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I saw a food label that read:

"natural and artificially flavored"

A friend suggested this was the correct wording:

"naturally and artificially flavored"

Which is correct and why?

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  • Either could be correct depending on what is meant. I think natural and artificial flavors might have actual regulatory criteria, whereas "natural" is just a feel-good phrase. So I suppose something could be "natural" with artificial flavoring while still meeting FDA guidelines (assuming you're in the US). However, I'm going to flip all the cards and assume the label means it contains both natural and artificial flavors, in which case your second alternative would be correct. Mar 30, 2016 at 3:26

1 Answer 1

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The second clause:

Naturally and artificially flavored

means the food is flavored both naturally and artificially. This is because the word "naturally" is an adverb (because of the "-ly") at the end (caution: see comments). Adverbs modify verbs and adjectives. In this case, naturally modifies the adjective flavored.

However, the logic of this clause escapes me. How can something be flavored naturally? Perhaps there is some natural flavoring process of which I am unaware but it seems oxymoronic. (This is now answered in comments.)

The clause:

Natural and artificially flavored

means the food is natural and it is also flavored artificially. The word natural functions as an adjective and thus modifies a noun (i.e., the food).

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    It would be silly, if not a folly to apply your suffix rule to identify adverbs. If you'd care to bet on it, you might find it costly, but probably not deadly. I await your reply. (Naturally is an adverb because of what it modifies, not because of its suffix.)
    – deadrat
    Mar 30, 2016 at 5:36
  • @deadrat: Point taken. Well played, sir. Well played. +1! However, how would you rephrase my description of the general pattern (imperfect as it may be) that many adverbs end with "-ly"? Which is different than every word that ends in "-ly" is an adverb? What is the "helpful hint" you would advise?
    – user0939
    Mar 30, 2016 at 5:40
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    I should have asked your forgiveness in advance for being a wiseass. Your forbearance becomes you. I'd say that naturally follows a common process in English for forming adverbs by adding the suffix -ly to adjectives.
    – deadrat
    Mar 30, 2016 at 5:50
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    To answer your logic conundrum, in the US something is naturally flavored (per federal regulation) if it has ingredients that are natural flavors, those agents that are extracted from food. So naturally-flavored cherry water would have cherry extracts added. Artificially-flavored cherry water would have synthesized benzaldehyde added. In any case, your answer merits an upvote.
    – deadrat
    Mar 30, 2016 at 5:54
  • Upvote from me as well. I don't think it's likely that anyone would ever refer to a product being both naturally and artificially flavoured, as one kind of precludes the other. (in other words, as soon as you add artificial flavouring it's no longer naturally flavoured) Mar 30, 2016 at 7:44

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