Topic: adjectives versus adverbs
“I think she is not modest,” proclaimed Utari with the now-familiar frown.
“I don’t think she is modest.”
“You have the same experience?”
“No, no, Utari: I mean transferred negation; I’ve told you. But who isn’t modest?”
“Wave … Waver … ”
“Yes. It is for women good to be modest.”
“It’s good for women to be modest.”
“You think as well?”
“No, no, I meant word order. But why don’t you think she’s modest?”
“Because she says always, ‘I’m good, I’m good’. What is she good in?”
“You are good at things, Utari.”
“No, no, I was trying to say that the right preposition is at. But she doesn’t mean it in that sense.”
“Nope: whenever you ask her how she is, she tries to tell you that she is well. ‘I’m good’ is an Americanism, but the usage has spread to Britain, and I think it’s here to stay.”
“Yep. So there is no point hitting the roof over it.”
“Also, you might get hurted.”
“Hurt, but it’s just a saying, Utari. Talking about adjectives and adverbs, – good is an adjective and well an adverb, by the way – I was going to have a wee word about your awful.”
“I have awful?”
“No, no, I mean when you say awful instead of awfully. It’s a common error, actually: people often use adjectives instead of adverbs.” I placed a folder bulging with the examples of the confusion in question in front of her. “Have a little read.”
The young lady opened the folder and got reading – only to raise her head and look at me in obvious bewilderment.
“But … but how … is this possible?”
She passed me this cutting from The Daily Telegraph.
When I actually meet politicians, the Government, the Royal Family, members of the House of Lords and so on, they are remarkable ordinary people.
“So are they remarkable, or are they ordinary?”
“But that’s exactly my point, Utari: this writer simply can’t tell his adjectives from his adverbs: remarkable is an adjective, but he should have used the adverb remarkably – this happens quite often.”
“But … but an adverb, it goes with a verb, no?”
“A-a-a-a, it’s a common misconception: adverbs can also team up with other parts of speech – this one qualifies the adjective ordinary, for example. Such adverbs are called intensifiers.”
“Because they indicate a degree of intensity. Here is another example, look; it’s from The Sunday Times.”
In the past, men put up with having strange shaped bodies.
“Your men, they maybe did not eat enough fish,” mused the young lady. “Teri helps.”
“How does Teri help, Utari?”
“You consume, no?”
“Good grief: I didn’t realise you had cannibalism in Indonesia.”
“Teri, teri – small fish! Our men, they eat plenty, and they have normal bodies.”
“I s-e-e-e! No, no, it’s not the men’s bodies that were strange but their shapes: they meant strangely shaped bodies. This is an example of an adverb modifying a participial adjective. But adverbs can do much more; listen.”
My parents are dead against.
“They died again?”
“No, no, I said against; it’s a preposition, and, in this context, dead is an adverb modifying this preposition. You can also have intensifiers with particles, pronouns, determiners and numerals. Listen to this.”
Move right over.
“No, no, what I mean is that right is here an adverb modifying the particle over. How about this?”
Virtually all the officials involved – over 50 of them – had been investigated, and nearly everybody was found to have taken bribes.
“You have in Britain corruption? In Indonesia, we have as well.”
“No, no, it’s just an example of all the different adverbs being used as intensifiers.”
“Awful … awful-ly complicated,” sighed my pupil – to my obvious delight that my efforts were beginning to bear at least some fruit.
“Is it, Utari? It might become clearer if you look at some more examples.”
The young lady obliged with a gratifying nod. It wasn’t long, however, before she shot me another of her baffled looks.
“Your houses, do they fright often?”
“You mean frighten?”
“Because The Sunday Times, they wrote this.”
In the past two years, we have lived in an alarming eight different houses.
“No, no, they don’t mean frightening; it’s another sentence where they should have used an adverb. What they meant was this.”
In the past two years, we have, alarmingly, lived in eight different houses.
“You see, this illustrates another function of adverbs, Utari; some adverbs are used to reveal attitudes. That’s exactly what alarmingly does here. Have you found any other interesting examples?”
The young lady continued to peruse the contents of the folder, but, suddenly, her lips quivered. “My was not simple,” she uttered with a deep sigh.
“You were married?”
“Yes, to Adi. But it was not simple.”
“Marriage rarely is, Utari, but it’s ‘Mine was not simple’.”
“You have the same experience?”
“No, no, we say mine. But are you suggesting that marriage should be simple?”
“Not me – TODAYshow.com, they wrote this.”
A marriage overwhelmed by addiction, adultery or abuse is unhealthy, plain and simple.
“A-a-a-a, but they didn’t mean it like this, Utari.”
“Nope, what they were trying to say was this.”
A marriage overwhelmed by addiction, adultery or abuse is, plainly and simply, unhealthy.
“So what do these two adverbs do here, Utari?”
“Go with the verb, no?”
“Not really; it’s another example of adverbs used to reveal attitudes.”
A further sigh accompanied by the rubbing of the chin suggested that it might be time to put the subject to bed.
“We might as well wrap up now, Utari.”
“No, thank you.”
“You want more examples?”
“No, but I am warm.”
“No, no, I mean finish. Listen, I have written this little ditty for you.”
This happens quite often, I’d like you to know:
Folk use adjectives where adverbs should go;
Adverbs have functions adjectives do NOT;
If you mix them up – your sense will be shot.
“Got it, Utari!” Was I mistaken, or did I detect a quizzical look on my pupil’s face? Blast, she was big on modesty, wasn’t she? “No, no, I didn’t mean it like this … what I meant was … ”