I'm practicing replacing adverbs with strong verbs. I read about few strategies that help replace adverbs. (E.g. this). I understand that a lot of it depends on the context. Adverbs can be removed, replaced with strong verbs, or left as is.

Let's say, I want to replace the following adverbs with strong verbs. I tried to use online thesaurus but it is not designed for looking up synonyms for adverb + verb combinations.

  • hopelessly grabbed
  • intensely watched
  • intensely looked
  • abruptly stopped
  • slowly walked
  • slowly rotated
  • slowly let go
  • quickly turned
  • quickly closed
  • quickly raised
  • quickly covered
  • firmly secured
  • gently pressed
  • tightly pressed
  • slightly displaced
  • rhythmically moved

My approach so far was to take a verb (e.g press) and look up synonyms for it. In this specific case, I can see right away the word "squeeze". I can confirm that this is the word I need by looking up its definition.

squeeze - firmly press (something soft or yielding), typically with one's fingers.

Bingo! I can replace "tightly pressed" with "squeezed". Or "He tightly pressed his lips together." with "He squeezed his lips together."

However, this approach doesn't work well all the time (Actually, it doesn't work most of the time). E.g. I can't find anything for "gently pressed". Also, it is a time consuming process. I understand now why they say: "you are being lazy when you use adverbs" :)

I guess, I'm looking for "adverbs replacement dictionary". Does such a thing exist? Or a good guideline on omitting adverbs.

I have the same questions for the adverbs that describe adjectives:

  • perfectly symmetrical
  • strikingly similar
  • barely visible


  • 1
    This is more of an art than anything else. And is dependent on context. And not all verbs + adjectives can be similarly "compressed" in a "strong verb". Quickly turned: spun around [phrasal verb]; rhythmically moved: swayed. slowly walked: ambled; firmly secured: made fast.slightly displaced: edged over/around/up/down
    – Lambie
    Jun 1, 2016 at 22:35
  • 3
    There is no inherent problem with adverbs. Spun around is not necessarily better than quickly turned, for example, and strolled is not necessarily superior to slowly walked. Some of these so-called "strong verbs" get overused and become cliche. The gods smile when you strive for clarity.
    – TimR
    Jun 1, 2016 at 23:14
  • 1
    Try an online reverse dictionary and just type in the adverb + verb. It will return strong verbs.
    – DyingIsFun
    Jun 2, 2016 at 2:59
  • 3
    Thanks to all for the input. @Silenus I think your approached is much better than mine. I used onelook.com/reverse-dictionary.shtml and it gave me few nice ideas. E.g. "barely visible" = "faint". If you post your comment as an answer I will accept it.
    – user18993
    Jun 2, 2016 at 15:54
  • gently pressed = leaned on or touched. It really depends on the context. You can also specify the body part. For example, compare pressing with the heel of the hand versus one finger. By the way, if there's one phrase you're looking to find a better alternative for, you can post a single-word-request, with context and sample sentence. Dec 19, 2016 at 6:54

1 Answer 1


Here are a few substitutions for the three examples given:

  1. barely visible

The paper trail that he left was barely visible.

I think the above sentence is fine. But, if we wanted to substitute another word for "barely visible" we could say something like:

The paper trail that he left was indiscernible/imperceptible.
  1. Strikingly similar

It depends on what we're describing here. If it's something such as resemblance between two brothers we could their similarity was uncanny or had a striking resemblance. Depending on the context, it might also make sense to say one echoes (Their political ideology had haunting echoes with the totalitarian...) the other or is congruent with something else. If the items in question are a perfect match, you could say identical or equivalent.

  1. Perfectly symmetrical

This usage makes sense in some cases, and doesn't seem unnecessarily verbose to me. For example, an ellipses may be symmetrical along the y-axis, whereas a circle would be perfectly symmetrical (about its origin). Describing this outside of math I might say "perfectly symmetrical" to emphasize that it doesn't have any limitations in symmetry, but of course without the limitation, it would imply that and I would only say "The shape is symmetrical."

I suppose it could also be used to emphasize the detail of symmetry in a complex object, such as:

The snowflake was perfectly symmetrical under 1000x magnification,
from the patterns on each of its 16 edges, to the...[more detail, etc.]
  • 1
    Thank you for the answer. I guess I was looking for a reproducable method that I can use to replace adverbs. The comment about using onelook.com was the best idea so far.
    – user18993
    Dec 18, 2016 at 13:48
  • I have awarded the bounty to you in hopes of not wasting reputation points. Dec 22, 2016 at 1:56

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