A Way With Words: Adverbs

For authors, by authors, one word at a time

A Way With Words: Adverbs

January 12, 2016 Writing 3

“If it’s an adverb we have it at Lolly’s!
Bring along your old adjectives too, like slow, soft and sure.
We’ll fit them out with our “l-y” attachment,
And make perfectly good adverbs out of them!”
~ Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here ~ Schoolhouse Rock, 1974

Back in the day, the virtual dark ages, I was fascinated by the Schoolhouse Rock videos. I learned about Conjunctions, Interjections, and a person named Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.

I also learned about Adverbs, those handy modifiers that take verbs to the next level. You don’t just “run,” you “run quickly,” or lazily, slowly, clumsily, or mechanically.

While not a hard and fast rule, adverbs typically end with an “ly” suffix. There are adverbs without this little piece of add-on. Adverbs can also show direction:

He ran away from the fire.

In this sentence, “away” is the adverbs.

He ran fast.

Here, “fast” is the adverb.

He ran down the stairs.

“Down.” is the adverb in this sentence.

Use adverbs to describe action, or to describe the description of the action.

He ran quickly down the stairs.

Both “quickly” and “down” are adverbs in this sentence describing “ran.”

How did he run? Quickly
Where did he run? Down

He ran frantically away from the fire.

“Frantically” and “away” also describe “ran.”

How did he run? Frantically
Where did he run? Away

These are easy enough. The problem arises when you need to use an adverb, and instead you sneak in an adjective.

“Could you tell how bad he was hurt?”

At first read, you may not see the problem.

The word “bad” should be “badly.” How was he hurt? He was “hurt badly,” not he was “hurt bad.”

“He tried to walk slow at first.”

Again, you wouldn’t say, “he walk slow,” or “he walked slow.” In either of these sentences, the correct modifier is “slowly.”

In may cases, we get tripped up on our adverbs/adjectives, because we often write how we speak. Often times we don’t pay attention to the technical aspects of our oral presentations.

That is unless you live with a grammar judge who points out your faux pas every chance he gets.

I digress…

When you question what word to use in your sentence, take the time to read the sentence out loud, then rearrange the words to see if they make sense using just the subject/verb/modifier.

After years of lessons, she still sang terrible.
After years of lessons, she still sang terribly.

She sang terrible.
She sang terribly.

“Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here!
You’re going to need
If you write or read,
Or even think about it.”

 

3 Responses

  1. I loved Schoolhouse Rock too!! Man, I wish we still had those things for our kids today.

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