Flat Adverbs vs. Adverbs with the suffix -ly

You may have noticed that there are some adverbs using the form of the adjectives and adding the suffix – ly to form the adverbs as well as in the case of close vs closely, deep vs. deeply, hard vs. hardly and high vs. highly.  The difference between the two types of adverbs is that the one sharing the adjective form (or flat adverbs) has more of a physical, concrete or spatial meaning; while the one with the -ly form has more of a metaphorical, philosophically or simply different sense.

In some cases, there is no semantic difference between the adverbs formed from the adjectives (or flat adverbs) and the ones adding the suffix –ly as in the case of quick vs. quickly, sure vs. surely, different vs. differently, loud vs. loudly and real vs. really.  As stated in the book:  The Philology of the English Tongue by John Earle, the use of flat adverbs is more colloquial and used mostly by illiterate people.  This type of adverbs is rustic and archaic. 

Flat adverbs are used mostly with imperatives as in drive slow, come quick, speak loud, think different, you sure ace it, which are considered incorrect usage by traditional grammarians. 


For example: 

A.  Deep vs. Deeply


(1)  Deeply: adverb - T o a great degree (used to describe how, more of a philosophically speaking)

(a) They penetrated deeply into enemy territory.

=>  How did they penetrate into enemy territory?

=>  To a great degree.  To a profound degree.

=>  They penetrated to a great degree into enemy territory. (meaning:  very much – philosophically speaking)


(b) He was deeply wounded.

=>  He was greatly wounded.


They have deeply corrupted the system

They dived deeply into the sea.

He loves her deeply


(2) Deep: adverb – 1. To go far in space (more of a physically speaking):

(a) They penetrated deep into enemy territory.

=>  How much territory did they penetrate into enemy’s territory?

=> Far into enemy territory.

=> They penetrated far into enemy territory.  (meaning: physically covering a lot of space)


(b) They went deep into the woods

=> They went very far into the woods.   


He dug deep into the ground.


(3) Deep: adverb – 2. Late

He worked deep into the night.


B.  Slow vs. Slowly

Beef is cooked long and slow in a stew for its tenderness.

The sloth slowly climbs up the tree.

His words of humor slowly turn into sarcasm.


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