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Reply to "Does the word "Just" apply to all of the verbs?"

Hi, Andrew and Gustavo—I agree with Gustavo that just can apply to all the verbs in a coördinate structure. I hope you enjoyed that New Yorker-ish diaeresis, Andrew, or umlaut, as you call it.

It's not that just is elided in the other verbs, or verb phrases, of the coördinate structure. Rather, as I see it, just adjoins to (modies) the phrase comprising the other verb phrases—i.e., the higher phrase, the coördinate structure itself.

For example, He just sat there and read is not eliptical for He just sat there and just read, which actually sounds awkward and self-contradictory: if you're just doing one thing, how can you simultaneously just be doing another?

Rather the sentence He just sat there and read is understood as saying He [just [sat there and read]], with just applying to (modifying) the coördination of the two verb phrases.

Just email them, phone them, or even go and visit them.

Your sentence has two added levels of complexity, however: (i) there are actually two coördinate phrases, one with or and one with and; and (ii) the adverb even appears before the final two verb phrases which are conjoined.

The coördinate structure with and is embedded in the coordinate structure with or. In my opinion, just does not apply to the coördinate phrase preceded by even. If you want just to apply to both sets of verb phrases, you could say:

  • Just e-mail them or phone them, or even just go and visit them.
Last edited by David, Moderator