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Real quick question

If you listen real close...

Can you swing by real quick...

Sentences like the above two are what I often hear in daily life. If I didn't hear them in the real world, I would probably be more ready to say "If you listen really close..." and "Can you swing by really quick...".

Is real being used as an adjective in this scenario? If so, is the usage of adj.+ adj. a common practice in English language?

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marked as duplicate by TimLymington, MετάEd, tchrist, Mitch, Matt E. Эллен Nov 26 '12 at 11:28

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

No, it's being used as an adverb. The -ly ending gets dropped pretty frequently in real speech. Since it's simply an emphasizer like very, it doesn't really matter whether it's there or not. – John Lawler Nov 24 '12 at 15:45
How about real real? youtube.com/watch?v=uyJHzvHwKas – kjack Nov 24 '12 at 20:23
up vote 12 down vote accepted

As intensifiers (words that make an adjective stronger), the adjective form of a word (without the ly) is used very often instead of the adverb form in English. As some of the other answers and comments have remarked, these words are indeed adverbs because they modify adjectives.

For example:

bloody stupid (U.K.),
wicked cold (Boston),
dead certain.

If you said bloodily stupid in England, wickedly cold in Boston, or deadly certain pretty much anywhere, it would sound real funny. People say real hot but don't often say real true, because real is an intensifier in the first but not the second. (See Google Ngram).

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I see nothing whatever wrong with deadly certain; and I am in deadly earnest. – WS2 Jun 1 '15 at 15:12

There is a comprehensive article looking at various aspects (including historical preferences and shifts) of adverbs-that-resemble-adjectives at http://www.jamiechavez.com/blog/permalink/2011/12/do-not-go-gentle-into-that-good-night/ ; it cites other good sources. The question of which of these so-called flat adverbs are licensed by some style guides is also partially addressed. I'd just add here that sometimes, flat adverbs have a different sense from their related -ly forms:

We went to Rome, and then flew directly on to Rio. (ie as quickly as possible).
We flew direct to Rio. (ie without landing mid-journey).

The use of the -ly-less form is best usually regarded as informal though, in my opinion.

Addressing your second question, I'd reiterate that I think it's about time degree modifiers:

He drove a real(/ly) fast car.
He's plumb loco.
He drove real(/ly) fast.

and other 'secondary modifiers':

It was chillingly realistic.
Time passed excruciatingly slowly.

were recognised as having very different functions from words modifying verbs.

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That's right. To the extent it matters, part of speech has to do with syntactic function, not meaning. – John Lawler Nov 24 '12 at 17:53

It is an adverb, because it is modifying the intensity of the verbal phrase, not the noun. In this case, it is no different than "very," most commonly used as an adverb.

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Real here is used as an adverb here meaning very. This usage is mostly informal and American.

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The correct full form of these phrases is to add '-ly' to both words, making them form one adverbial section:

  • "If you listen real close..." → "If you listen really closely..."
  • "Can you swing by real quick..." → "Can you swing by really quickly..."
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Are you somehow thinking that close and quick are never already adverbs, and so need an -ly suffix to make them become such? That needn’t be true. Here we have quickest used in the sense of what you would probably prefer were written “most closely”: §1840 Dickens Barn. Rudge x, ― “The person who’d go quickest, is a sort of natural.” And here we have closer for what you probably think needs to be more closely: §1833 Thirlwall, in Philol. Museum II. 160 ― “The closer they are examined, the more suspicious do they appear.” Those are both adverbs, you realize. – tchrist Nov 24 '12 at 21:10
@tchrist: Well, those are comparative and superlative forms, and there aren't distinct adverbial comparative or superlatives, so people mostly just use the adjectival form. At least, that's my reading of it. – Aesin Nov 24 '12 at 22:31
Flat adverbs (without the -ly) were common in the days of Shakespeare. Since then, they appear to have fallen out of use to a large extent in the U.K., but are still relatively common in the U.S. From Shakespeare: where you shall take your rest // For this one night; which, part of it, I'll waste // With such discourse as, I not doubt, shall make it // Go quick away; and Follow me close, for I will speak to them. – Peter Shor Nov 24 '12 at 22:58
In formal discourse your answer would be quite correct. Observe, however, that OP [the original poster] is asking about what he or she "often hear[s] in daily life". We are dealing therefore with the colloquial register, which generally evolves more quickly than the formal register. We must be careful of these distinctions here; it is likely that the proposed Learner's will focus more narrowly on Standard English. – StoneyB Nov 24 '12 at 23:31
How? Those are the inflectional degrees of adverbs, just like who runs faster and who runs fastest are, or what dives deeper or what dives deepest. They aren’t “using adjectives”. Those are real adverbs. It doesn’t take an -ly to make an adverb. People oftenly think thusly, but it is seldomly soly. – tchrist Nov 25 '12 at 0:12

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