Can an 'adverb' modify 'nouns/pronouns'?



While answering to this question here, very interesting discussion took place with CopperKettle.

It's absolutely right that adverbs modify many things, but nouns/pronouns.

But then, expressions such as...

Almost everyone would agree to this...


Hardly anyone would do that...

are quite common.

What do natives say about this? Are there any special cases wherein adverbs modify nouns/pronouns?

Maulik V

Posted 2015-12-22T07:53:36.410

Reputation: 66 188


Prof. John Lawler once said (on ELU), "if you don't know what the hell it's doing there, call it an adverb", with this hint "'adverb' is the traditional wastebasket category".

– Damkerng T. – 2015-12-22T12:04:04.993

An adverb can modify indefinite pronouns. almost, hardly, nearly are examples of such adverbs which can modify pronouns. – Man_From_India – 2015-12-22T15:47:24.910

I think there is a presumption that almost (and other words like hardly) is always an adverb, I guess because that's how practically all dictionaries list it, however it is clearly used as an adjective and preposition as well. See:

– Ubu English – 2019-11-06T03:34:20.253



Yes, an adverb can modify a noun, according to wikipedia here and here.

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, adjective, another adverb, determiner, noun phrase, clause, preposition, or sentence.


adnominal adverbs and adverbials, such as (over) there in the noun phrase the man (over) there

=== EDIT ===

However, other sources including external links on the latter article contradict it, and so does wikitionary. From the usage cases, however, it seems that such a usage is permitted.


Posted 2015-12-22T07:53:36.410

Reputation: 163


Many people say that by definition a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun is an adjective, which is why there's an ample debate on the subject among English native speakers. Some argue that since an adverb modifies a noun or a pronoun it automatically becomes an adjective.

Yet, others assert that adverbs can modify pronouns:

Definition of an adverb modifying a pronoun:

An adverb which precedes a pronoun and modifies the pronoun.

Examples of adverbs modifying pronouns:

adverb (bold), pronoun (italicized)

Almost everybody came in the end. Note: almost; nearly; hardly; about, etc., can be used in this way

And others agree that:

Sometimes adverbs modify pronouns: Almost everyone gave something. Nearly all of them came. Naturally, some will argue that these words are adjectives. Of course, they function as adjectives in these sentences. Yet they are quite unlike adjectives in other uses.

However, in my language it is unanimously accepted that an adverb, as a dependent and inflexible part of speech, always acts as a determiner to the: verb, verb phrase, adjective, another adverb, interjection, noun that denotes actions, states or properties, pronoun and numeral.

This said, I can't contradict any of the English native speakers but can only picture the way other people see the subject.

Lucian Sava

Posted 2015-12-22T07:53:36.410

Reputation: 11 342


Very truly yours.
The influence is unquestionably hers.
This can't be exclusively mine.
The likeness is unmistakably his.

I'm going to put it in the nicest way possible on the chance it might help me to avoid further downvotes on this answer of mine, o ye cavemen ... I mean, nice generous people ...

I agree with the OP that adverbs can absolutely modify pronouns. There's absolutely no reason why they shouldn't.

The OP suggests I should put it in "a smarter way." Okay, here goes:

Harmony is very smart. Which is why it always takes precedence. Once it has established itself, being smart and all, a bunch of nerds rush in to make up some rules that profess to reflect this harmony, but it never really works. Harmony is pure. Rules are often stifling and oppressive. Nerds are hardly ever smart.

O Reader! Bruder! You're smart. You're not a nerd. Please don't down vote this answer! Smart people should stick together!

I'm not quite certain what this modifying business is all about, because I don't even know what an adverb or a pronoun is, and why should I, it's beneath me. But, being smart, I don't admit to it. I pretend it's not beneath me. As the poet said, I'm sufficiently proud about knowing something to be occasionally modest about my not knowing everything. Or something to that effect.

I'm also quite drunk right now. I have a nasty cold, but I'm smart, which is why I'm drinking good cognac instead of taking stupid disgusting pills. It may not be as healthy, but it sure as hell is a lot more enjoyable.


Posted 2015-12-22T07:53:36.410

Reputation: 2 828

Did you answer or just agree? :) – Maulik V – 2015-12-22T11:14:34.470

@MaulikV: You asked whether adverbs could modify nouns or pronouns. I listed some examples. Isn't that proof enough that I share your sentiments on that point? You're very hard to please. – Ricky – 2015-12-22T11:20:58.817

Ah, don't write 'please', please! You just wrote or better added some more examples. I was looking for some explanation on why in given examples, it's fine but overall it's not. Is there any rule? And, btw, I did not downvote this! :) – Maulik V – 2015-12-22T11:24:45.033

2@MaulikV: Harmony comes first. Then nerds rush in and make rules that are supposed to reflect the harmony, but will oftentimes stifle it instead. I'm not quite certain what this modifying business is all about, but in my not so humble opinion, anything can modify anything. – Ricky – 2015-12-22T11:30:15.503

+1 for the comment. Would you mind writing this in your answer as I think it should be a part of it. However, you may have better words to convey this! :) – Maulik V – 2015-12-22T11:32:54.667

@MaulikV: If I did, I'd get fifteen downvotes, and they would ban you for a month for encouraging me. – Ricky – 2015-12-22T11:34:14.593

1lol, it's not like that. You have a valid point, just to be put in a smarter way. Being a native, you must be better at it. My idea is to having this included in the answer. – Maulik V – 2015-12-22T11:35:41.657


"Anything can modify anything" belongs in the same pantheon as *FumbleFingers' Perfect Truism*. I christen it *Ricky's Arrogance Principle*.

– StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-12-22T13:24:30.870

2OK I can remove the fluff from this answer and get to one single word without any harm to the content: "Yes". I think it would really pay if you mention why "*very people" is incorrect (in the quantification sense; the correct version being "many people") while "almost everyone" isn't. But then again, these must be beneath you so I guess just have a fun day. – M.A.R. – 2015-12-22T19:12:27.723

2I'm tempted to blow away about 75% of this answer in the name of removing fluff, but I'd appreciate it a great deal if you'd remove this temptation yourself. Maundering on about how drunk, smart, nerdy, or harmonious you or the reader may be just isn't relevant. – Nathan Tuggy – 2015-12-23T09:22:51.647