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Hello, all

Below is a sentence from "Jekyll and Hyde" in which I cannot understand the reason behind placing "only" before "broken":

«London hummed solemnly all around; but nearer at hand, the stillness was only broken by the sounds of a footfall moving to and fro along thecabinet floor.»

Maybe it would not sound as good, but I'd definitely put "only" before "by", because I think it should be located before the noun (or verb) that it modifies, which in our case is "the sounds of a footfall". Is my reasoning faulty?

Thanks in advance,
Anton
Comments  
Ant_222Maybe it would not sound as good, but I'd definitely put "only" before "by", because I think it should be located before the noun (or verb) that it modifies, which in our case is "the sounds of a footfall". Is my reasoning faulty?
Your reasoning seems fine. There isn't any real difference between the two versions. I'd say that it's just a matter of style, author's choice, as it were.
Ant_222the reason behind placing "only" before "broken":
In idiomatic English, and contrary to logic (to the dismay of many), only "floats to the left", usually to a position just after the subject. The result is that onlymay sometimes be found at an ungodly distance from its partner. Emotion: smile

I only wanted (only) one.
I only have eyes for (only) you.
Sally only took a walk (only) once a week.
He only saved himself from drowning (only) by catching hold of a passing log.
Lucy only found out that she had been accepted to a prestigious college (only) yesterday.

CJ
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CalifJim
Ant_222the reason behind placing "only" before "broken":
In idiomatic English, and contrary to logic (to the dismay of many), only "floats to the left", usually to a position just after the subject. The result is that only may sometimes be found at an ungodly distance from its partner.

CJ
Not to denigrate the float to the left law, I used a funny byline in a newspaper article many years ago in my class: "Reagans only sleep in a king-size bed". This was explaining a slight problem they had with a hotel's presidential suite that offered two queen-size beds.

I try to place "only" as close to whatever is being "only-ed" as possible. I felt sorry for the Reagans as this reporter had explained, because it could be interpreted that all the Reagans did in the king-size bed was to sleep (what a waste, when there are so many other things one could do in that bed: read; snack; watch TV; play kissy-face).

Philipthe float to the left law
Oh, Philip, why did I know I would pique your interest (reaction?) with my remarks on this one? Let's say strong tendency rather than law. I'm certainly not claiming that your preference on the placement of onlyis ungrammatical. Emotion: smile

CJ
CalifJim
Philipthe float to the left law
Oh, Philip, why did I know I would pique your interest (reaction?) with my remarks on this one? Let's say strong tendency rather than law. I'm certainly not claiming that your preference on the placement of only is ungrammatical.

CJ

I certainly took no offense, nor did I feel you were being critical. At any rate, I rather like the use of 'law' here, because we all know that laws are meant to be broken. Emotion: wink

My use of the headline was merely to show that placement could make a difference, if there was any way that the meaning would be unclear. And the kids understood the point; but I'm not sure it ever showed in their writing.
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