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I saw an anecdotal "rule" in a magazine stating that, if an adverb is used in a comparative clause, the '-ly' form of the adverb is preferable to a comparative form. Apparently however, if the adverb does not have an '-ly form, then one can use the comparative form. For example:

  • I run quicker than Sara
  • I run more quickly than Sara
  • I run faster than Sara

The "rule" is that, between the first and second statement, the second statement is to be preferred. However, if 'fast' is used as the adverb, then the comparative form of the adverb is correct; hence, the third statement is also right.

Can someone verify if this "rule" is true and applicable in all situations?

  • Strictly speaking, under the principles of the ‘Usage’ element of ‘ELU’ I cannot find a knock-out rule any better than anyone else. What we can say is that ‘as a rule’ (which means ‘most of the time’ the comparative of adverbs is expressed by the comparative of ‘much’ followed by the positive adverb. So ‘quickly’ - ‘more quickly’. Then there are exceptions, like ‘fast’ which is both adjective and adverb, and ‘well’ for whose adverbial comparative is ‘better’. So, as with so much else of the English language, follow the rule and remember the exceptions. – Tuffy Jun 10 at 9:41
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Quicker is the comparative of the adjective quick, so it isn't an adverb and should not, strictly speaking, be used with a verb.

It's true that adverbs ending in -ly don't take the comparative ending -er, so we have to say more quickly. We can say faster but not quicklier.

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  • "Quick" can be an adverb formed by conversion from the adjective "quick". It has the inflected forms "quicker" and "quickest". They are typically subject to prescriptive criticism, though the inflected forms tend to be more acceptable that the plain form without ly. Compare "They ran quickly / *quick to the shelter" with the acceptable "They ran quicker than the others". – BillJ Jun 10 at 14:24
  • @BillJ I see Oxford dictionaries label quick used adverbially as 'informal'. That's why I added the proviso strictly speaking. – Kate Bunting Jun 10 at 14:38
  • Yes, but the point I'm making is that the inflected adverb forms like "louder", "slower", "quicker" are more acceptable than the plain forms without ly. – BillJ Jun 10 at 15:36
  • @BillJ I feel that 'louder' is less contested as an adverb than 'quicker'. I've no idea why (assuming I'm right). – Edwin Ashworth Jun 10 at 16:11
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[1] I run quicker than Sara.

[2] I run more quickly than Sara.

[3] I run faster than Sara.

The usual adverb form has ly suffixation to give "quickly" as in [2], but there is also an adverb "quick", which is formed by conversion from the adjective "quick", and has the inflected forms "quicker" and "quickest". The adverb base form "quick", as in *"I run quick", is unacceptable for most speakers, but the inflected forms are more acceptable than the plain form without ly, which explains why [1] is acceptable for many speakers.

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