Where should the word “probably” be placed



Consider the following sentences:

  1. I'll move to the south by then probably.
  2. I'll probably move to the south by then.
  3. I'll move to the south probably by then.

Which of the three is correct. In my opinion, the third one is wrong. First two are correct with a small difference in their meaning.

First one makes my probability refer to the time when I'll be moving and the second one tells that there is still a chance that I might not move.

Am I correct?


Posted 2013-03-31T16:08:29.873

Reputation: 2 621



Although normally called an "adverb", probably is often used to modify an entire sentence - in which case it normally appears at the beginning (or the end, if it's "parenthetically" added after a comma)...

a: Probably I'll move to the south by then.
b: I'll move to the south by then[,] probably.

In other contexts, syntactically it's more like an adjective than an adverb, in that it normally modifies the immediately following term...

c: I'll move probably to the south by then.
d: I'll move to probably the south by then.

Both of these imply that you will have moved by then (possibly to the north, but most likely to the south).

e: I'll move to the south probably by then.

Implies that you will move to the south (possibly much later, but most likely "by then").

FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica

Posted 2013-03-31T16:08:29.873

Reputation: 52 587

Perzackly. And I'll probably move I think also belongs in your first category. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-03-31T17:01:30.657

@StoneyB: If the word move were emphasised (in a context where the alternative / current situation is commuting to the south), I think you'd probably/almost certainly have to put it there. But with no special emphasis - yes, it probably comes under category #1. It's still effectively modifying the whole sentence, but since the word/phrase move [to the south] is by far the most important part of the sentence, it can stand for the entire statement. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-03-31T17:32:06.703

Also - does anybody actually say /prɒbəbli/? I've never heard anything but /prɒbli/ and /prɒli/. (except of course from actors) – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-03-31T17:40:58.823

@StoneyB= I split between /prɒbəbli/ and /prɒbli/ and never say /prɒli/ unless for specific effect. – Jim – 2013-03-31T17:43:04.890

@Jim,StoneyB: I use all three forms in speech, depending on how quickly/casually/carelessly I'm speaking. I tend to go for prolly in casual written forms to save keystrokes, but I must admit I'm a bit ashamed of myself for doing that because it looks so daft. But I have no such misgiving about discarding both b's in rapid speech. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-03-31T17:51:45.247

@StoneyB: /prɒbəbli/ is still pretty common in British English (at least amongst the folk that I work with - most of whom aren't actors). I've never heard anyone use /prɒli/, although I've often seen "probably" abbreviated to "prolly" when written. That being said, I didn't think that "lol" was ever spoken out loud until I went to America and found several young people saying it as if it were an ordinary word. – Matt – 2013-03-31T19:01:54.383

@Matt: I'm no great shakes at IPA, but I'm hoping /prɒ:bəbli/ might be a valid representation. I'm pretty sure I "draw out" the first vowel if I'm not bothering with either of the b's. Which for me is very likely in rapid speech. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-03-31T19:06:07.413


I think

I'll probably move to the south by then.

is the best phrase. Probably being used as an adverb modifying move. Then the flow seems normal and easier to understand.

I (subject) will probably move (action) to the south (where) by then (when).

If the time were specific, you could put (when) at the beginning, for example

Next week I'll probably move to the south.

but with indefinate by then it sounds strange to say it before we know what the topic is, unless its already known from previous context.

I am finishing my classes next week. By then, I'll probably move to the south.


Posted 2013-03-31T16:08:29.873



  1. I´ll move to the south by then probably.
  2. I'll probably move to the south by then.
  3. I'll move to the south probably by then.

According to adverb position, number two seems to be the most common position. i.e. before the main verb and after the auxiliary. According to meaning, it emphasizes the probability of the action.

Number two and three are referring to what you want to emphasize more. For example, number one is giving priority to I´ll move to the south by then, whereas the third one prioritize I´ll move to the south. In number one, the probability is not so important and in number three, probably by then - by then is remarked with the probability of taking place by then.


Posted 2013-03-31T16:08:29.873

Reputation: 131