Is it possible to make an adverb out of any adjective? I am aware that not all word forms appear in all dictionaries and while I can find all word forms in some dictionaries, as a non-native speaker of English, I remain skeptical about the actual usage of these words.

Having said that, here are some examples, off the top of my head, of adverbs I (and, apparently, my spellchecker) have problems with:

She spoke slurredly.

He stared ruminantly.

He grunted agitatedly.

She exhaled relievedly.

I realize that the last one is particularly horrible, but these are only examples. Is it correct to write this? Would a native speaker of English ever say something like that?

This is related to my other question (Use of adjective in place of an adverb to achieve same meaning) and while the related post (Is "anecdotally" a proper adverb?) has a partial answer, I would like a more definite and concrete answer to this particular question.

2 Answers 2


If you're asking whether every adjective may be converted by inflection into an adverb, the answer is no. We say

The program ran long.


* The program ran longly.

The left side of a ship is its port side, but there's no adverbial for "in the left side manner". Certainly not portly.

The reverse is also true. The adverb swimmingly has no corresponding adjectival swimming.

The contest went swimmingly

means something quite different from

the swimming contest.

Past participles in general aren't adjectives, even though they modify nouns. Some like slurred, agitated, and relieved can be converted to adverbs by appending -ly. Some can't. Thus

The painted bird depicts a feathered creature.

but not

* The feathered creature was depicted paintedly.


I like @deadrat's answer, so my contribution is more an exploration of why some adjectives don't have adverbial forms.

It might seem obvious to say that adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify verbs, but therein lies the reason. Certain characteristics of things - for example, colour, cardinal number, location - make little sense when applied to actions, except in idiomatic or highly creative usage.

Examples of adjectives without an adverbial form include:

  • orange, indigo, purple, beige, olive;
  • five, thirteen, million (etc);
  • left, starboard, inside, top.

There are no doubt other categories of characteristics that describe things but not actions - in other words, have an adjectival but not an adverbial form.

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