I'm trying to form the following sentence:

...we can talk more substantiatively in the event that X occurs.

The term "substantiatively" isn't in either the computer dictionary or online at m-w.com. However, it seems to me that if something can be substantiative, then something can be done substantiatively. More generally, if something can be described as <adjective>, then one can do it <adverb form of adjective>. Is that assertion incorrect?

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    In general, yes, although there are many exceptions, e.g. determiners. By the way, I have never heard of substantiative. Perhaps you mean substantial or substantive (less likely)? Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:49
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    @Cerberus - I'm just going off m-w.com. I won't rule out the possibility that I'm just making stuff up. That's within the realm of possibilisnosity.
    – eykanal
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 18:58
  • @Cerberus: Coleridge seems to have loved the word substantiative. From his Notebooks: 1827–1834: "By the conception of SUBSTANCE ingenerated a priori, i.e. by the influence of Reason the Mediate Faculty becomes Understanding, i.e. substantiative, substituent—; but this not being drawn from the Sense or the Senses (= Sense + Sensation or ..."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 20:23
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    @EdwinAshworth: If you don't mind my saying, is it fair to call all of those exceptions? I'd also classify words like many and all as adjectives. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 3:33
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    Some apparent exceptions to the rule that you can form an adverb from an adjective are due to miscategorizing things as adjectives just because they can be noun modifiers. You can have "the above examples" and not *"abovely", but that's because "above" is actually a preposition. You can have "the sleeping child" and not *"sleepingly", but that is because "sleeping" is actually a verb in the participle form.
    – Greg Lee
    Commented Jan 31, 2017 at 4:08

2 Answers 2


I think the original question should be about talking more substantively. The other looks like a misprint to me. The OED attests these substa- adverbs:

substantially [adv.]
† substanˈtifically [adv.] ← substanˈtific
† subˈstantiously [adv.]
substanˈtivally [adv.] ← substantival
substantively [adv.]

In general, there are many words that modern grammars classify as adjectives (rather than as determiners or various other noun modifiers) which you cannot convert into adverbs merely by suffixing them with -ly via derivational morphology.

Here are some examples of things that don’t work out when you try to do that with them:

  • You can look for an only son, but you can’t *onlily find him.

  • An alert listener listens alertly, but an awake one cannot listen *awakely.

  • A bigger idea can never be expressed *biggerly.

  • Although secret plans can be divulged secretly, small plans cannot be made *smally.

  • You can interview an old, white, European man, but you can interview him neither *oldly nor *whitely nor *Europeanly.

  • If the judge gave you a deferred sentence, you still haven’t been sentenced *deferredly.

  • People who like twice-baked potatoes don’t cook *twice-bakedly.

  • Just because you find yourself blessed with kittens galore doesn’t mean you’ve been *galorely blessed.

  • If you went looking for men who were awake, such men could not be *awakely found.

  • People who support their home teams are not *homely supporting those teams. And homely people are something else altogether.

  • Homing pigeons are not just pigeons flown *homingly.

  • If the position required a professor emeritus, it could not be filled *emeritusly.

  • A daily gardening column is not a column published *daylily, only one published daily — even if it happens to be about daylilies. :)

  • Although you can extract bodily fluids, you cannot extract them *bodilily.

The only adjectives you can convert into adverbs by affixing -ly to them are those that fit into the pattern:

in an ADJECTIVE manner

Those ones you can derive adverbs of manner out of via -ly. The rest you cannot.

(Notice how this rules out adjectives that can occur only postnominally, such as galore.)

And even some fitting that pattern are normally blocked for other reason; most people aren’t comfortable with converting -ly adjectives into -lily adverbs.

  • OP's general question seems to be answered, but specifically can substantiative be made into an adverb? Would it become an adverb of manner?
    – Zan700
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 22:25
  • @Zan700 The question was about modifiers not about substantives. To derive an adverb from a substantive like a noun sometimes(?) requires that it first be converted into an adjective. Throwing a ball "like a girl" would be throwing it girlishly not girly or gurlily. There's a good reason that prepositions exist in the language: too much derivation sounds bad, and sometimes any derivation at all is too much.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 30, 2017 at 22:30
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    @Zan700 I don't know of any XXX-ive adjectives that resist manner-adverbial derivation via -ly using the in an XXX-ive manner “rule”.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 0:15
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    @Zan700 I was referring to the people at the pub/club, who might stop talking to you. The teachers who might mark you down. The interview board that might choose the other candidate. The editor who might fire you.... 'Can I make a new word by applying this 'rule' that seems to work some of the time?' We don't even agree on what 'word' means on ELU. // Live funly. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 15:33
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    @Zan This is called English Language and Usage. Commented Jul 31, 2017 at 15:53

There is no rule that any adjective can form an adverb, however there seem to be few that have not done so at least once in literature, so could be regarded as "legitimate".

  • Long in the context of time can be replaced with slowly.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 18:17
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    Easy can be turned into an adverb--easily
    – CHEESE
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 18:33
  • Redly, longly, and complexly all appear both in dictionaries and in the wild.
    – deadrat
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 18:46
  • I removed "long" from the examples I gave because as with many adjectives it is an adverb too, without change of spelling.
    – user162823
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 20:02
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    I have rewritten my answer because my examples of adjectives which do not form adverbs have all turned out to be "legitimate". In my original answer I was thinking of common usage rather than legitimacy. I now know I was wrong.
    – user162823
    Commented Mar 6, 2016 at 19:55

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