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sentence adverb


sentence adverb

David Marsh and Amelia Hodsdon, Guardian Style, 3rd ed. (Guardian Books, 2010). See Examples and Observations, below.


A word that modifies a sentence as a whole or a clause within a sentence.

Common sentence adverbs include actually, apparently, basically, briefly, certainly, clearly, conceivably, confidentially, curiously, evidently, fortunately, hopefully, however, ideally, incidentally, indeed, interestingly, ironically, naturally, predictably, presumably, regrettably, seriously, strangely, surprisingly, thankfully, theoretically, therefore, truthfully, ultimately, and wisely.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today."
    (Mark Twain)

  • "It rarely adds anything to say, 'In my opinion'--not even modesty. Naturally a sentence is only your opinion; and you are not the Pope."
    (Paul Goodman)

  • "Basically my wife was immature. I'd be at home in the bath and she'd come in and sink my boats."
    (Woody Allen)

  • "My wife met me at the door the other night in a sexy negligee. Unfortunately, she was just coming home."
    (Rodney Dangerfield)

  • George: Now she thinks I'm one of these guys that loves her. Nobody wants to be with somebody that loves them.
    Jerry: No, people hate that.
    George: You want to be with somebody that doesn't like you.
    Jerry: Ideally.
    ("The Face Painter," Seinfeld)

  • Hopefully
    "Innocent though they may seem, sentence adverbs can stir wild passions in grammarians. By far the likeliest to raise hackles is hopefully, which can modify verbs ('"It's my birthday, you're flush, and I'm hungry," she hinted hopefully'; hopefully tells how she said it, in a hopeful manner.) But everyone seems to prefer hopefully as a sentence adverb ('Hopefully, you'll get the hint and take me out to dinner'). Some traditionalists disparage the vogue for hopefully as a sentence adverb, calling it 'one of the ugliest changes in grammar in the twentieth century.' Others see in the demise of 'I hope that' a thoroughly modern failure to take responsibility, and even worse, a contemporary spiritual crise, in which we have ceded even our ability to hope.

    "Grammarians, get a grip. Hopefully as a sentence adverb is here to stay."
    (Constance Hale, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose. Random House, 2001)

  • Also and As Well in Canadian English
    "Only in Canadian English . . . are also and as well frequently used at the beginning of sentences as connecting adverbs to introduce the whole sentence as an additional point:
    As well, they will be responsible for emergency care.

    Also, a firm may establish a probationary period.
    In British and American English, as well is so seldom used in this way that it has escaped the attention of commentators. . . .

    "Also and as well are well-established connecting adverbs in every variety of Canadian writing, and Canadians who are writing for a Canadian audience need not have any qualms about using them. Canadians writing for an international audience may (or may not) want to substitute sentence adverbs with wider international acceptance, such as in addition or furthermore."
    (Margery Fee and Janice McAlpine, Guide to Canadian English Usage, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2007)

  • Actually
    "The single most abused and annoying sentence adverb is actually. . . . The degeneration of actually is signaled by a Doonesbury cartoon in which a Hollywood mogul, Mr. Kibbitz, instructs his young associate: 'Listen, Jason, if you're going to make it in this town, you have to start using the word "actually." A Hollywood assistant always says, "Actually, he's in a meeting," or "He's actually at lunch." "Actually" means "I'm not lying to you."'"
    (Ben Yagoda, If You See an Adjective, Kill It. Broadway Books, 2007)
Also Known As: sentence adverbial, disjunct
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