This month we wanted to offer two short video excerpts on adverbs. The topic of adverbs can sometimes seem confusing, but as Marie points out in Lesson 15 of The Basic Cozy Grammar Course, adverbs are simply words that describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
And of these uses, the most important by far is describing verbs. In fact, the word adverb contains the word verb in it, which we can use as a helpful reminder.
Take a peek at Marie's quick and easy explanation of how adverbs describe verbs:
Two Keys and a Caveat
I remember the first time I learned about adverbs in school. My teacher pointed out that adverbs tend to end in LY and that they answer the question HOW an action is being done. With those two keys, I was off and running!
In the glee of understanding how grammar works, however, we can also get carried away, suddenly piling up adverbs everywhere. That's why I devised the following creative writing exercise to help students discover for themselves how many adverbs are too many and how many are just right:
As I've found again and again in my own writing and life, the best way to learn a new concept is to try it out for oneself and learn from one's experience.
slowly, irregularly, meditatively
Of course, for every rule there is a notable exception.
If it's true that it's often more effective to use fewer well chosen adverbs rather than too many haphazardly chosen ones, that doesn't mean it's not possible to use several well chosen adverbs. The key, as in all good writing, is learning how to choose well.
Here's my favorite example of how a poet makes excellent use of several adverbs in a row, getting away with it precisely because each of them is exceedingly well chosen. In his poem "Once More," Hayden Carruth describes an autumn in Vermont, paying particular attention to the animals in the woods:
heavily in the brush like bears, half drunk
on masty acorns and rotten wild apples.
The pileated woodpecker thumps a dead elm
slowly, irregularly, meditatively.
Here, not only has Carruth captured the feeling of how deer move in late autumn with the adverb heavily, he also describes precisely how a pileated woodpecker pecks an old tree: slowly, irregularly, meditatively.
If you've ever spent any time around woodpeckers, you know how apt each of those words is. And if you haven't spent any time around woodpeckers, then this poet helps give you a vivid picture, so that you feel as if you have in fact spent time around woodpeckers.
Thanks so much for joining us. We'll see you again in December!
Marie's Language Consultant
The Cozy Grammar Series of Courses