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I have read in a book on English Usage by professor T Wood, that "Somehow" is a sentence adverb and should not be used to modify any particular word in a sentence and that it should be used to modify the whole of the sentence that it follows. But apparently this rule doesn’t hold as much water as it used to. Which one of the following do you prefer? But somehow,”nakedness” is barer or starker than “nudeness.” OR But “nakedness” is somehow starker than “nudeness”. Thank you. Regards, Arash.

I can find nothing in any of my style and usage manuals or grammar books that would support Wood’s distinction. One grammarian categorizes somehow as an “adverb of manner,” but that’s about it. I’m suspicious of Wood’s “rule”:

Consider the sentences “It seemed useless somehow” and “Somehow it seemed useless”: I believe that somehow can be said to be modifying the whole sentence. But I also believe that it can be said to be modifying just the verb seemed . The distinction between the whole sentence and the verb of the sentence can be a tough one to make sometimes. So I suspect that saying that somehow is modifying the whole sentence and not just the verb of the sentence would be impossible (at least sometimes). Thus, Wood’s distinction seems to me to draw too sharp a distinction. Of course, iIt is fairly common for prescriptive grammarians and stylists to draw very sharp distinctions where things are necessarily quite fuzzy. I guess that’s part of their job: to lead us through the fuzz.

And notice what happens if we move somehow to the middle of things: “It somehow seemed useless” and “It seemed somehow useless.” If I were still teaching grammar classes and a student argued that in the first sentence somehow is modifying only the verb seemed or that in the second sentence it is modifying only the adjective useless , I don’t think I would call him wrong or argue against him. In the sentences you asked about the difference is primarily one of emphasis: In the first the somehow is to me modifying the whole sentence, emphasizing the whole comparison; in the second it is to me modifying the adjective starker, emphasizing the nature of the starkness. But both sentences come down to saying much the same thing and the distinction is not at all sharp. All in all, I would say that Wood is setting up a distinction without a clear-cut difference.

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