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Premise:

  1. Verb 'want' is normally (?) stative
  2. We use adverbs when we have an action verb and adjectives when the verb is stative

In sentence "I want it bad(ly)" we would use the adverb 'badly' and not adjective 'bad' --> "I want it badly" (correct)

From that we can infer that the verb 'want' is then an action one. But is this really true? And what action does it describe here? Furthermore, where/when can we use 'want' as a stative verb then?

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    You can see it's an adverb because it can be rearranged to "I badly want it". You're wrong to say that that stative verbs cannot be modified by an adverb, I don't know where you get that idea. "I really think you are wrong", "I desperately miss him", "Oxygen commonly exists in a diatomic state", "He sincerely believes that fairies exist", etc.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 26, 2023 at 21:07
  • How would the adverb 'continuously' ever be used? He slept continuously for 5 days. Oct 10, 2023 at 18:15

3 Answers 3

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We use adverbs when we have an action verb and adjectives when the verb is stative

This is not, in fact, true.

Verbs of all kinds can be modified by adverbs. I think you may be getting confused by the fact that verbs describing states are more likely to take predicative complements, which can be adjectives (as in "Those apples look delicious").

That said, as Collins notes, informally "bad" can be used as an adverb meaning "badly," so "I want it bad" is also correct outside of formal contexts.

(There's a separate use of "want" with an adjective, found in sentences like "They wanted him dead," but that isn't relevant here.)

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  • Yes! Thanks for clarifying! I was confused with this part "Many verbs can be classed as both linking verbs and stative verbs (for example, the sense verbs “taste,” “sound,” “smell,” “feel,” and “look”). However, not all stative verbs are linking verbs. While linking verbs always connect a subject with a subject complement, some stative verbs do not."
    – Imp
    Jun 27, 2023 at 17:26
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Your inference is understandable as "badly" is a process adjunct in a good part of the contexts where this adverb is used, and you are possibly blinded by this, but "badly" is also an amplifier subjunct (internalized understanding is slow in the sorting out of such subtleties). In the 7 possibilities shown below (Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary), the 5th is the one that correspond to the sentence (obviously enough, in the light of the example shown); however, the term "emphasize" is not the proper grammatical term; rather, as defined in A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, it is preferable to speak of amplifier. Amplifier and emphasizer subjuncts are subcategories of the intensifier subjuncts. There is a further categorization of amplifiers into maximizers and boosters. "Badly" is thus a booster. The fact that the verbs in question are verbs of attitude (CoGEL, reference below), shows that the idea of action does not exist in relation to these subjuncts.

(OAlD

  1. def. without skill or care
    to play/sing badly
  2. def. not successfully
    Things have been going badly.
  3. def. not in an acceptable way
    to behave/sleep badly badly paid/treated
  4. used to emphasize how serious a situation or an event
    is badly damaged/injured/hurt
    The country has been badly affected by recession.
  5. used to emphasize how much you want, need, etc. somebody/something
    The building is badly in need of repair.
    They wanted to win so badly.
  6. feel badly def. to feel sorry or ashamed about something
  7. in a way that makes people get a bad opinion about something
    The economic crisis reflects badly on the government's policies.

(CoGEL § 8.104) Intensifiers The intensifier subjuncts are broadly concerned with the semantic category of DEGREE […]. It should be noted that the term 'intensifier' does not refer only to means whereby an increase in intensification is expressed. Rather, an intensifying subjunct indicates a point on an abstractly conceived intensity scale; and the point indicated may be relatively low or relatively high. The scale is seen as applying to a predicate or to some part of a predicate, such as the predication, the verb phrase, or even an item within the verb phrase […]. The verbs in question are largely expressive of attitude. It is useful to distinguish two subsets of intensifiers:

(I) AMPLIFIERS

Maximizers (eg: completely)
Boosters (eg : very much)

(II) DOWNTONERS

[…]

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We use adverbs when we have an action verb

It is correct if you mean adverbs of manner. Use adverbs of manner when you are describing or giving more information about action verbs. These adverbs answer "How?" questions. Please note that in "I badly miss her", for example, "miss" is a stative verb and "badly" is an adverb of degree that answers a "How much?" question. Here's another example: "I enjoy it enormously". Not all adverbs ending in -ly are manner adverbs.

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