new esl teachers

When they are placed in initial position, yes. Fronting of adverbials (not just adverbs of frequency) gives them prominence and is always done for a reason. But not in end position. For adverbials with two words or more (frequency adverbials of this type include on Fridays, twice a week), end position is the "default" position :

I go to the gym on Fridays.

Moving an adverbial to initial position, however, is always done for a reason, and if there's no reason it sounds strange. Consider the adverbial every day in the next example :

A : Do you sleep late in the morning?
B : No way! I get up at 5.30 every day!


It would sound strange as No way! Every day I get up at 5.30!

But now consider the alternative response ...

B : On work days I get up at 5.30, but at weekends I sleep till 8 or 9.

Here the adverbials on work days and at weekends are brought to the front of the clause, because of the contrast. Here's a possibly clearer example with two time adverbials by 5.30/by 6.30 :

I'm always up by 5.30, and by 6.30 I've showered, had breakfast and am on my way to work.

In the first clause by 5.30 is in the default, final position. But by 6.30 is fronted to the beginning of the second clause. If it hadn't been, the sentence would be ..
I'm always up by 5.30, and I've showered, had breakfast and am on my way to work....
leading the listener to think that all of these things had happened by 5.30, and therefore meaning that s/he has to revise the expection when s/he hears the final words ..
I'm always up by 5.30, and I've showered, had breakfast and am on my way to work by 6.30.
Quite possible, but it opens the door to misunderstanding. By fronting the adverbial, the change of timeframe becomes clear from the start and there is no risk of ambiguity.

There various reasons for fronting adverbials. This thread looked at the effect of given-new organisation in English which, incidentally, is also an explanation for the I get up at 5.30 example above.

In the specific case of the one word adverbials of frequency then, I'd suggest that it's the same as the others : end position is a default option, while initial position is a "marked" option - it's done for a purpose. With the one word adverbs, though there's also the choice of mid position - so they have two "default" options. Is there a difference?

I'd hypothesise that end position is probably more usual in spoken language than written, as it's often used to tag the adverb on the end as a sort of afterthought or simplification. We've seen that deciding where to place the adverbial in the verb phrase is quite complicated. I'd therefore hypothsesis that when speaking in "real time" it's easier for the brain not to worry about the rules, but just tag it on the end.
I go to the gym on Fridays, usually.
In writing, on the other hand, there's plenty of planning time and more likelihood therefore of mid position.

Unfortunately the concordancer I usually use is off-line at the moment, so I can't check this, but I'll try again later and add a second reply if anything comes out of it.
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