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    #1

    place of 'probably' in a sentence

    As far as I know, 'probably' and other adverbs are usually somewhere in the middle of a sentence, I guess Americans prefer to place it before the verb while Brits tend to place it after the verb, but can 'probably' also be placed at the beginning of a sentence?
    For example:
    Probably, he will die.
    Probably, she is not the nice girl she pretends to be.
    Probably, Robert De Niro is the best actor of all times.
    Are you going to Italy for vacation? - Probably not. I'm more likely to go to France.
    Maybe not in written English but at least in spoken English, I think I already have heard it from time to time.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    That's an unusual guess about Americans and Brits.
    I'd go:
    He will probably die.
    She is probably not the nice girl she pretends to be.
    Robert De Niro is probably the best actor of all times.

    PS: Yes, you can put it at the beginning. It wouldn't normally need a comma, and it sounds unnatural in those sentences.

  2. Skrej's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    Quote Originally Posted by krisfromgermany View Post
    As far as I know, 'probably' and other adverbs are usually somewhere in the middle of a sentence, I guess Americans prefer to place it before the verb while Brits tend to place it after the verb, but can 'probably' also be placed at the beginning of a sentence?
    I can't speak to BrE trends, but I can disagree with your guess on AmE usage trends,

    I think you'll find AmE placement varies by personal preference. I'm going to move the adverb around depending upon what I wish to emphasize.

    I'll demonstrate with the first sentence, but the same could hold true for your other examples.

    He will probably die.
    This is just a basic guess at his chances of survival. As neutral as a death prediction can be.
    He will die, probably
    . Slightly less negative and more hopeful. It de-emphasizes the certainty of death somewhat.
    He probably will die. More negative and foreboding, implying increased certainty of death.


    I'd actually place the adverbs the same as Raymott, at least for basic emphasis.


    Quote Originally Posted by krisfromgermany View Post
    Are you going to Italy for vacation? - Probably not. I'm more likely to go to France. This one is the only batural usage placing it at the front.
    Wear short sleeves! Support your right to bare arms!

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    #4

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    I don't recommend starting a sentence with it. Of the nearly 150,000 examples here, not one begins with probably.

    It works as a verbless response, as in kris's example.

    'Are you going out tonight?'
    'Probably.'
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 14-Jul-2016 at 12:36. Reason: Adding missing link. Thanks, Piscean.

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    #5

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    Thanks for your answers.
    I read the other day on another grammar site that constructions like 'I already have...' or 'I probably have...' are normal in AmE while in BrE 'I have already...' or 'I have probably...' are more common. But according to what you wrote, that seems not to be the case.
    In German language we often use words like 'often', 'probably', 'maybe' at the beginning of a sentence but in English it sounds not natural unless it's a short answer like 'Probably not.' ? Hope I got that right.

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    #6

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    Unless there is an omission in informal use, like "(It is) Probably a bad idea to go out tonight."

  3. Raymott's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    I've never heard a native German-speaker who is fluent in English who doesn't occasionally misplace adverbs. It's a sin qua non.

    "I have probably ..." and "I probably have ..." occur in different places, depending on whether 'have' is an auxiliary.
    "I probably have $10 in my pocket. Oh, no! I have probably spent it."
    Similar for 'already'.
    Last edited by Raymott; 15-Jul-2016 at 04:33.

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    #8

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    In standard, everyday speech (in BrE), most of us contract "I have" to "I've" - that's why "probably" usually appears after the verb.
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

  5. Piscean's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    I don't think the contraction is as relevant as the fact that it's an auxiliary verb. In more formal writing and speech, we still notmally place 'probably' and similar adverbs of degrees of certainty after the auxiliary.

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    #10

    Re: place of 'probably' in a sentence

    Yes, Piscean is quite right -- probably comes after the auxiliary in positive statements. When there are more than one auxiliary, the adverb comes directly after the first one:


    • I've probably been doing it all my life.


    However, (for reasons I don't fully understand) this is not the case in negatives:


    • She probably won't go.
    • I probably shouldn't do that.


    It's probably something to do with word stress. Negative auxiliaries are stressed whereas positive ones usually aren't.

    Interestingly, if you consider the following:


    • He's probably not coming.
    • He probably isn't coming.

    the negation comes after the adverb even when it's attached to the auxiliary. This seems to me to be the deep structure.

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