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What is an adverb? (Grammar)

 

Definition
 

An adverb is a lexical category whose members have the same syntactic distribution and typically modify adjectives, other adverbs, verbs, or whole clauses or sentences.

Discussion
 

The general class adverb is a mixture of very different kinds of words, which cover a wide range of semantic concepts and whose syntactic distribution is disparate. The definition of the lexical category adverb is language-specific, based on syntactic distribution.

 
Tip:

Any word with lexical content that does not clearly fit the categories noun, verb, or adjective is usually considered an adverb.

Examples (English)
 

True adverbs in English are words that can be modified by degree words such as the following:

 
  • possibly
  • quickly
  • well
  • far
Nonexamples (English)
 

Many words traditionally called adverbs in English are not in the same lexical category as true adverbs because they do not have the same syntactic distribution as true adverbs and cannot be modified by degree words.

 
  • very
  • not
  • here
  • there
  • now
  • then
  • yesterday
 
Syntactic distribution of adverbs
 

The following categories are not adverbs in English because they do not have the same syntactic distribution as true adverbs:

 
  • Degree words

    In the following sentences smoothly, a true adverb, and very, a degree word, do not have the same syntactic distribution:

    • She ran very smoothly.
    • *She ran smoothly very.
    • *She ran quickly smoothly.
  • Negation words

    In the following sentences quickly, a true adverb, and not, a negation word, do not have the same syntactic distribution:

    • She quickly shut the door again.
    • *She not shut the door again.
    • Run quickly around the bases.
    • ?Run not around the bases.

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