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I often see adverbs used in one of three ways:

1) Adverb appears in isolation in a sentence:

あまり 好きじゃないんですが。

2) Adverb is followed by に

別々に お願いします。

1970年代後半、多くの罪もない日本の一般市民が 次々に 失踪した。

3) Adverb is followed by と

鮮明な花火が夜空に 次々と 揚がった。

Notice that in 2b), and 3), it's even the same adverb and the meaning appears identical. So suppose for a minute we wrote sentence 3) in each of the three different ways:

鮮明な花火が夜空に 次々 揚がった。

鮮明な花火が夜空に 次々に 揚がった。

鮮明な花火が夜空に 次々と 揚がった。

Is there any difference between these?

I suspect that the first one is wrong, but the second two are identical and both correct. But I don't know what rule governs this. And I think (although I don't have an example handy) that the first ( adv only) and second ( adv + に) patterns can also be used interchangeably in certain situations, which would suggest that maybe all 3 can be used interchangeably in some situations, but not others.

Can anyone explain how this works?

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You forgot about く-adverbs. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 13 '11 at 22:16
You're right, but I don't think I've ever seen those followed by に or と, so I assumed that the alternatives were not valid for く adverbs. Am I wrong? If you have examples of idiomatic Japanese sentences with く adverbs followed by に or と, feel free to post them here and I'll edit the OP –  Zach Jul 13 '11 at 22:22
You have misunderstood. に and と turn the (noun) base into adverbs, just as く does. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 13 '11 at 22:25
Then is the sentence (one of many examples) 「ソフィーは次々届く手紙に興味を示していく。」 ungrammatical? tinyurl.com/6e7g7vo –  Zach Jul 13 '11 at 22:36
No, because 「次々」 also happens to be an adverb as well as a noun. –  Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 13 '11 at 22:37
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

I think what's really going on here can be traced back to the two different ways 形容動詞 (けいようどうし: adjectival nouns or "な-adjectives") were inflected. If we look under the 連用形 (れんようけい: the "adverbial inflection", for lack of a better term) column under the first table on this Wikibooks page detailing Classical Japanese inflection patterns, we find the following two patterns:

ナリ活用 (the ナリ inflection), such as with 静か【しずか】: 静かなり or 静かに

タリ活用 (the タリ inflection), such as with 堂々【どうどう】: 堂々たり or 堂々と

(The Wikipedia page on 形容動詞 mentions that these inflections were derived from the ~にあり and ~とあり forms, respectively, in Classical Japanese.) For the most part the old styles of inflection have fallen out of use, but there are many examples fossilized in Modern Japanese:

聖なる夜 holy night (also used as the Japanese title of "Silent Night")

暗澹【あんたん】たる時期 a dark period

So without getting into the entire class of words that is used as adverbs without any special と or に appendages, we can see that from early on 形容動詞 were split in that some took なり/に to become adverbs, while some took たり/と.

Generally speaking:

  • If a word is more commonly used as a な-adjective (that is, if its 連体形 (れんたいけい), the form by which it connects to a noun, is な), the adverbial form will have に.
  • If a word typically does not connect to nouns or is more commonly used as an adverb, the adverbial form will usually have と or nothing at all (excepting common forms such as ~になる or ~にする).

These are general rules (and not very good rules at that), and so exceptions, such as 次々, aren't hard to find.

静か{○に/×と/×∅}話す speak quietly

きれい{○に/×と/×∅}整える arrange neatly

ゆっくり{△に/○と/○∅}歩く walk slowly

きっぱり{△に/○と/○∅}言う say flatly

はっきり{△に/○と/○∅}見える [be able to] see clearly

Unfortunately there are no pretty dividing lines between に and と here. This is probably because に and と have both retained their role of "adverbializer" throughout the evolution of Japanese, and neither form succeeded in displacing the other. Boaz Yaniv mentions this phenomenon in his answer for why some adjectives use な and some use の.

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From what I gather at Chiebukuro, all three are the same, though the one who answered (dendenko123, a master in Japanese category of Chiebukuro) said that has a slightly formal feeling.

Of course, there are fukushi(副詞)-class adverbs that is so popularly used one way, that usage in the other two is almost unheard of, except in idiomatic usage. For example, あまりに and あまりと is almost unheard of, except for cases like あまりにも悲惨なできごと for あまりに. There's also あまりといえば but the here is not a particle for the adverb.

But 別々 does not belong here. It is a な-adjective (形容動詞). Therefore 別々とお願いします would sound odd.

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