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Adjective in place of Adverb

Today I found myself in the position of wanting to use “volatile” in the sentence “The bombs rested volatile on the edge of the shelf.” I immediately realized the sentence seemed choppy. I also realized, however, that “volatilely” is not a word. I was thinking of “precariously” but wanted to express a more explosive mood instead of the somewhat timid-sounding “precariously.”

Are there situations where an adjective can be used in place of an adverb? For instance, tonight I heard a teleivision show use the phrase “You’ve done nothing but wax idiotic.”

Any examples, rules, or guidelines relating to the use of this kind of adjective/adverb structure would be a boon to my understanding. Thank you.

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These "adjectives" are known as "flat" adverbs. It's much like a normal adverb, but it <em>looks</em> like an adjective. Google for "flat adverb" to find more references. However, in some situations you might be able to use a comma to change the sense of the original sentence:

<em>The bombs rested, volatile on the edge of the shelf.</em>

Doesn't quite work in this case, although hopefully you can see where I'm going!

pain September 13, 2004, 11:38am

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Does it mean that any adjective that doesn't have a registered adverbial form can be used adverbially as it stands?

jeudi September 14, 2004, 2:29am

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Peter, I think your example sentence would be punctuated like this: "The bombs rested, volatile, on the edge of the shelf." However, "volatile" still modifies the noun "bombs" and not the verb "rested," thus it is still an adjective. I think vindibul did want the adverb.

Some uses of what you call a "flat" adverb can be seen in the recent comments to the Jan 20 post by slo.

speedwell2 September 14, 2004, 4:18am

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jeudi's question intrigues me. I can't answer it but would appreciate others explaining this further. I've tried a few sentences and these these "flat" adverbs sometimes sound quite intelligent / engaging simply because of the divergence from the usual linguistic fair.

More knowledge! Feed me!

ng strahar September 14, 2004, 4:26pm

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"The bombs rested precariously volatile on the edge of the shelf."

mmcteer September 16, 2004, 5:32pm

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You mean, "The bombs rested, precariously volatile, on the edge of the shelf."

speedwell2 September 17, 2004, 4:13am

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Nah, I meant what I wrote. I'm also beginning to wonder if it's even necessary to distinguish between adverbs and adjectives in most cases.

mmcteer September 17, 2004, 4:59am

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Probably the most famous example is the slogan "Think different".

mpt September 19, 2004, 4:45am

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Matt, what speed was saying was that in your example "precariously volatile" modifies the noun not the verb.
mpt, it could be argued the “Think different” is short for “Think (of something) different.”

IngisKahn October 3, 2004, 8:26pm

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Yes, IngisKahn, that's exactly it, thank you. I can be the very bitch mother of impatience sometimes.

I always thought it wasn't "think different," but something more like, oh, I don't know...

Think, "different."

speedwell2 October 4, 2004, 4:33am

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The one that gets me is friendly. There is no adverb form. In formal writing I use "in a friendly manner" or something pretentious like that. Informally I have been heard to utter "friendlily!!"

Janet October 19, 2004, 5:13am

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Yes     No