Latin adverbs are often overlooked, but they can be a bit tricky. This post walks you through everything you need to know about adverbs in Latin!
We will first discuss what adverbs are before getting into the nitty-gritty details of Latin adverb use. This post will cover what endings Latin adverbs have, how to make Latin adverbs, comparative and superlative adverbs, and more.
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What are adverbs?
Adverbs – in both Latin and English – are words that modify or explain verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They answer questions like “how?”, “when?”, “where?”, or “to what degree?”
Here are some sample sentences with adverbs in bold.
- The girl runs quickly.
- I arrived later.
- The children play outside.
- She is extremely happy.
In sentence #1, the adverb “quickly” explains how or in what way the girl runs. In the second sentence, the adverb “later” specifies when I arrived, while “outside” in sentence #3 notes where the children play. Finally, in sentence #4, the adverb “extremely” describes to what degree she is happy.
My favorite Latin grammar defines adverbs in the following way:
An Adverb is a word used to express the time, place, or manner of an assertion or attribute.Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar, §20e
Here are a few more examples of adverbs:
Now that we have defined what adverbs are, it is time to move on to what adverbs look like in Latin and how they are formed.
How to form adverbs in Latin
If you look at the list of English adverbs up above, you will notice that many of them end in “ly”. This is because in English, we form regular adverbs by adding “ly” to adjectives.
- I am quick. -> I run quickly.
- I am sad. -> I sit sadly in a corner.
Not all adverbs work this way. But many do, and English speakers instinctively recognize “___ly” as an adverb.
In Latin we have a similar situation. Regular adverbs are formed in two ways, depending on what declension the adjective belongs to. Once you determine the declension, you can add the appropriate ending to the adjective’s stem.
(Not sure how to tell an adjective’s declension and/or stem? Head over to my post all about Latin adjective stems. It walks you through all the different classes of adjectives and explains how to find their stems.)
Adverbs from 1st and 2nd declension adjectives
To make an adverb out of a first and second declension adjective, you find the adjective stem and then add -ē. Yes, it’s that simple.
Take the adjective laetus, a, um “joyful”. It’s stem is laet-, so we add –ē to get laetē. This is our adverb, meaning “joyfully.”
Here are a few more examples:
- certus, a, um “certain, sure” becomes certē “certainly, surely”
- aequus, a, um “equal” becomes aequē “equally”
- tener, a, um “tender” becomes tenerē “tenderly”
Of course there are exceptions, but this is the standard way of making adverbs in Latin.
Adverbs from 3rd declension adjectives
To form an adverb from a third declension adjective, you find the adjective stem and then add -iter.
For example, let’s look at the adjective fortis, e “brave.” The stem is fort-, so we add -iter and end up with fortiter “bravely.”
Here are more examples of adverbs from 3rd declension adjectives:
- audāx, audācis “bold” becomes audāciter “boldly”
- celer, celeris, celere “swift” becomes celeriter “swiftly”
- similis, e “similar” becomes similiter “similarly”
There is one modification to this process. If the adjective stem ends in nt, then we just add -er. (Technically what is happening is the t in the stem disappears and we add –ter.)
For example, the stem of prūdēns, prūdentis “prudent” is prūdent-. The adverbial form is prūdenter “prudently.”
Latin Adverb Endings
The regular process of adverb formation means that lots of adverbs in Latin end in –ē or –ter. But there are also many, many irregular adverbs, so adverbs can end in pretty much any way.
A frequent way to make adverbs in Latin is to use the neuter singular of an adjective as an adverb. This gives us adverbs ending in –e (e.g. facile “easily”) or –um (e.g. multum “a lot”).
There are also adverbs that have developed via sound changes and/or from adjectives that no longer exist. These adverbs can have seemingly random endings, so be careful! I have included a list of common Latin adverbs at the end of this post.
Comparative & Superlative Adverbs in Latin
So far we have looked at adverbs in the positive degree. Now it is time to discuss comparative and superlative adverbs, that is, adverbs that express to what degree something occurs.
These terms will make much more sense with an example.
Positive: happily (laetē)
Comparative: more happily (laetius)
Superlative: most happily (laetissimē)
As you can see, in English we typically stick “more” in front of an adverb to make it comparative. Then we add “most” to make an adverb superlative.
In Latin there is also a simple process to form comparative and superlative adverbs. These forms are based on Latin comparative and superlative adjectives.
In Latin, the comparative adverb is the same as the neuter comparative adjective. Neuter comparative adjectives end in –ius, so you can expect comparative adverbs to have this ending, as well.
- certius = more certainly
- laetius = more happily
- prūdentius = more prudently
To form superlative adverbs in Latin, you find the stem of the superlative adjective. Then you add -ē.
For example, the superlative adjective of laetus, a, um “happy” is laetissimus, a, um “happiest”. The stem of laetissimus is laetissim-, so we add –ē and end up with laetissimē “most happily.”
All superlative adjectives in Latin are first and second declension, and this is why the ending is –ē. Most superlative adjectives will have stems ending in –issim-, so superlative adjectives usually end in –issimē.
- certissimē = most surely
- audācissimē = most boldly
- celerrimē = most swiftly
- prūdentissimē = most prudently
Common Irregular Adverbs in Latin
We have spent a lot of time discussing how to form regular adverbs in Latin, but the reality is that many of the most common adverbs are highly irregular. In this section of the post, I have listed some frequently used irregular adverbs.
If comparative and superlative forms exist and are also irregular, I have provided them as well.
Adverbs of Time:
- iam = now, already
- nunc = now
- tum = then
- saepe = often
- semper = always
- numquam = never
- diū = for a long time
- deinde = then, next
Adverbs of Place:
- hīc = here
- hūc = to here, hither
- ibi = there
- illūc = to there, to that place, thither
- procul = at a distance
Adverbs of Manner, Degree, etc.
- nōn = not (used to negate verbs)
- etiam = also, even
- sīc and ita = so, thus
- vērō = truly, in fact
- satis = enough, sufficiently
- bene = well, melius = better, optimē = best
- male = badly, peius = worse, pessimē = worst
This is by no means a complete list, but these examples will give you an idea of the range of Latin adverbs.
Final Notes on Adverbs in Latin
By now you have an idea of what Latin adverbs are, what they look like, and how they are formed. The last thing I want to mention is how adverbs fit into Latin word order.
The general rule is that an adverb will go right in front of the word it modifies. In other words, an adverb will appear right in front of a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.
Here are a few examples sentences to demonstrate this point.
- Puer cēnam ācriter facit. = The boy eagerly makes dinner.
- Nunc sumus in casā. = Now we are in the hut.
- Casam male factam habeō = I have a poorly made hut.
All right, now you know everything you need to about Latin adverbs. If you would like even more detailed information, then you can consult a grammar such as Allen and Greenough’s.
And don’t forget to check out these useful posts!