At dinner with a friend the other day, during my standard babble to him about the days’ events, I was stopped dead as he corrected my grammar mid-sentence. Now, I have always loved language and although I have never claimed to be an expert at writing grammatically correct texts, I am constantly striving to ensure my written English (and other languages) are as ‘perfect’ as possible. Since starting at Lingua Translations I have found myself questioning grammatical decisions in my writing that before I have carried out naturally as a matter of course. In both my written and spoken English I am now even keener to polish up the grammar and in some way (albeit very small) protect ‘correct’ language usage.
Anyone who knows me will tell you that even when asked just a simple question I can talk their ear off for ages, jumping from one subject to another, veering off on tangents that take me so far away from the original point that I will often grind to a halt and fumble around trying to find the original thread and eventually impart the pearls I had initially intended to share. This eagerness to give as much information as possible in one long breath often means I forget to check my grammar and despite my best efforts I make mistakes. Of course I imagine this is true for many people and perhaps they are not always obvious errors? There are certainly those who I enter into conversation with and I find myself realising that my grammar must seem appalling in comparison, however in full flow of conversation it is easy to slip up and say something ungrammatical.
Part of this must also of course be attributed to the fact that so much poor grammar is circulating in modern day language. Along with the rise of social media we have seen an increase in the use of text language and acronyms. These days it is all about saving letters. Twitter, for example, has a character limit and the aim (unfortunately for me) is to be as concise as possible.
Adverbs are one of the aspects of the English language that seem to be collateral damage of this new, concise community take over. The term “slowly-roasted pork” has been replaced with “slow-roasted pork”, the “freshly cut grass” is often referred to as “fresh-cut grass” and why? Perhaps people feel that adverbs are too wordy? Others see them as overused in sentences. For example the website Grammar Girl has an article on how to eliminate them from written language unless they are absolutely necessary. The reason? They are often placed in sentences where they are actually redundant. Take the sentence “she smiled happily” what is the point of the adverb ‘happily’ in this sentence? The verb here is self-explanatory and does not need an adverb to qualify it unless it is to say “she smiled gleefully” or she smiled “creepily” does it?
These and other examples show why the adverb is not such a beloved part of the English grammar and is often totally forgotten. One person who does not want to see this happen though is Maddie York, who, in an article in the Guardian, defended the integrity of the adverb and its usefulness in the construct of English language:
“This summer, EDF Energy saddened me with those colossal orange posters carrying its proud Olympic sponsorship slogan, “Helping London shine brighter.” How did London shine, EDF? More brightly. That’s how. But somehow the comparative adjective was selected instead of the adverb. I can see that “Helping London shine more brightly” is a slightly clunky slogan, but my view, in every case, is that if being grammatically correct damages a slogan, it’s the slogan that’s the problem, not the rules of grammar. EDF could have shuffled the words around to make it work. “London. Shining more brightly with EDF.”
What do you think about adverbs in English? Are they useful or surplus?
How about adverbs in other languages, do they fill the same role?
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