Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Awfully is a word, as noted in Merriam-Webster's definition of awful. I recently said this:

Your snoring is awfully bad.

I was in a group, and the majority agreed that awful was correct:

Your snoring is awful bad.

Which is correct: awful bad or awfully bad, and why?

share|improve this question
    
This sounds a bit like peeving disguised as a question, which is out of scope per the FAQ. Could you possibly edit this so that it is more on topic? –  simchona Oct 12 '11 at 3:32
    
Much, thank you. –  simchona Oct 12 '11 at 3:38
1  
It might be a corruption of this misguided and misspelled grammar advice, that says you should not use "awfully" as an intensifier. –  Peter Shor Oct 12 '11 at 3:51
3  
I don't believe that this belief exists; the question would need to show that this is a real belief shared by many, before being a real question for this website. ("I was told to say" only proves that at least one person believes it, but beliefs of specific linguistically non-influential individuals are IMHO out of scope for a general English language website.) –  ShreevatsaR Oct 12 '11 at 4:31
    
Who would you say, "That's awfully good!" to? To Fred Astaire, I think, when you might have been there when he had just performed a few informal minutes of one of his better numbers. –  user40313 Mar 26 '13 at 9:40
add comment

4 Answers 4

up vote 9 down vote accepted

I believe that the person who suggested you should use 'awful bad' has an awfully bad command of English and it would be an awful idea to abandon the correct use of 'awfully' as in your exemplary sentence:

Your snoring is awfully bad.

share|improve this answer
    
But some people don't like "awfully" as an intensive adverb either. The Oxford American Dictionary says "careful writers" avoid it. And yet Huxley, Wilde and Kipling have used "awfully". Do they have an awfully bad command of English? –  morphail Oct 13 '11 at 16:39
    
@morphail Huxley, Wilde and Kipling: English, Irish and English. Perhaps there's different usage recommendations for their side of the Atlantic. –  Hugo Oct 13 '11 at 17:00
add comment

What is "awful/awfully" doing here? It is modifying the adjective "bad" (telling how bad).

Which part of speech can modify an adjective? Adverbs (Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs.)

Which word is the adverb? "Awfully."

share|improve this answer
1  
Does this mean you think "bloodily stupid fool" is better than "bloody stupid fool"? –  Peter Shor Oct 13 '11 at 23:27
add comment

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage on awful vs awfully.

"The intensive adverb awfully was attacked as a Britishicism by Richard Grant White in 1870. The Oxford American Dictionary as recently as 1980 continues the depreciation of the intensive with the remarkable claim that "careful writers" avoid it. Perhaps so, but good writers have certainly not avoided it since it became established in the mid-19th century. Some of our examples are from fiction and drama, but others are from ordinary discursive prose"

They give 14 examples of awfully as an intensive adverb, from writers like Wilde, Kipling, James, Huxley, Maugham.

share|improve this answer
1  
Nice reference. And this seems to confirm the OPs comment that the grammar police dislike awfully: "The intensive awfully was attacked as a Briticism by Richard Grant White in 1870. The Oxford American Dictionary as recently as 1980 continues the deprecation of the intensive with the remarkable claim that 'careful writers' avoid it. Perhaps so, but good writers certainly have not ..." –  Peter Shor Oct 12 '11 at 15:31
    
-1 for a link with no summary, for when the link rots. Also, what's MWEDU? –  Hugo Oct 13 '11 at 17:03
    
Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. Peter Shor gives a summary in his comment. –  morphail Oct 13 '11 at 17:25
    
@morphail: a comment is not really an answer. Also, that's a very long entry, most of which has to do with the reduced meaning of "awful" (i.e. using it for things that really aren't that bad), rather than using "awful" as an adverb. So it would be especially important for you to summarize the part(s) that you believe answer this question. As it is, this is not an answer. –  Marthaª Oct 13 '11 at 18:18
    
It's awfully bad luck on Diana,/ Her ponies have swallowed their bits;/ She fished down their throats with a spanner/ And frightened them all into fits. (John Betjeman) –  Barrie England Oct 13 '11 at 18:58
add comment

Just in case we’re still pursuing this, the OED’s earliest citation for the use of awful as an adverb is dated 1818. There are subsequent citations from Mark Twain and Anthony Trollope.

share|improve this answer
    
Also interesting given Twain was American, Trollope was English and both writing around the same time. –  Hugo Oct 13 '11 at 17:02
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.