I know that a flat adverb is an adverb that has the same form as its related adjective, but does that mean any adverb without the -ly suffix is grammatically correct? For instance, if I said I am “extreme angry,” is that the same as saying I am “extremely angry”? Or is saying that it is “dangerous hot outside” the same as saying it is “dangerously hot outside”? I realize that flat adverbs are less common than they used to be, but that doesn’t change the question: Are flat adverbs always formed from words, namely adjectives, missing the -ly suffix?

Thank you

PS: This is what prompted my question:

“Flat adverbs used to be much more common than they are today. For example, in Robinson Crusoe, Daniel Defoe writes of weather that is "violent hot." Samuel Pepys wrote in his famous diary of being "horrid angry." But most of these adverbs have long since been abandoned.”

Bolded words are my emphasis.

  • 4
    You can't use flat adverbs everywhere - "to bold go where no man has gone before" sounds wrong. – Peter Shor Oct 19 '18 at 14:23
  • @PeterShor Exactly. So when are flat adverbs appropriate? (Love The Original Series, by the way.) – user320354 Oct 19 '18 at 14:33
  • It's not a case of "when are they appropriate?", it's a case of "which ones are always flat, which ones are never flat, and which ones swing both ways?". Only in the last case is there need for conditions. Most adjectives are regular and mildly accept the -ly suffix, but there are some common ones that don't or that have funny conditions. – John Lawler Oct 19 '18 at 15:21
  • 1
    @JohnLawler I don’t think I’m confused. See, I am a writer myself, so the written word is most important to me. Merriam-Webster’s article on flat adverbs lists two examples of flat adverbs that piqued my interest, one from Daniel Defoe (“violent hot”) and the other from Samuel Pepys (“horrid angry”). It seemed to me when I read it that any adjective can be made into an adverb by simply removing the -ly suffix. – user320354 Oct 19 '18 at 15:41
  • 1
    @He Who Shall Not Be Named As a writer myself, I see your point. If one is writing a historical novel and trying to be authentic with the language of that period, it would be helpful to have a rule about when flat adverbs can be coined, even if it's just for that time period. Or did the pirates just decide willy-nilly? – Zan700 Oct 23 '18 at 16:15

You can't just willy-nilly remove the suffix and make it a flat adverb. Well, technically you can, but it's going to sound awful bad to a lot of people. See what I did there?

Some adverbs are flat by "standard" usage.

Take it slow contains slow as a flat adverb, and sounds perfectly normal, thought take it slowly also sounds fine.

Fast never uses an -ly form. They moved fastly wouldn't be correct to anyone's ears. Fast is an inherently flat adverb.

Edit: However, it has become common to use adjectives in an adverbial way on the Internet. Aside from the Bostonian "wicked awesome", I see more and more social media posts using flat adverb-type wording. So, given the way English works, I'd say in a few years you'll be able to just flatten any adverb you like and people will find it relatively normal.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy