Do you know how to tell them from adjectives?
That exchange from the movie “Airplane!” is presented—gratuitousLY—to spotlight adverbs ending in –ly, our topic for this week.
Refresher on Adjectives and Adverbs
Before we get into adverbs' more nuanced applications, let’s have a quick refresher on adjectives and adverbs and the differences between them.
An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun:
the red apple
the warm sun
An adverb can modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or a whole sentence:
Aardvark smiled slyly. (“Slyly” modifies the verb “smiled.”)
They engaged in a hotly contested campaign. (“Hotly” modifies the adjective “contested.”)
Squiggly danced very badly. (“Very” modifies the adverb “badly.”)
Fortunately, nobody noticed. (“Fortunately” modifies the whole sentence.)
You may have noticed that three of the four adverbs had –ly endings, and that’s not unusual. Many adverbs are just adjectives with the -ly suffix: “accidental” becomes “accidentally,” “perfect becomes “perfectly,” “loving” becomes “lovingly,” “foolish” becomes “foolishly,” and so on. I’d list them all, but we’d be here indefinitely. But there are some exceptions . . .