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An adverb is a part of speech. It is any word that modifies any part of language other than a noun (modifiers of nouns are primarily adjectives and determiners). Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives (including numbers), clauses, sentences and other adverbs.

Adverbs typically answer questions such as how?, in what way?, when?, where?, and to what extent?. This function is called the adverbial function, and is realized not just by single words (i.e., adverbs) but by adverbial phrases and adverbial clauses.


Adverbs in English

In English, adverbs of manner (answering the question how?) are often formed by adding -ly to adjectives. For example, great yields greatly, and beautiful yields beautifully. (Note that some words that end in -ly, such as friendly and lovely, are not adverbs, but adjectives, in which case the root word is usually a noun. There are also underived adjectives that end in -ly, such as holy and silly.)

The suffix -ly is related to the Germanic word "lich". (There is also an obsolete English word lych or lich with the same meaning.) Both words are also related to the word like. The connection between -ly and like is easy to understand. The connection to lich is probably that both are descended from an earlier word that meant something like "shape" or "form".[1]

In this way, -ly in English is cognate with the common German adjective ending -lich and the Dutch ending -lijk. This same process is followed in Romance languages with the ending -mente, -ment, or -mense meaning "of/like the mind".

In some cases, the suffix -wise may be used to derive adverbs from nouns. Historically, -wise competed with a related form -ways and won out against it. In a few words, like sideways, -ways survives; words like clockwise show the transition. Again, it is not a foolproof indicator of a word being an adverb. Some adverbs are formed from nouns or adjectives by appending the prefix a- (such as abreast, astray). There are a number of other suffixes in English that derive adverbs from other word classes, and there are also many adverbs that are not morphologically indicated at all.

Comparative adverbs include more, most, least, and less (in phrases such as more beautiful, most easily etc.).

The usual form pertaining to adjectives or adverbs is called the positive. Formally, adverbs in English are inflected in terms of comparison, just like adjectives. The comparative and superlative forms of some (especially single-syllable) adverbs that do not end in -ly are generated by adding -er and -est (She ran faster; He jumps highest). Others, especially those ending -ly, are periphrastically compared by the use of more or most (She ran more quickly) -- while some accept both forms, e.g. oftener and more often are both correct. Adverbs also take comparisons with as ... as, less, and least. Not all adverbs are comparable; for example in the sentence He wore red yesterday it does not make sense to speak of "more yesterday" or "most yesterday".

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