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Reverently, Discreetly, Advisedly, Soberly . . . (or, Adverbs)
by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines

"When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
-- Federal Express slogan (1978–1983)

An adverb describes a verb, adjective, or adverb. Adverbs answer questions such as how, where, when, how much, how often?

Many but by no means all adverbs in English end in -ly (almost, once, twice, never, well, hard, fast, soon, and there are all adverbs), and many but by no means all the words that end in -ly are adverbs (manly, beastly, and holy are adjectives and family, butterfly, and barfly are nouns). But it seems that in everyday speech adverbs are steadily disappearing and the adjectival form is being used instead.

The following are all commonly heard but grammatically incorrect:
He did the task clever and I was real impressed.

He always drives careful so he wonapostrophet get any points on his license.

It rained so heavy the roof started to leak.

She divided them fair but the children still werenapostrophet happy.
They should be:
He did the task cleverly and I was really impressed.

He always drives carefully.

It rained so heavily.

She divided them fairly.
Note that in the first example, cleverly is an adverb describing the verb he did (How did he do the task? Cleverly), and really is an adverb describing the adjective impressed (How impressed was I? Really impressed).

Ones That Got Away
He doesnapostrophet play fair.

Iapostropheve got it bad.

Theyapostrophere going steady.

Go slow!!
All of these are acceptable colloquialisms, but you might think twice about using them in formal writing.

And hereapostrophes an oddity: She worked extremely hard. Hard is an adverb qualifying the verb worked (How did she work? Hard). And extremely is an adverb qualifying the adverb worked (How hard did she work? Extremely hard). Despite the fact that hard looks like an adjective, we know that it is an adverb because it qualifies the verb. If you invented an adverbial form for it, you would get she worked hardly, which just sounds odd, or she hardly worked, which means something altogether different. Go figure.

The above is an excerpt from the book My Grammar and I . . . Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right by Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2009 Caroline Taggart and J.A. Wines, authors of My Grammar and I . . . Or Should That Be Me?: How to Speak and Write It Right

About the authors:

Caroline Taggart, has been an editor of non-fiction books for nearly 30 years and has covered nearly every subject from natural history and business to gardening and astronomy. She has written several books and was the editor of Writerapostrophes Market UK 2009.

J. A. Wines is a graduate of Oxford University and the author of several books on grammar and trivia.