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Last updated at 14:56 BST, Tuesday, 29 September 2009

'Still' in sentences

He’s still sleeping

He’s still sleeping

A question from Marcel Caldeira in Brazil:
I’d like to know which of the following sentences is correct:
I thought they would still be alive.
I thought they would be alive still.
I thought they would be still alive.

Trudi Faulkner-Petrova answers

Click below to hear the answer:

Marcel thanks for posting that question.

In fact all the sentences you wrote are correct but the most common one in English is the first one, ‘I thought they would still be alive’. With adverbs like ‘still’, the most natural positioning is between the auxiliary/modal and the base verb.’ Still’ is used to say that something in the present, not the past, has surprisingly not finished. Listen to these examples:

She’s still sleeping.
You’re not still working are you?
They are still arguing about the phone bill.

Right, back to your sentences. Even though the first and second sentence mean the same, there is a difference in emphasis, they stress different things. What I mean is this:

I thought they would still be alive - here ‘alive’ is emphasised as the most important aspect.
I thought they would be alive still - in this example ‘still’ is stressed as the most important aspect.

Your third sentence, 'I thought they would be still alive’, is the most unusual and unnatural way of expressing the sentence. It doesn’t sound like modern English at all so I suggest you focus on the structure presented in the first two sentences. Just choose between them according to the emphasis that you'd like to express.

About Trudi Faulkner-Petrova

Trudi Faulkner-Petrova

Trudi Faulkner-Petrova has a BA (Hons) in English, Bsc. in Psychology and Cert.TESOL. She has been teaching EFL, EAP and Business English in international schools, businesses and universities in Beijing over the last 10 years. Currently, she is a freelance tutor for ESOL, English Literature, SAT/TOEFL preparation and also works for the British Council as an IELTS and BULATS examiner. She is in the final year of studies for an Msc. in Psychology.

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