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What Is an Adverb of Comment?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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An adverb of comment is a specific type of adverb that plays its own role in a sentence or phrase. Essentially, it frames the verb, and the surrounding clause, by providing a sort of opinion or commentary. For example, one of the main adverbs of comment that is used in everyday speech is the word “fortunately,” along with its opposite, “unfortunately.” Rather than providing more information on how something happens or when it happens, these words, when used in speech or writing, give an impression of whether it is good that something happens or not.

By definition, adverbs serve to describe verbs. They provide modifying or additional meaning for the verbs that represent actions in speech or in writing. The adverb of comment is one of five main types of adverbs. One of these is an adverb of manner. The adverb of manner provides a descriptor for how something is being done. Another is an adverb of frequency, which helps to illustrate how often an action happens.

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Along with adverb of manner and an adverb of frequency, there are adverbs of time, which show when an action occurs within a narrative or other type of communication. There are also adverbs of degree, which often function similarly to adverbs of frequency. For example, where an adverb of frequency, “daily,” might be applied to a phrase like “they get together daily,” an adverb of degree, “a lot” can be applied to the same phrase with a similar role, if not a similar meaning: “They get together a lot.”

Linguists and others who are studying language can use the adverb of comment as a kind of landmark in a text or analysis of spoken communications. These unique adverbs reveal more about the intent of speech or writing from the author's or speaker's perspective. This is not true of other kinds of adverbs that merely describe actions without providing the same kind of orienting judgment. That is why an adverb of comment can be so important in writing or oral “rhetoric” or functional speech; this kind of adverb provides a subtle “frame” for what is being said, where the speaker or writer can give clues as to their own viewpoint on outcomes and issues.

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While I know that comment adverbs often come before the verb, there are instances where they can come before the subject in a sentence. So, when a comment adverb comes before the subject, do you always need a comma to separate the adverb from the subject (e.g., “Foolishly I left the party,” versus “Foolishly, I left the party.”)? Is this a hard and fast rule or one that can change depending on the rest of the sentence?

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