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Adverb (plural: adverbs), also Umstandswort or (now rarely used) by-word, referred to in the grammar is a part of speech . As a part of speech, the adverb must be distinguished from the function of an adverbial determination ; Adverbs typically serve as an adverbial, but sometimes appear in other functions (as a predicative, attribute, or complement). Typical examples of adverbs are the words often, gladly or fortunately , as in:

Another typical property of adverbs is that they appear as single words that themselves form parts of a sentence , and that they are immutable (i.e. not inflected ). Since adverbial uses of words such as fast ("drive fast") or late ("return late") show words that can in principle be inflected ("fast drive, late return"), such cases are not regularly classified as adverbs in linguistics, but as adjectives in adverbial use.

Even if typical properties can be given, there is no clear consensus in linguistics on how a precise definition of a part of speech adverb could be given, especially in the case of simple, un-derived words (as often, in the examples above). Often there is talk of a residual class of words that cannot be clearly assigned to any other part of speech and whose individual representatives are often difficult to distinguish from various other parts of speech, namely from adjectives, nouns or prepositions. Words that derive from other words through special adverbial endings are more clearly recognizable, as in some cases in German : joy-he-weise (to the adjective happy ), night-s, beginning-s, caution-s-sake (to the Nouns night, beginning, caution ). In English, adverbs can be marked by an affix -ly , such as beautiful-ly (it is, however, unclear whether this means beautifully belongs to a different part of speech than the adjective beautiful).

Definitions and demarcations

The term "adverb"

The term “adverb”, from the Latin adverbium “what is in the verb”, originated as a translation of the Greek expression epirrhema ( ancient Greek επίρρημα ) in the grammar of Dionysius Thrax ; this original designation therefore means an “epithet to the sentence statement (the ῥῆμα rhema )”. However, even in the grammar of Dionysius Thrax, examples are given for this category that go beyond an addition to the verb. So, contrary to what the name suggests, adverbs cannot only refer to verbs ( see below for more on this ).

In traditional grammar, attempts are often made to determine the part of speech adverb by specifying content-related functions, for example that it is a matter of words that indicate “place, time, modality (here: = manner), reason”. These functions are the same as those that can also be found for prepositions and for subordinate clauses or subordinate conjunctions , and which are generally characteristic of adverbial determinations . With this content overlap, the adverbs are characterized by the fact that they are words that, in contrast to prepositions and subordinate conjunctions, do not require any grammatical additions . The result is a definition of the adverb as an “adverbial single word”.

In more recent representations of German grammar, a syntactic definition is preferred: Adverbs can be characterized as (1) non-inflectable part of speech whose representatives (2) can form a single part of a sentence . The criterion for clause status is the ability to appear in advance , i.e. H. before the finite verb in the propositional sentence:

_{Heute / dorthin / eilends / deswegen }_ kam Hans.

According to this criterion, adverbs are differentiated from (1) against inflectable parts of speech such as adjectives and (2) against inflexible words that do not have the status of a part of a sentence, i.e. H. Particles in the narrower sense that are not suitable for the advance .

Adverb and adjective

Adjectives that are used as an attribute to a noun are inflected in German, i.e. That is, in this construction they show agreement with the noun in the features case, number and gender. Between the article and the noun “car”, the adjective “fast” appears in the form “fast”, in other uses it appears unchanged:

a) „Das schnelle Auto überholte.“
b) „Das Auto ist schnell.“
c) „Das Auto fährt schnell.“

Since the meaning of the word is always the same, and there are no other external signs of a change of part of speech, all three occurrences of "fast" can be put under the part of speech adjective and then differentiated according to their function

a) attributive use
b) predicative use (as part of the predicate is fast )
c) adverbial use

of the adjective.

Occasionally, authors have differentiated type c) as a so-called adjective adverb from the other cases. However, the majority opinion today is that the fact that adverbs are used is no reason to quickly assign c) a separate part of speech that differs from a). In this sense the distinction arises:

  • Adverbial = a grammatical function (which, for example, can also be marked by prepositions or conjunctions , and for which, according to this model, adjectives or adverbs can also serve).
  • Adverb = a part of speech (which mostly occurs in the function of an adverbial).

In contrast to adjectives, the part of speech adverb only includes words that can never be inflected in attributive use like a) above (the asterisk " * " denotes grammatically excluded forms):

a) * Der vielleichte Verkauf des Autos.
b) * Der Verkauf ist vielleicht.
c) Er verkauft vielleicht sein Auto.

Non-adverbial uses of adverbs

In contrast to a traditional definition of the adverb as an “adverbial single word” and in contrast to the literal sense of the term “ad-verb”, inflexible words that appear as a more specific definition of a noun are also referred to as adverbs. They still differ from adjectives in that they appear unflexed after the noun:

[Das Auto dort] ist meins.

Such attributive uses of adverbs can also be found in English, also with the typical adverb ending -ly :

[His transformation into a werewolf so rapidly] was unnerving.

It can also be observed that many words that are otherwise used adverbially but are impossible as adjective attributes can also occur in a predicative function; This is also not an obstacle to using the part of speech adverb here:

Er macht es anders.
Das Buch ist anders als die anderen.
Vgl.: * Das anderse Buch (unterscheide ander-er,-e,-es = Adj.; anders = Adv.)

Adverb, pronoun and preposition

Problems of demarcation between adverbs and prepositions occur where words with an adverbial function are used without additions. On the one hand, this concerns the so-called pronominal adverbs , i.e. compositions with a preposition and a pronominal / adverbial element in a single word, such as:

damit (= mit diesem),
darauf (= auf das / auf dem),
hiervon (= von hier, oder: von diesem).

While these forms are listed as a subgroup of adverbs in German grammars, they are more often assigned to the prepositions category in linguistic literature (since the prepositional element in them is viewed as their head ). In general, there is the possibility that some adverbs could be viewed as intransitive prepositions .

The same scope also exists in the classification of question words such as “where”, “how” etc., with which prepositional phrases as well as adverbs or adverbial or predicative adjectives can be queried. In German grammar, they are usually used as question adverbs .

Wie ist er abgereist?“ — „Hektisch.“ / „In großer Hektik.“
„Wo ist das Bier?“ — „Draußen.“ / „Auf dem Balkon.“

The classification given in this way is carried over to relative clauses that are introduced by elements with an adverbial function. Analogous to the category of the question adverb, a separate relative adverb is used in German grammar writing , i.e. for cases such as: "the place where the beer is".

Adverb and particle

The term particle meets in a broader and a narrower sense. In a broader sense, all non-inflectable parts of speech are sometimes referred to in this way (especially in older literature, this way of speaking was given up, for example, in more recent editions of the Duden grammar).

In the narrower sense, particles are defined as inflexible words that 1) are not part of a sentence, i.e. cannot alone occupy the leading edge of the sentence and 2) have no linking function. From the first criterion it follows that then, for. B. Words like “very, fairly, uncommon” in German studies are sometimes not classified as adverbs, but as particles (also in the narrow sense). Other approaches take the term adverb broader; for example, words in the English language and linguistically oriented literature are more likely to be referred to as degree adverbs . Some of these have the adverb-typical ending -ly in English (e.g. fairly, utterly ).

Classification of adverbs

In German, the adverbs form a relatively large, open class with over 1000 members. Since the determination of adverbs is mostly negative (not inflected, not attributable), this may result in a non-uniform residual class that cannot be classified easily and exhaustively. Often there are cross-classifications in which content-related and grammatical criteria appear alternately.

Significance classes

The content-related meaning classes of adverbs are the same as those that can also be given for adverbial determinations in general. Important types are e.g. B .:

  • Local adverbs (also: local adverbs ) (here, outside, right, there ...) denote places.
  • Temporal adverbs (also: adverbs of time ) (then, after, later, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, yesterday ...) denote the time at which a state of affairs applies.
  • Causal adverbs (namely, otherwise, therefore ...) denote the causes of a state of affairs, or function on the text level to signal connections between sentences (see also: conjunctive adverb ). The concessive adverbs like anyway, anyway, have related meanings .
  • Modal adverbs (quick, happy) describe the nature of a process (not the modality ), or related categories. (Many adverbials of manner are adjectives, however).
  • Speaker- oriented adverbs (also: commentary adverbs , sentence adverbs , modal words ) (probably, unfortunately, to be honest) denote the speaker's attitudes towards the expressed sentence content.

Syntactic classes

In general, adverbials can be classified according to their position in the sentence; H. especially how close to the verb they are. Two extreme cases can be distinguished:

  • Adverbials that must be closer to the verb than any direct object; they often describe the results of an action: "She painted the closet beautifully ". - There may only be words in the Adjective category for this type.
  • Adverbials that must appear in the outer margin of the sentence, especially outside of the negative; this applies e.g. B. for speaker-related adverbs (“probably, unfortunately”) or for place and time adverbs if they provide a framework for the entire statement (cf. “... because nothing has happened since then ”).
  • Further position classes can be identified between these two in the middle of the German sentence.

In a different classification, adverbs of different types can be compared to their corresponding question words, i.e. the interrogative adverbs (where, when, how, why ...) . Question words can also be pronominal adverbs (what for, with what ...) .

Forms of adverbs

Frozen endings on adverbs

Similar to prepositions , adverbs can also arise from nouns or participles that lose their category-typical properties. A large group of adverbs has a suffix -s , which can partly be interpreted as a frozen case ending ( evening s , again s ). Also visible are former endings of adjectives, could signal the adverbial use, but are no longer compulsory in the presence of German as -e ( remote e ) or -lich ( ... bitterly Lich complain) .

Productive adverbs

A case of productive formation of adverbs in German is the ending -weise , with which, among other things, speaker-related sentence adverbs can be formed, but never type-and-manner adverbs:

Dummerweise hat er geantwortet (sprecherbezogen)
vgl.: Er hat dumm geantwortet (Art und Weise)

This adverb form arose from a combination of “adjective + noun: manner ”, spelling rules fluctuated over time between the separate spelling stupid manner and the spelling as above. While the forms created in this way can only be used adverbially, formations of the form “noun + noun: manner ” also appear as adjectives; they are therefore a grammatically different class. Compare:

  • Type adjective (stupid) + wise:
es dummerweise falsch machen – NICHT: *ein dummerweises Versehen
  • Noun type (part, level) + manner:
sich teilweise zurückziehen – AUCH: ein teilweiser Rückzug
„Ein stufenweiser Abbau von Zöllen ist empfehlenswert“.

Prescriptive grammarians sometimes deny that these adjective forms can be considered fully acceptable, but evidence dates back to the 19th century.

Comparative forms of adverbs

The statement that adverbs cannot be inflected in German is related to the lack of congruence forms. On the other hand, there are some cases of adverbs that can form forms of intensification ( comparative and superlative ) (mainly through suppletion ). However, it is generally disputed whether forms of increase count to inflection or word formation.

  • soon - more likely - most likely
  • probably - more comfortable - most comfortable
  • like - prefer - prefer
  • often - more often - most often (seldom also: most often )

Adverb forms in other languages


In English , as in German, there are adverbs that count as a separate word class because they cannot appear attributive, such as B. well (see the adjective good ), alone (see the adjective single ). Unlike in German, adverbs of all types of meaning can be formed with a productive ending, namely by adding the suffix -ly to an adjective. It is debatable whether this suffix has the status of a word formation element or is comparable to an inflection of the adjective.


The Latin knows also not derived temporal, local, modal and Kausaladverbien. In addition, adverbial forms of adjectives can be formed by adding a certain ending to the stem, which depends on the inflection paradigm of the adjective. Receives

  • 1. the stem of the adjectives of the o / a declension the suffix ,
  • 2. the stem of the adjectives of the third declension an -ter .

In the majority of cases, a euphonic -i- (3) occurs between the stem and the suffix . However, if the stem starts with -nt , it merges with the suffix -ter to -nter (4).

Examples of regular trainings:

  • (1) clar-us, -a, -um → clar-ē
  • (2) audax, audac-is → audac-ter
  • (3) fort-is, fort-is → fort-i-ter
  • (4) vehemens, vehement-is → (* vehement-ter) → vehemently

In the case of certain adverbs, other ("irregular") forms have been preserved throughout the classical period, which grammarians usually interpret as "solidified ablative" (raro) or "solidified accusative" (facile) .

Adverbs can also be increased in Latin. It will

  • a) as a comparative of the adverb the comparative of the adjective in the acc.Sing. neuter (-ius) used,
  • b) as a superlative of the adverb, add the superlative of the adjective with the ending .


  • (a) fortior, fortius → fortius
  • (b) vehementissimus, -a, -um → vehementissimē

Languages ​​with inflected adverbs

Although adverbs are generally classified as an inflexible part of speech, some languages ​​are known in which they develop word forms: For example, in Avarian adverbs show congruence with the subject.


The French writer Léon Bloy writes in a review of the work Là-bas by his colleague Joris-Karl Huysmans :

"The adverb According grammar an immutable word that the verb, the adjective or another adverb by an idea of the place from the time of the circumstances, etc. is changed . This dangerous subordinate is the shepherd of the pack herd. If he commands it is to devour. According to Saturnian literature, the same adverb is a twilight vocabulary that is preparing to make the affirmation sterile, to blur the contours of the word by sealing it and to favor the monstrous pairings of the antinomy in a fog . It is the benefactor of nothing. "

- Léon Bloy: The incarnation of the adverb . In: About the grave of Huysmans . Merve, Berlin 2009, p. 67

See also


  • Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler Lexicon Language . 4. Updated & revised edition. Publishing house JB Metzler, Stuttgart u. Weimar 2010, ISBN 978-3-476-02335-3 . Lemma: Adverb , p. 12.
  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.): Lexicon of Linguistics . 4. reviewed u. bibliographically supplemented edition with the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer. Alfred Kröner Verlag, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 . Lemma: Adverb , p. 8.
  • Ludger Hoffmann: Adverb . In: ders. (Ed.): Handbook of German parts of speech. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-021507-6 , pp. 223-264.
  • Karin Pittner, Judith Berman: German Syntax. A work book . 4th edition, Narr, Tübingen 2010 (EA 2004), ISBN 978-3-8233-6610-2 .
  • Harald Weinrich: Text grammar of the German language, with the collaboration of Maria Thurmair, Eva Breindl and Eva-Maria Willkop . Third revised edition. Georg Olms Verlag, Hildesheim 2005. (Licensed edition for the Scientific Book Society Darmstadt). Pp. 547-608. (Treats the adverb based on text linguistics ).

Web links

Wiktionary: Adverb  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Pittner & Berman (2010), p. 21
  2. For example Motsch (1999), p. 154; Dudengrammatik (2009), p. 354., Eichinger (2009), p. 145
  3. Hofmann (2009), p. 228
  4. Alexiadou (2013), p. 459
  5. Giegerich (2012)
  6. Based on the English rendering of the Latin basic meaning in: Harm Pinkster: On Latin adverbs. Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2005. p. 35 (fn.)
  7. Ludger Hoffmann: Adverb . In: ders. (Ed.): Handbook of German parts of speech. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-11-021507-6 , p. 223.
  8. ^ Gisa Rauh: Adverbs as a linguistic category (?). In: Karin Pittner u. a. (Ed.): Adverbs. Functional and diachronic aspects . John Benjamin, Amsterdam 2015, pp. 19–45.
  9. ^ So the Duden grammar in its 1966 edition, according to an archived copy ( memento of October 4, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), also Canoonet: Das Adverb .
  10. For example, the Duden grammar in the 8th edition. 2009, p. 569. Also: Pittner & Berman 2004, p. 21.
  11. G. Helbig, J. Buscha: Deutsche Grammatik . Langenscheidt, Berlin 2001, p. 305. Likewise: Ines Balcik, Klaus Röhe, Verena Wróbel: The great grammar. German. Pons, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-12-561561-8 , p. 350.
  12. z. B. Pittner / Berman 2004, p. 17 present this analysis as undisputed, as does the IDS grammar at
  13. Example from: Jinqi Fu et al .: The VP within process nominals: Evidence from adverbs and the VP anaphor Do-So. In: Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 19-3 (2001), pp. 549-582. doi : 10.1023 / A: 1010654105760 . Further discussion and evidence in John Payne et al .: The distribution and category status of adjectives and adverbs. In: Word Structure 3, 2010, 31–81. Manuscript version as pdf . See isb. Section 5.
  15. z. B. Josef Bayer, Markus Bader: On the syntax of prepositional phrases. In: A. Späth (ed.) Interface and Interface Conditions. de Gruyter, Berlin 2007, pp. 157-179.
  16. ^ Critical discussion of this analysis: David Lee: Intransitive prepositions: Are they viable? In: Peter Collins, David Lee (eds.): The clause in English: in honor of Rodney Huddleston. John Benjamin, Amsterdam 1999, pp. 133-148.
  18. Duden: The grammar. 8th edition. 2009, p. 567.
  19. Pittner / Berman 2004, p. 21; Duden: The grammar. 7th edition. 2005, marginal no. 840.
  20. Pittner / Berman (2004), p. 25
  21. Duden: The grammar. 7th edition. 2005, ISBN 3-411-04047-5 , Rn. 839
  22. For a classification with more types see:
  23. ^ Frank Liedtke: Grammar of Illocation: About speech acts and their forms of realization in German. Gunter Narr Verlag, 1998, ISBN 3-8233-5102-8 , p. 101.
  24. Cf. Regine Eckardt: Manner adverbs and information structure: Evidence from the adverbial modification of verbs of creation . In: Ewald Lang et al. (eds.): Modifying adjuncts . Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin 2003, pp. 261-305.
  25. See Werner Frey, Karin Pittner: To the positioning of the adverbials in the German midfield. 1998 ( online, PDF ; originally in: Linguistic Reports , 176, pp. 489-534).
  26. See: Wolfgang Fleischer, Irmhild Barz: Word formation of the German contemporary language . 4th edition. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, p. 370.
  27. Duden German universal dictionary. 6th edition
  28. So Bastian Sick in his onion fish column, according to: André Opinion: Sick of sick . Kadmos Verlag, Berlin 2008, pp. 34–36.
  29. z. B. in Algebra , Differences of Convex Functions , Reports of the German Weather Service, Vol. 11 , History of the decay and fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 11 , Archive for Hessian History and Archeology, Vol. 3
  30. The increase of the adverb in Canoonet
  31. Online Duden
  32. For the thesis that adverbs, even if they are marked by endings, belong to the category adjective, see e.g. B. Artemis Alexiadou: Adverb placement: A case study in antisymmetric syntax. John Benjamin, Amsterdam 1997, chapter 7.
  33. Stephen Anderson: Where's Morphology? In: Linguistic Inquiry , 13, 1982, pp. 571-612.