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A Word, Please: 'Soon' is only an adverb

April 21, 2011|By June Casagrande

Dan in Burbank wrote to ask which of the following sentences is best:

“The information soon will be available online.”

“The information will soon be available online.”

“The information will be available soon online.”

“The information will be available online soon.”

I would add another option: “Soon the information will be available online.”

“I'm not sure how to look up something like this,” Dan wrote. “I found information on the placement of ‘only’ and how the placement changes the meaning of the sentence. But the placement of ‘soon’ doesn't change the meaning.”


For a guy who was unsure where to turn for answers, Dan must have been doing something right if he ended up reading about “only.” It’s basically the same issue — that is, where to place an adverb. Yet there’s much more discussion about “only” than “soon.”

A lot of people will tell you that “only” must be placed nearest the word it modifies. These people argue that “I only have eyes for you” doesn’t mean what most people intend by it and that the speaker really meant “I have eyes for only you.”

They say that, in the first example, “only” applies to the verb “have,” where as in the latter example “only” is pointing squarely at “you,” emphasizing the idea that there’s no other.

When you think about this, it makes sense. But just because it seems logical doesn’t mean it’s a rule. In fact, it’s a myth — one I myself once fell victim to. “The position of ‘only’ in standard spoken English is not fixed,” “Merriam Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage” says. “Fowler’s Modern English Usage” agrees.

“Only” can be an adjective or an adverb. In “Jason is an only child,” it’s modifying the noun “child,” so it’s an adjective. In “We can only guess whether he’ll get a baby brother,” it’s modifying the verb “guess,” so it’s an adverb.

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