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I have heard that Japanese adverbs usually occur along with particles in a sentence. Also, I perhaps simplistically consider particles to be the analog of prepositions in English.

In English it seems that there are often two ways to convey the meaning of an adverb, one with a preposition and one without: For example, "She sang enthusiastically." or "She sang with enthusiasm."

With that background, my question is whether it is reasonable to say that Japanese usually uses the "with enthusiasm" form of modifying verbs rather than the "enthusiastically" form?

This question and hypothesis are mostly for pedagogical reasons, and for the common case rather than a precise description of the language.

  • Is "with enthusiasm" really considered an adverb in English? – istrasci Nov 16 '14 at 21:08
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    @istrasci I think it's considered an adverbial prepositional phrase since it applies to how the person sang. – virmaior Nov 16 '14 at 21:09
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    @snailboat Some Japanese linguists would say the same about ~に "adverbs". Nonetheless, both function in the same roles as more proper adverbs. edit: As I suspected, the definition of adverb in "modern linguistics" is language specific and could easily include phrases acting as adverbs. – Wlerin Nov 18 '14 at 16:44
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    @snailboat Regardless, "modern linguistics" very often considers prepositional phrases and similar constructions to be adverbs, or at least, adverbials (the meaning of both of which is heavily language dependent). You may not, and have very good reasons for it, but it is not an unusual nor an antiquated analysis. – Wlerin Nov 18 '14 at 19:12
  • @Wlerin thank you for your comments. Perhaps I miss something but I cannot see any significant difference in meaning between "She sang enthusiastically" and "She sang with enthusiasm". There are dozens of similar examples and the pattern generalizes. So your insight regarding the definition of adverb is astute and helpful. – necromancer Nov 18 '14 at 20:22
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Your example may be translated as 彼女は[熱狂的]{ねっきょうてき}に歌った or something similar. This 熱狂的に with a particle-like ending に is actually an adverbial form of a na-adjective 熱狂的な, and is very properly translated as "enthusiastically".

Otherwise you can say it like 彼女は熱狂をもって歌った, where 熱狂をもって resembles "with enthusiasm" in appearance, with "with" being sometimes translated as をもって. However this kind of wording sounds fairly literary and less versatile, and is hardly heard in colloquial speech.

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There's at least three types of words in Japanese that can be called "adverbs" in English grammatical terms. There's the 〜く from of what are called [形容詞]{けいようし} "keiyoshi" or often in teaching "i-keiyoshi" (e.g., [楽]{たの}しく) and there are [形容動詞]{けいようどうし} "keiyoudoushi" or in teaching it to foreigners "na-keiyoushi" plus に (e.g., [具体的]{ぐたいてき}に).

The pattern you describe where the "adverb" is made by tacking a particle onto the word in the manner of a prepositional phrase applies to the "keiyoudoshi" style of forming "adverbs". Here you put "ni" onto the end of the adjectival form of the word to get an "adverb".

For example:

[具体的]{ぐたいてき}に[表]{あらわ}す

gutaiteki-ni arawasu

= to express something concretely.

The pattern for i-keiyoushi is that the "adverb" is a conjugation of the root adjective. Thus for the keiyoushi "tanoshii" meaning fun, the adverbial form is "tanoshiku"

[彼]{かれ}は[楽]{たの}しく[歌]{うた}う。

kare ha tanoshiku utau.

= he sings enjoyably.

There's also words that don't conjugate at all to be adverbs. e.g., ゆっくり (yukkuri) and ときどき (tokidoki) and さっと (satto).


There's some disagreement as to whether "adverb" best captures a category of Japanese words so I've put in quotes.

  • What about words like あまり (with the "not very" meaning)? EDICT at least classifies them as adverbs. – Xeo Nov 16 '14 at 21:37
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    And of course there are "pure" adverbs which don't conjugate, like ゆっくり, ときどき. – naruto Nov 16 '14 at 21:38
  • @Xeo good point ... I've tried to add a brief note about words that just function adverbially as they are – virmaior Nov 16 '14 at 21:46
  • @naruto I've tried to add a brief note about that. was that 同時に同じこと考えた or is あまり a different class as well?? – virmaior Nov 16 '14 at 21:46

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