Are words ending in -ly adverbs?



Adverbs often end in -ly. But the word friendly is not an adverb, is it? A friendly advice is incorrect, but a friendly person is correct. Is the word friendly very unusual or are there many non-adverbs ending in -ly?


Posted 2013-02-10T18:02:52.450

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2Lots of words end in -ly, including nouns like panoply and butterfly and belly, verbs like dally and comply and imply, and even injections like golly. Then you have words like fly, which can be any of a noun, verb, or adjective, but not an adverb. – tchrist – 2013-02-10T19:50:32.153

1I'm surprised that there was no one to point out that while *a friendly advice* is incorrect, but there is nothing wrong with friendly advice. And that is my friendly advice. – Damkerng T. – 2013-12-29T08:45:44.167



This is fundamentally a historical question, and if asked on ELU would deserve a very long and interesting answer. Here I will offer only so much history as might help a learner avoid confusion.

The -ly ending on adjectives descends from an Old English suffix -lic which was very often employed to turn a noun into an adjective. Consequently there are many adjectives today which have the -ly suffix: manly, womanly, daily, kingly, cowardly, to name only a very few in addition to your friendly.

This use declined in Early Modern English, and today it is no longer ‘productive’—that is, we no longer employ the ending to create adjectives. (Today we mostly use the -ish or -like or -y suffixes, or just use the bare noun as an adjective, or create an adjective from Greek or Latin roots.)

The -ly ending on adverbs descends from a very similar OE suffix -lice. When the adjective -ly fell into disuse, the adverbial -ly had the field to itself. Well into EModE, however, it was more usual to use the unmodified adjective in an adverbial sense. In the 17th and 18th century, however, there was a strong movement towards rationalizing the written language; and at this time the -ly ending became what it is today, the standard and almost universal way of distinguishing an adverb from its corresponding adjective.

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2013-02-10T18:02:52.450

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Then you have pairs of adjectives like kind and kindly, or good and goodly. Also, I’m not sure I am wholly convinced that -ly is no longer productive: can one no longer comport oneself in a gentlemanly manner? Ok, fine: firemen cannot behave in a firemanly way, can they now? Curious. – tchrist – 2013-02-10T19:52:32.563

@tchrist kind is originally a noun, and OED 1 believes goodly to be formed on the noun. Gentlemanly goes back to LME; I imagine it endured in part because of a perceived construction as gentle + manly. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-10T20:04:00.630


Words ending in -ly can be adjectives and adverbs, although -ly is better known as an adverb suffix.

Yes, friendly is an adjective formed from the noun friend, but you cannot convert friendly in an adverb adding another -ly: *friendlyly.

So, you have to use friendly in both cases.

Other adjectives ending in -ly could be, for example, lovely or scholarly.

(Ref. English Grammar Today - Cambridge)


Posted 2013-02-10T18:02:52.450



-ly is the suffix used to form adjectives, and adverbs from adjectives.

In the first case, the adjectives have two meanings:

  • having the quality of (brotherly)
  • recurring at intervals of (hourly, quarterly)

As far as I know, friendly advice is correct: Friendly is also an adjective and, as in friendly person, it is followed by a noun. Friendly can be used as adverb, at least in American English; alternatively, friendlily is adverb too.
In British English, friendly is adjective, and noun; the adverb is friendlily.


Posted 2013-02-10T18:02:52.450

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Could you please give an example using friendly as an adverb? – tchrist – 2013-02-10T19:55:19.183

She friendly poked his shoulder. Is that a bad example? – kiamlaluno – 2013-02-10T20:04:48.933

1I don’t now whether it is a “bad” example, but it is not one I am familiar with. I could not say it. Do people say that? – tchrist – 2013-02-10T20:10:34.363

@tchrist,kiamlaluno: I don't think there is a "current" one-word adjectival form of friendly. You could try getting away with friendlily - but as that chart shows, the usage hasn't made (or more properly, kept) many friends in recent decades.

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-02-10T20:36:06.107

@FumbleFingers That is in British English; American English uses friendly as adverb too, but not as noun. (At least, that is what I have been taught from a friend of mine.) – kiamlaluno – 2013-02-10T20:42:07.107

@kiamlaluno: America's a big country, so even if the percentage of speakers who use friendly adverbially is the same as in Britain, there would be numerically more of them. I can't say for sure, but it seems unlikely to me Americans would be hanging on to friendlily, which is largely a dated/archaic form, more than Brits. The NGram in my previous link offers no support for that proposition, and OED mentions no US/UK divide. But that doesn't imply we need to use the adjective as an adverb. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-02-10T20:52:45.207

@FumbleFingers My comment was for your "I don't think there is a 'current' one-word adjectival form of friendly." The "Shorter Oxford English Dictionary" I have reports friendly as adverb meaning "in a friendly manner or spirit, friendlily." The NOAD reports also that use, and the OED reports also friendly used as noun. – kiamlaluno – 2013-02-10T20:59:17.030


@kiamlaluno: I put the word "current" in quotes to indicate that I'm using it somewhat loosely. I believe most native speakers today don't use "friendly" adverbially, nor do they use "friendlily" at all. They find various alternatives to avoid the problem, such as {he} asked friendly-like

– FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2013-02-10T21:15:16.883

MW online shows friendlily & friendly as adverbs. It's not common to read or hear the former, & usually the latter is coupled with -like (as FumbleFingers says) or something like "in as friendly a way as I can" or "in a friendly {way/manner}".

– None – 2013-02-11T05:52:25.097

Right; “friendly advice” is correct, but “a[n] advice” is incorrect.  This should probably be a separate question, but, for example, “an advice” is like “a happiness” or “a money”.  The singular is most often phrased as “a piece of advice”. – Scott – 2013-02-12T17:24:56.893