improve your English

Adverbs still have something to add (to verbs)

© Volodymyr Vasylkiv / Fotolia.comAdverbs are lovely. Except lovely is an adjective.

Now I love snooker, but there’s one aspect to watching it on television that drives me potty. Certain commentators on the BBC, who shall remain nameless, have got into the habit of acting as if adverbs don’t exist, continually saying such things as: “He’s hit that one terrible” or, “He got down to that shot far too quick.” More often than not, one will sum up a session by saying: “He’s played really good out there today,” using the adjective ‘good’ instead of its adverbial form ‘well’. Sometimes they’ll admit one adverb but not another, as in the phrase: “He’s hit that shot absolutely perfect,” instead of, ‘absolutely perfectly’.

An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective, a phrase, a clause, or in this case, another adverb. But whereas an adjective describes what kind of thing a word is, an adverb will tell you different information, about manner, or frequency, for instance. Adverbs aren’t appreciated enough – they do a lot in the English language, but some people treat them as if adjectives could do just as well.

The BBC on the whole sticks to higher standards in its written content, such as on its website, but when many people nowadays experience spoken English more than the written form, what they hear can be the primary influence on how they use the language.

One might say that English should reflect the prevalent form of contemporary communication, in order that new learners might meet least impediment when attempting to comprehend each other. Is language merely a form, or rather the truest expression, of crowd wisdom, the means by which most people communicate? English especially is such a farrago of different influences that form quirks and exceptions to rules that most people get by with a slightly broken form of it, which can include faulty spelling. Others regard some rules as elitist, fussy, misguided, or outdated. Their opponents would cry that the future and integrity of the language is at stake! Or they might object to the ugly and unfamiliar sound of the sentences. I can still understand what the commentators mean to say, but it jars.

Of course, adverbs do not only end in –ly; commonly, this is typified by adverbs of manner. Other adverbial phrases govern time, such as ‘nowadays’, seen above, and ‘sometimes’. Adverbs are ‘everywhere’ – which is an adverb of place. When people talk about the ‘death of the adverb’, it is –ly adverbs to which they refer. Primarily, anyway. There is no reason why former sports players elevated to the status of commentators shouldn’t speak correctly (not ‘speak correct’) so set them right, BBC! And quickly!

About the author


Drew Stanley

1 Comment

  • You’re absolutely right. That’s what I always tell my students. Sometimes, in order for them to learn English I have to teach them adverbs. I’ll use this article efficiently from now on to make them understand clearly the matter of adverbs.
    Great article. This is my first input. You can bet it won’t be the last.

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