Lesson #237 (Part 1): ‘To what extent?’ Adverbs that modify Adjectives

📘 She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing: indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it …

No second attachment, the only thoroughly natural, happy, and sufficient cure, at her time of life, had been possible to the nice tone of her mind, the fastidiousness of her taste, in the small limits of the society around them.

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (1818)

Adverbs are words that usually modify or describe a verb. They can also modify adjectives or adverbs in a sentence.

This aspect of adverbs tends to be neglected by most English teachers who focus only on how adverbs relate to verbs.

👉 So today’s Lesson aims to address this essential point!

📚 I am turning today to one of my favourite Jane Austen novels, Persuasion, which was only published after her death, in 1818. It is one of her more mature works (note how the adverb ‘more’ modifies the adjective ‘mature’), telling the story of a quiet and gentle woman called Anne Elliot who, when young, was wrongly persuaded to reject an offer of marriage from the man she loved. With the passing of time, she experiences a change of mind (a change in how she thinks about the subject) and discovers a new strength of character as the circumstances of her life change.

The language in Persuasion is among Austen’s most beautiful prose. She uses adverbs here and there to carefully emphasise the quality of her adjectives, which is why we simply must read from this novel today! 📚

This is what we will cover today:

  • ✏️ An overview of adverbs and adjectives
  • ✏️ 10 common adverbs that modify adjectives
  • ✏️ Why ‘quite’ is the most versatile adverb of them all
  • ✏️ Tips on where to place them in a sentence
  • ✏️ Sample sentences from Jane Austen
  • ✏️ A list of extra adverbs to add to your vocabulary

📝 A QUICK OVERVIEW: ADVERBS

✍️ Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adverbs, or adjectives, describing in further detail their time, place, manner, degree, or frequency.

In other words, they address the ‘when, where, how, how often, and to what extent’ of an activity or action.

In today’s Lesson we are going to look at ten common adverbs that modify adjectives. Most of these can also be described as adverbs of degree because they describe the intensity or power of a particular adjective.

They answer questions like ‘to what way or manner?’ or ‘how much?’ or ‘how often?’ In short: ‘to what extent?’

📝 A QUICK OVERVIEW: ADJECTIVES

✍️ While adverbs can modify three different things (adjectives, adverbs, and verbs), adjectives only ever modify nouns.

I have highlighted the adjectives in this quotation:

📘 ‘Lady Elliot had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable …’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

📝 PLACEMENT

📘 ‘She might have been absolutely rich and perfectly healthy …’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

👉 Adverbs (highlighted in italics in the quotation above) should be as close as possible to the adjective they modify in the sentence.

They are usually placed just before the adjective that they describe.

✍️ The one exception to this is ‘enough’ – e.g., ‘he was rich enough to retire (leave his job) early.’

📘 ‘The theatre or the rooms, where he was most likely to be, were not fashionable enough for the Elliots …’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

📝 IDENTIFYING ADVERBS THAT MODIFY ADJECTIVES

You may remember from an earlier Lesson (Lesson #140) on adverbs that many of these words end with -ly or simply with -y. However, not all adverbs do. Consider how many of these adverbs end without an -ly:

  1. ✏️ Hardly
  2. ✏️ Thoroughly
  3. ✏️ Exactly
  4. ✏️ Fully
  5. ✏️ Exceedingly (note: we often use the word ‘extremely’ nowadays more than ‘exceedingly’)
  6. ✏️ Quite
  7. ✏️ Most
  8. ✏️ Always
  9. ✏️ Really
  10. ✏️ Too

Now let’s look at how Jane Austen incorporated (included) them into her own writing. Here are the first five, and in Part 2 of this Lesson we will cover the last five, including the most useful adverb of them all … so stay tuned till the end!

#1 📝 HARDLYscarcely, barely, only just …

📘 ‘She was persuaded to believe the engagement a wrong thing: indiscreet, improper, hardly capable of success, and not deserving it.’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

📘 ‘The letter, with a direction hardly legible, to “Miss A. E.–,” was evidently the one which he had been folding so hastily.’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

📘 ‘Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write.’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

..

#2 📝 THOROUGHLY – completely, wholly, totally

📘 ‘No second attachment, the only thoroughly natural, happy, and sufficient cure, at her time of life, had been possible to the nice tone of her mind, the fastidiousness of her taste, in the small limits of the society around them.’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

..

#3 📝 EXACTLYprecisely, perfectly

📘 ‘Captain Harville had taken his present house for half a year; his taste, and his health, and his fortune, all directing him to a residence inexpensive, and by the sea; and the grandeur of the country, and the retirement of Lyme in the winter, appeared exactly adapted to Captain Benwick’s state of mind.’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

🔑 Note: Although ‘adapted’ is a simple past tense form of the verb ‘to adapt’, it is used here as a participle (and so functions like an adjective).

..

#4 📝 FULLYwholly, completely, to the fullest extent

📘 ‘The Mr Musgroves had their own game to guard, and to destroy, their own horses, dogs, and newspapers to engage them, and the females were fully occupied in all the other common subjects of housekeeping, neighbours, dress, dancing, and music.’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

..

#5 📝 EXCEEDINGLYextremely, tremendously, immensely

📘 ‘They had left Louisa beginning to sit up; but her head, though clear, was exceedingly weak, and her nerves susceptible to the highest extreme of tenderness …’

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

📘 ‘”Mr Elliot is an exceedingly agreeable man, and in many respects I think highly of him,” said Anne; “but we should not suit.”‘

– Jane Austen, Persuasion (emphases mine)

👉 To be continued in Part 2