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This is the case I have in mind. I wish to express that impact acted in a way that was severely adverse.

It impacted her severely adversely.

The proposed text above doesn't feel right at all, though.

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    That's because severely can't modify adverbs. You could say "extremely adversely", or "it had a severely adverse impact on her". – Peter Shor Dec 31 '13 at 14:34
  • @PeterShor: You should put your comment into an answer. That's a great explanation, – Safira Dec 31 '13 at 15:10
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Not all adverbs are allowed to modify other adverbs. The adverb severely cannot modify another adverb.

You could correct the sentence by saying "extremely severely" or by saying "it had a severely adverse impact on her".

How do you determine which adverbs can modify other adverbs (or adjectives or verbs, for that matter)? I don't know; I haven't found any lists online, and none of the dictionaries I've checked classify adverbs according to what they are able to modify.

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  • Here is a list of adjective-modifying degree-modifiers. Some may be used to modify adverbs also. I'd classify 'frightfully' as a degree modifier (when used to modify an adjective or adverb) as it is bleached of meaning, but 'frighteningly' carries semantic weight and has to be placed in a superset ('secondary modifier of adjs / advs'). I've cobbled together a list of quite a few secondary modifiers (in the first place, of adjectives), many with collocate adjectives. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 31 '13 at 17:56
  • I think I've seen these special adverb-modifying adverbs called "adadverbs". The problem is that the traditional category of adverbs is a bit of a catch-all, just like the traditional category determiners. – GoldenGremlin Jan 28 '16 at 3:25
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It does sound wrong, and I wouldn't use it myself. That said, it seems to be a proper construction; an adverb can modify another adverb. Is it just discordant and hence not ideal?

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  • This is a comment rather than an answer, Moe. Before it's sanctioned, I'll correct your 'an adverb can modify another adverb' to 'some adverbs can modify some other adverbs'. Some pairings would be senseless (He spoke furiously calmly) while other pairings mysteriously, as Peter implies, just aren't used. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to *reclassify intensifiers, downtoners, and other words used to modify adverbs (and adjectives), largely because of their function and distribution. [*Denham et al] – Edwin Ashworth Dec 31 '13 at 17:41

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