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I'm confused. I'm reviewing this grammar book of exercises relating to things like recognizing parts of speech. The book includes the the solutions at the end.

One of the exercises is to read a paragraph and circle the adverbs and underline the verb/adjective/adverb that they describe. Here's a sentence from the paragraph, with the adverbs in bold and the things they describe in italics. This was pulled from the solutions section.

I'm really confused, are "best" and "most" truly adverbs?

[He] remains one of the world's best known and most translated authors.

Ad verb literally means "at verb", which means it attaches to the verb. I can see from the sentence structure that these attach to… verbs, but then verbs in gerund form and verbs in participle form take the role of other parts of speech (yay, English), so then it becomes a slippery slope. Then there are linking verbs, like with "john is happy", in which if I draw the dependency parse, "happy" attaches to the verb (it can't exist if I drop the verb, I can't say "John happy"): then is "happy" an adverb too in that sentence, since it is "at the verb"?

I find that there are plenty of these exceptions from the rule "at the verb, ergo adverb", so why wouldn't "best" in "best known" be an exception too? Isn't "known" kind of an adjective? Just like in some grammar books "which" is an adjective, even though it's definitely a pronoun (yay, English).

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    Why wouldn't it be an adverb? Adverbs modify verbs and adjectives. "known" and "translated" are past participles that act as adjectives. "best" and "most" are intensifiers that modify those words.
    – Barmar
    Jan 5 at 0:07
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    Have you tried looking up best and most in dictionaries to see if they list them as adverbs?
    – alphabet
    Jan 5 at 0:18
  • Ad verb literally means "at verb", which means it attaches to the verb. I can see from the sentence structure that these attach to… verbs, but then verbs in gerund form and verbs in participle form take the role of other parts of speech (yay, English), so then it becomes a slippery slope. Then there are linking verbs, like with "john is happy", so "happy" attaches to the verb: is "happy" an adverb too, then, in that sentence? I find that there are plenty of these exceptions from the rule "at the verb, ergo adverb". Just my two cents. Jan 5 at 0:24
  • Another example from the same book: "[he] was born poor". The book claims "poor" is an adverb, since it attaches to the… verb "born". But folks here on StackExchange have so far unanimously declared "poor" an adjective: english.stackexchange.com/questions/617491/… So what exactly is the rule according to which a word is an adverb? Cause "it attaches to the verb in the dependency parse" doesn't seem to be it. Jan 5 at 0:29
  • If I remember the grammar classes in my language correctly, a part of speech is a part of speech regardless of context. A participle is a participle. There are only two levels: parts of speech, and parts of sentence (roles the words play in a sentence). In English, it sounds like a part of speech (the participle of a verb) can play the role of other parts of speech. Jan 5 at 0:39

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Adverbs are descriptors that describe an adjective or a verb. These superlative expressions are adverbs because they each express a quality of an adjective, here communicating the superlative quality of each adjective.

"Best" and "most", when used in this way, are indeed adverbs for this reason. Your book is correct.

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  • What about "poor" in "he was born poor"? Folks here on StackOverflow say it's an adjective, the book says it's an adverb. english.stackexchange.com/questions/617491/… Jan 5 at 0:33
  • For stuff attached to an adjective, they could have come up with a different name than ad-verb (at the verb). How are we to teach children this stuff, when it's confusing even to us? Jan 5 at 0:33
  • @MihaiDanila What books claims that to be born poor thinks poor is an adverb? This is a common mistake by those who don't understand how certain predicate constructions work in English. That's as bad as dreaming that if someone becomes poor or seems poor or appears poor that that would somehow make poor an adverb. It's not. That's not how this works. This class of error is usually a failure to understand predicate adjectives, misconstruing them to be adverbs instead.
    – tchrist
    Jan 5 at 0:42
  • Some grammar book I'm using to teach to my children. The same book that claims "best" in "best known" is an adverb. Jan 5 at 0:46
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    In best known, the word best is an adverb. In best friend, it is an adjective. There is no question that what you call "linking verbs" take predicate adjectives: is happy, feels good, looks fine, tastes nice, smells awful, sounds nasty, seems silly. Anything that construes those to be adverbs you should discard immediately after burning it.
    – tchrist
    Jan 5 at 1:35

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