Is it proper grammar to have consecutive adverbs in a sentence?

e.g. "It was not exactly accidentally....

My thought is that is probably is not proper, especially in this case. The above could have been rewritten, "It was not exactly accidental...".

  • 2
    Not a grammatical problem, certainly not a matter of "proper grammar", which doesn't exist, I'm afraid. It's more that it doesn't sound right to get two adverbs together, especially if they're derived with -ly. The intonation is awkward. – John Lawler Dec 15 '11 at 20:00
  • 4
    This question needs rephrasing, because as it stands it can only be rhetorical. Obviously adverbs can modify other adverbs — That plane is moving very slowly, this snail is moving incredibly fast — and look, even the Wikipedia article on adverbs mentions that right in its second sentence: "Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives (including numbers), clauses, sentences, and other adverbs". – RegDwigнt Dec 15 '11 at 20:46
  • 1
    Ah I see your point and agree completely (in fact now I feel silly asking it in that way). Perhaps I should word with more of a tone such as @JohnLawler suggested—does it sound right. – Kyle Hayes Dec 15 '11 at 20:56

There are plenty of circumstances in which consecutive adverbs occur.

Using the adverb combination of OP's example, one could form a sentence like Though Sarah's pregnancy came as a surprise to many, it was not exactly accidentally achieved.

Other more common double-adverb constructions include phrases in which an adverb like very or rather precedes another adverb.

| improve this answer | |

It is fine to write for example

It was not exactly accidentally done.

This means it is not exactly true that it was accidentally done.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I'd instinctively switch accidentally and done around in that sentence to avoid the double-adverb awkwardness. – Jez Dec 15 '11 at 21:42

As John suggests, ‘proper grammar’ is a chimera. We can draw conclusions about language only on the evidence of what actually occurs in it, and consecutive adverbs certainly do occur. The locus classicus could well be (my emphasis):

I'll be your dream I'll be your wish I'll be your fantasy.

I'll be your hope I'll be your love be everything that you need.

I'll love you more with every breath truly madly deeply.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I don't think truly madly deeply there qualifies as three consecutive adverbs in the sense OP is talking about. It's just repetition/conflation, as is common in poetry/lyrics - if there is such a thing as "grammar", you can't really say that's a "grammatical" usage. – FumbleFingers Dec 15 '11 at 21:43
  • @FumbleFingers: I know. I just wanted to quote it. – Barrie England Dec 15 '11 at 21:45
  • It is a nice sequence of adverbs, I must admit. You've already sucked me in far enough that I now know it's both a film and a song. I shall hold you to account if I end up watching/hearing both, and either/both disappoint! :) – FumbleFingers Dec 15 '11 at 22:36
  • Commas and 'and' between them would make it a better sentence, wouldn't it? – Maulik V Feb 6 '19 at 2:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.