As I know, verbs are followed by adverbs. So, which is true? "She stands there completely expressionlessly" Or "she stands there completely expressionless" Though I think the second one is likely to be true, I can't find out a satisfactory explanation. Thanks in advance!

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    Probably the best explanation is using two consecutive -ly forms sounds "awkward" to the native ear. Plus we often avoid "adverbial" -ly forms completely in contexts where the uninflected adjective can be used instead. So it's often "Come quick!" rather than "Come quickly!". Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 18:48
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    The adverb means that she is standing in an expressionless manner, which doesn't really make sense; rather, she is expressionless, so the latter sentence is the better one.
    – Anonym
    Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 19:01
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    "Completely" is a red herring here. The question would be the same if the word "completely" were removed. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 19:18
  • "completely" is redundant and superfluous. You are either expressionless or not, you can't be partially expressionless. Something can't be "completely" destroyed either.
    – user193169
    Commented Aug 26, 2016 at 0:13

3 Answers 3


expressionless is modifing she, not stands, so it should be an adjective, not an adverb. It's equivalent to

She's standing there and is completely expressionless.

An example where you could use an adverb is:

She's standing there completely effortlessly.

The use of the adverb completely is irrelevant. An adverb can modify either an adjective or adverb. Both sentences would be the same with or without it.

  • Yes: stand is used here as a link-like or link+main (my terms) verb. That is, it performs a linking function (between subject and adjective), but also has semantic content (standing as opposed to squatting, sitting ...). I'd call this role of 'completely' the adjective-modifier role rather than the adverbial role. Many words (perhaps one should say intercategorial polysemes) do dual duty like this. Commented Jan 20, 2015 at 21:49

Adverbs ordinarily precede the adjectives or adverbs they modify, so that is why in your examples "completely" precedes the adjective "expressionless" or the adverb "expressionlessly", which it modifies. "Completely" can also modify a verb, in which case it can precede the verb it modifies: "They completely missed my point." However, it can also follow the verb phrase: "They missed my point completely." This particular type of adverb does not occur at the beginning of a sentence: *"Completely they missed my point." Nor can it occur before an auxiliary verb: *"They completely have missed my point." But many other adverbs can occur in the two latter positions.

The position of adverbs depends on what the adverbs modify, but unfortunately not in any simple way.

Both "expressionless" and "expressionlessly" are possible in your example, and "completely" can precede and modify either one, since adverbs can modify both adjectives and other adverbs.


"She stands there completely without expression."

Avoids the awkwardness of two -ly words in a row and ensures that "without expression" correctly modifies "stands".

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