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Adverbs and the Adverbial

If the noun takes the qualifying adjective, the verb will not remain unqualified and for this function we have the equally performing adverb. Some may say that the adverb is more dangerous than the adjective, as did Graham Greene.

For the writer it's important to bear in mind that the effect of the adverb upon the verb is similar to that of the adjective upon the noun, in that in describing it qualifies, and that in qualifying it weakens.

"The mouse scampered hurriedly back to its hole."

With the training we've had by now in 'hearing' the words, your ear should be telling you that this adverb is insulting the verb. Once we chose this particular verb to indicate a rush toward the hole, the adverb 'hurriedly' does nothing else than just tagging along, with nothing else to add to the strength of the verb. For this reason, it is a parasite - it weakens the carrier.

In contrast, look how an adverb can be used beautifully to add a hidden sense to the verb. D.H. Lawrence did it superbly in describing a snake in this piece:

"He drank
And lifted his head,
dreamily, as one who has drunken."

Can you see how one word as such shifts the entire image, from the factual into slow-time and reverie. Masterfully done!

The adverbial

Needless to say that the adverb also has its adverbial, i.e. the phrases and clauses that describe how an action is performed. From the grammatical point of view, this is what gives you the headaches of the consecutive clauses, concessive clauses and so forth.

We won't be considering these here; instead, we shall stay with the writer's concerns by looking at a couple of examples of how the adverbial has been employed successfully in literature.

1) Robert Frost for example, describes the way to climb a birch tree:

"He always kept his poise
To the top branches, climbing carefully
With the same pains you use to fill a cup
Up to the brim, and even above the brim."

2) A writing student describes the sense of 'reels' in an antique home cinema setting by using an adverbial:

"Almost a black poem
For your hand in the cinema -
Life reels away
Till the screen is blank -
And the hand grasps
Only air."

The meaning of these picturesque time adverbials is... 'till the end of the film'. Charming, would you not agree?

The way we can all reach the point of such artistry in our writing is by reading extensively and taking note of new expressions and word combinations which we then need to try and integrate into our writing.

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