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I am confused as to which word is correct? Both words sound natural in the given sentence.

Try to speak as ____ as you can. [Clear, Clearly]

Referring to Oxford:

Clear means Easy to perceive, understand, or interpret

and

Clearly means In a clear manner; with clarity.

Both of them fit! Which one is correct?

2 Answers 2

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'Clearly' is the word you need. It describes how you are advised to speak. 'Speak' is a verb, so you need an adverb to modify it. 'Clearly' is an adverb. ['Clear' is an adjective and is used to qualify a noun – but that's not what you're trying to do here.]

Having just given you the official grammatical story, I have to admit that adverbs are gradually going out of fashion, in the UK at least. There is a tendency to use the related adjective instead. But "Try to speak as clear as you can." still sounds wrong to me.

[One adverb that is almost never used these days is "regularly". People say "on a regular basis" instead. Similarly "on a daily basis" is used instead of just "daily". These strike me as weird circumlocutions; they always amuse me.]

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  • Clear can be used as a "flat adverb" (this is not a new use; it predates the use of -ly to mark adverbs).
    – user323578
    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:33
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    Are you saying that all adjectives can function as flat adverbs? Would you say that (until recently) the flat adverb would be classed as archaic? Apr 23, 2019 at 10:35
  • No. Only a relatively small number of adverbs are still unmarked in that way (eg. drive fast). More here: visualthesaurus.com/cm/wc/when-adverbs-fall-flat
    – user323578
    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:38
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    But for 'fast' there is no separate adverb (or, you might say, no separate adjective). For 'clear' and 'clearly' we still have separate words. Apr 23, 2019 at 10:41
  • Correct. Some flat adverbs do not also have a -ly form. Some do, and sometimes with a slightly different meaning.
    – user323578
    Apr 23, 2019 at 10:44
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Sadly, the accepted answer here is incorrect. As Merriam-Webster confirms, both clear and clearly can be used as adverbs meaning "in a clear manner." So "clear" and "clearly" are both correct in this context.

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    I see your point, but I would have thought have thought that the contexts for using 'clear' as an adjective (at least in British English) are quite restricted. Would you, for example, ask someone to explain something clear to you? Mar 12, 2023 at 18:51
  • @Philip Wood Google 5-grams for 'as clear/ly as you can' show a ratio of about Ø : -ly = 1 : 3 (But all the first 20 examples of the former I examined in detail are adjectival usages (make it / make the image / be ...). 5-grams for 'speak as clear/ly as you' show a flatline with the flat adverb. May 1, 2023 at 15:11
  • As Philip says, the availability of a dictionary definition with the required meaning doesn't guarantee that the word has the same distribution as a synonym, however closely related in form. 'He walks slow' for 'he walks slowly' is conversationally acceptable, but 'He slow walked away' for 'he slowly walked away' is just not on. Flat adverbs are not totally interchangeable with their prototypical counterparts; each usage needs to be considered separately. May 1, 2023 at 15:21

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