Two adverbs in a row with "-ly"



It seems that two adverbs that both modify one verb can't go one after the other without a conjuction in-between:

  • He was speaking slowly unusually.

Meaning to say that he was speaking both slowly and unusually this sounds odd to me whereas the following sentence sounds okay to me:

  • He was speaking really quickly.

Since here "really" is actually modifying "quickly". In this case there aren't two adverbs modifying one verb. So two adverbs in a row always follow a structure where the former one modifies the latter one. Based on this you can't have three adverbs in a row.

But if we place a conjuction between the words "slowly" and "unusually" in the first example, then the sentence reads well:

  • He was speaking slowly and unusually.

I think if we place a comma the sentence will also read well:

  • He was speaking slowly, unusually.

What other ways are there to modify a verb with two or more adverbs other than by placing a comma or a conjuction in-between?

P.s. I've also noticed that some adverbs don't go well with others in this structure:

  • He was speaking slowly and unusually interestingly.

The adverb "interestingly" sounds out of place after "unusually", whereas some other adverbs like "well" for instance, sound okay. Or is this odd only to my non-native ear?

Edit: I was thinking of a possibility to modify a verb with a pre-modifier and a post-modifier:

  • He was unusually speaking slowly.

But I doubt this is good English since I don't remember coming across such structure.


Posted 2017-12-09T06:48:04.537

Reputation: 23 612

I think, "He was speaking slowly and unusually interestingly" sounds odd, but it is grammatically correct. It sounds better with "well" there because it makes more sense that one is "speaking unusually well" than it does that he is "speaking unusually interestingly." The adverb "well" is also more common than "interestingly". – Nick – 2017-12-09T07:11:07.160

1He was speaking unusually slowly. They're playing unusually fast. Nothing unusual about these. – Michael Login – 2017-12-09T07:27:01.480

1Yeah, but the first adverbs there (unusually) are modifying slowly and fast; they're not modifying speaking, which is what he is asking about. – Nick – 2017-12-09T07:40:19.267

I don't think unusually is the word you want in your example, since unusual doesn't seem to be a quality of speech. really is better. – user3169 – 2017-12-09T20:48:52.150

1I agree with Nick that the oddness of 'unusually interestingly' derives mainly from the oddness of the use of the word 'interestingly'. In fact, I would say that it's rare, perhaps improper or at least an innovation, to use 'interestingly' in that way - that is, predicating a quality. It's much more common to find it modifying an entire clause, eg. interestingly, the same rules do not apply to adjectives – Igid – 2017-12-17T01:07:41.313

1Actually I think the only grammatical structure is to use "and" -- "He spoke slowly and thoughtfully". The comma doesn't quite work, unless it's a list of three adverbs with the proper conjunction on the last one, "He spoke, slowly, thoughtfully, but precisely, imbuing every word -- indeed, every syllable -- with immense gravitas." – Andrew – 2017-12-17T19:09:21.060



Let's consider : He was speaking unusually slowly.

Here "unusually" does affect the whole "speaking slowly" part. slowly affects directly the manner of speaking then comes unusually to add somme characteristics to this way of speaking (speaking slowly) which becomes an unusual way of "speaking slowly".


Posted 2017-12-09T06:48:04.537

Reputation: 11


So, after writing my above comment, I came across this sentence I wrote earlier this year, in answer to a completely unrelated question

When someone looks at art, usually, initially, they like or dislike the subject.

It's a slightly awkward but I think grammatical way to have two adverbs in a row both modifying the same verb ("to like"). Here the adverbs separately modify the verb, so "usually and initially" does not sound right.

This isn't quite the structure you're trying to create, but it's the only one I can think of where this might be acceptable.


Posted 2017-12-09T06:48:04.537

Reputation: 85 521

What do you mean by saying "here the adverbs separately modify the verb"? – SovereignSun – 2017-12-20T07:41:17.710

1I'm saying both people usually like the subject and they initially like the subject. It's almost like two separate thoughts combined into one shorter sentence. I wouldn't recommend using it often -- as I said, it sounds a little awkward but still fine to me, but I couldn't really explain why. – Andrew – 2017-12-20T07:44:44.240

So, in fact (purely in practice), we can't use two adverbs in a row to modify one verb? (unlike two adjectives) – SovereignSun – 2017-12-20T09:55:03.360

2You can, but as you initially guessed, you need a conjunction, *"He walked slowly and carefully to the car"*, *"The strike team moved quietly but quickly through the enemy complex"* – Andrew – 2017-12-20T14:49:48.370

"Get it quickly delivered home." Is it correct? – Kumar sadhu – 2019-03-01T12:49:41.687