Monday, September 15, 2014

Really Real and for Real, Really: Adjective-Adverb Confusion, Part 4

Earlier this year, I began a series on adjective-adverb confusion. (Click on these numbers to read parts 12, and 3.) Getting these words wrong is so common in everyday speech that we might have trouble deciding on which word form to use. For example, we often hear expressions such as "I'll see you real soon" (not the correct really) or "I'll get there quick" (not the correct quickly). It's no wonder that we struggle with knowing which word to use when writing.

Part 1 describes the way to choose the adjective form (real and quick) or the adverb form (reallyand quickly). It usually comes down to the verb used. In short, being verbs (e.g., amareiswaswerebebeingbeen) require adjective forms (e.g., you are real, she was quick), and action verbs (e.g., try,work) require adverb forms (e.g., you really try, she works quickly).

But some words function as both adjective and adverbs, so you do not have to worry about the rule. Here are some instances, all of which are correct:

  • I am alone (being verb), or, I will travel alone (action verb)
  • We are fast (being verb), or, We drive fast (action verb)
  • His work is hard (being verb), or, He works hard (action verb)
  • She was late (being verb), or, She arrived late (action verb)
  • You were silly (being verb), or, You acted silly (action verb)
Why is English such a confusing language? If you really want to know the answer to that question, you'll get more than you asked for by reading The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language by Steven Pinker. Until then, you might want to review this series on adjective-adverb confusion.