§ 238. The adverb is a word denoting circumstances or characteristics which attend or modify an action, state, or quality. It may also intensify a quality or characteristics.
From this definition it is difficult to define adverbs as a class, because they comprise a most heterogeneous group of words, and there is considerable overlap between the class and other word classes. They have many kinds of form, meaning and function. Alongside such undoubtful adverbs as here, now, often, seldom, always, there are many others which also function as words of other classes. Thus, adverbs like dead (dead tired), clear (to get clear away), clean (I've clean forgotten), slow, easy (he would say that slow and easy) coincide with corresponding adjectives (a dead body, clear waters, clean hands). Adverbs like past, above are homonymous with prepositions. There is also a special group of pronominal adverbs when, where, how, why used either as interrogative words or as connectives to introduce subordinate clauses.
Where shall we go? (an interrogative pronominal adverb)
We’ll go where you want (a conjunctive pronominal adverb).
Some adverbs may be used rather like a verb, as in “Up. Jenkins! Down, Peter!”, where the first word is like an imperative.
In many cases the border-line between adverbs and words of the other classes is defined syntactically.
He walked past. (adverb)
He walked past the house. (preposition)
They took the dog in. (adverb)
They left the dog in the house, (preposition)
He did everything slowly but surely. (adverb)
Surely you know him. (modal word)
There are three adverbs connected with numerals: once, twice, and thrice (the latter being archaic). They denote measure or frequency.
She went there once a week.
I saw him twice last month.
Twice is also used in the structure twice as long, etc.
He is twice as tall as his brother.
She is twice as clever.
Beginning with three the idea of frequency or repetition is expressed by the phrases three times, four times; He went there four times; he is four times as bigger; she is ten times cleverer.
§ 240. The only pattern of morphological change for adverbs is the same as for adjectives, the degrees of comparison. The three grades are calledpositive, comparative, andsuperlative degrees.
Adverbs that are identical in form with adjectives take inflections following the same spelling and phonetic rules as for adjectives:
Several adverbs ending in-ly(quickly, loudly) form comparatives according to the same pattern, dropping their adverb-forming suffix. These adverbs acquired the form in-ly only recently and retained the older forms of the comparative and superlative:
However most disyllabic adverbs in-ly and all polysyllabic ones form the comparative and superlative analytically, by means ofmore andmost:
- more wisely
- more softly
- more deeply
- most wisely - most softly- most deeply
The adverb often occurs with both types of comparison:
oftener more often
As with adjectives, there is a small group of adverbs with comparatives and superlatives formed from different stems(suppletive forms). These comparatives and superlatives are identical with those for the corresponding adjectives and can be differentiated from the latter only syntactically.
Which do you likebest?
This isleast painful for you.
Either farther (farthest) or further (furthest) are used when speaking of places, directions, or distance:
He is too tired to walk any farther (further).
But only further (furthest) is used with the meaning more, later:
Don’t try my patience any further.
Most of the adverbs, however, stand outside the degrees of comparison:
pronominal adverbs denoting place and time
(here, somewhere, there, sometimes, when),
(somehow, thus), and
adverbs of manner denoting gradation
(minimally, optimally, proximally - áëèæå ê öåíòðó).