What is an adverb anyway?

Recently at dinner, my educated friends and I had a lively debate about what an adverb is. The conclusion was that we didn’t know and because the 3G reception in the restaurant was bad we couldn’t cheat and google it. We got over it pretty quickly but I remembered this when book shopping the next day and I saw this beautiful little book.

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As well as having a lovely title (I love the idea of writing having style!) it has a helpful index at the back which tells me that an adverb is

‘a word that modifies, quantifies, or otherwise qualifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Gestures gracefully, exceptionally quiet engine.’

If you are a fan of the English language in general, or are a keen writer, I would definitely recommend this book. There is a whole chapter on how to approach style in your writing (rule 12 – beware the awkward adverb! Now that I know what they are) but my favourite is Chapter 4 Words and Expressions Commonly Misused, with a fascinating list of phrases ‘not so much bad English as bad style’. The best examples?

Enthuse. An annoying verb growing out of the noun enthusiasm. Not recommended.

As to whether. Whether is sufficient.

This book was first written in 1919 and I love that it reads like an old English professor with a bowler hat and a massive moustache wrote it. I’ve only had it for a couple of weeks and it is already well thumbed and covered in pencil. And I’ve bought two more for presents. Great book.

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