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While speaking with 2 native German speakers I said:

Sie weint viel und ich fühle mich, wie wenn sie Essen ständig will.

and they corrected me to:

Sie weint viel und ich fühle mich, wie wenn sie ständig Essen will.

It seems to me that I said, "She cries a lot and I feel as if she wants food constantly." And I was corrected to, "She cries a lot and I feel as if she wants constant food," which makes no sense to me. Can someone provide an explanation?

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  • As ESL I find the English Ansatz not very fluid to begin with. At the very least, if the adverb is sentence adverbial, I would set a comma and intonate accordingly, always. The way adverbs go, it's natural to move it closer to the mainverb. want can be both mainverb, at least in colloquial registers, and modal, anyway (want to have food, want to be fed, want to eat!). This is nearly identical to the situation in German as explained variously below, except that Essen/essen is underspecified. Compare also deutsche or Deutsch sprechen. The comparison zu essen--to eat is even trickier.
    – vectory
    Dec 31 '20 at 3:01
  • "contant food" would be "ständiges Essen". So the correction may rather correspond to ".. as id she contantly wants food" (if such correspondences are justified at all) Jan 2 '21 at 22:27
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Wollen is special verb, as you have to tell what you want. That additonal information becomes a part of the action. This is true for all auxiliaries and modals, even when they are used as full verbs.

That's why it binds closely to the accusative object Essen. The action isn't wollen but Essen wollen. And that's why adverbs modify that action as a whole rather than only wollen.

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    Also, since ständig is an adverb of time, it would normally appear early in the sentence anyway. For example: Sie trägt ständig eine Puppe mit sich. Not (usually) Sie trägt eine Puppe ständig mit sich.
    – RDBury
    Dec 31 '20 at 0:28

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