Syntactic Functions of Adverb

Adverbs may perform different functions, modifying different types of words, phrases, sentences. Some adverbs are restricted in their combinability whereas others may modify different words, for instance enough, which may be used in to work enough, not quickly enough, quick enough.

So we see that in accord with their categorial meaning, adverbs are characterized by a combinability with verbs, adjectives and words of adverbial nature. The functions of adverbs in these combinations consist in expressing different adverbial modifiers. [6, p. 289]

The combinability and functions of the adverbs are as follows:

  1. Adverbs may function as adverbial modifiers of manner, place

time, degree to a finite or non-finite form of the verb:

During my walks I occasionally met people I knew.(frequency)

 I went back inside. (place)

 I loved her passionately. (degree)

The father held the boy tightly in his arms, (manner)

Some adverbs of time though synonymous, are used in different syntactical patterns. Thus, already is used in affirmative sentences, and yet – in interrogative and negative sentences:

E.g. They have already finished.

They haven’t finished yet

Have they finished yet?

However, already may occur in interrogative and negative sentences when there is an element of surprise or the question is suggestive, that is the speaker expects an affirmative answer.

E.g. Have they finished already? (The speaker is surprised at their having already finished.)

In the same way still, meaning “continuously, up to this moment”, is used in affirmative sentences and any more in negative sentences. If any more is used in a question, it implies that the speaker expects a negative answer.

E.g. He still works at the library.

He does not work there any more.

Does he take music lessons any more? – No, he doesn’t.

  1. Adverbs may function as adverbial modifiers to an adjective or another adverb. When adverbs modify adjectives or other adverbs, they serve as adverbial modifiers of degree (as intensifies). So usually the modifying adverb is an intensifier: very, rather, awfully, so, terribly, extremely, most, utterly, unusually, delightfully, unbelievably, amazingly, strikingly, highly, that, etc.

The same applies to composite adverbs, such a kind of, sort of, a good bit of, a lot of, a hell of, a great deal of, etc.

E.g. She is terribly awkward; they are very happy: Meg is clever enough; . you speak so slowly; they settled in a rather quiet street; the boy is unbelievably I fat; she was strikingly handsome; we did it sort of proudly, quite definitely, too much, right there, a great deal too much.

Some adverbs – still, yet, far, much, any combine with comparative adjectives: much worse, not any better, still greater, etc.

E.g. He could not speak any plainer.

 You could do it far more neatly.

 She is much wittier than her friend.

Comparative adverbs are used in clauses of proportional agreement, that is, parallel clauses in which qualities or actions denoted in them increase for decrease at an equal rate.

E.g. The longer I think about it the less I understand your reasons.

 To express the idea that a quality or action decreases or increases at an even rate the comparative may be repeated, the two identical forms being connected by and:

E.g. He ran faster and faster.

There are some adverbs which may modify nouns or words of nominal character, functioning as attribute, as in: the way ahead, the trip abroad, the journey home, his return home, the sentence above(below), my friend here, the house opposite, the day before, etc.

In some combinations the adverbs modifying a noun become adjectivized, e.g. the then Prime Minister, in the above examples, in after years and some others.

Some groups of adverbs, namely, viewpoint, attitudinal and formulaic ones, modify whole sentences.

Whole phrases of words can also perform the function of an adverb. If the phrase contains a subject and a verb, it is called an adverbial clause.

E.g. When the bus arrived, we were able to start our journey

The phrase, ‘when the bus comes’, contains a subject (‘the bus’) and a verb (‘comes’), and it modifies the sentence verb, ‘able’.

If the phrase does not contain a subject and verb, then it is called an adverbial phrase.

E.g. In the morning, we started our journey. We started in the morning.

In the both sentences, the phrase ‘in the morning’ modifies the verb ‘started’ by telling us when the journey was started. In this example, the adverbial phrase is also a prepositional phrase.

The peculiarities of parenthetical adverbs

Parenthetical adverbs are adverbs that don’t change the meaning of the sentence. They are often used at the beginning of the sentence.

The most common parenthetical adverbs are the following: however, still, indeed, yet, moreover, furthermore, likewise, namely, accordingly, nevertheless, consequently, anyhow.

E.g.: Most demonstrators were exhausted namely two were carried to the hospital.

E.g.: Fortunately, all people returned home in peace.

 Most parenthetical adverbs are separated by commas. Logically speaking, they don’t add any meaning to the sentence. For example, “perhaps” is usually not separated by commas, because it’s essential to the meaning. Parenthetical adverbs can also be called modal adverbs or sentence adverbs.

Let’s analyse the varieties of parenthetic:

1) Speech act adverbs: ‘honestly’, etc.

  • Provide a comment on the manner in which the main speech act was executed.

2) Connectives: ‘therefore, so’, etc.

  • Specify how the current speech act (and/or its content) relates with the current discourse.

3) Agentives (‘subject-oriented’): ‘kindly’, etc.

  • Comment on an agent’s attitude in bringing about a certain state of affairs.

4) Evaluatives: ‘fortunately’, etc. [7, p. 27]

  • Provide a comment on the speaker’s appreciation of the semantic content.