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Hello everybody,

I have a question about a point of English grammar that I have trouble grasping; maybe you specialists could enlighten me.

With certain intransitive verbs, one can form a sentence with either an adjective or an adverb. For example:

The sun shines bright in the sky.
The sun shines brightly in the sky.

or the well known

Hope springs eternal.
Hope springs eternally.

Grammatically, I understand using the adjective instead of the adverb makes the verb transitive, but what I don't quite understand is the difference it makes in the meaning of the sentence, if there is any difference.

I elicit to use this or that form in sentences I say every day because it "feels" more correct, or less awkward, but I'd really like to know formally what form to use and why instead of relying on gut feelings.

Thank you in advance!
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Comments  
Hi Anon

When you use the adjective in sentences such as The sun shines bright in the sky and Hope springs eternal, you are in essence changing the verb to a linking verb (copular verb), and the meaning of the verb becomes very similar to "is". Rather than describing action (the verb), you are describing the noun (the subject of the sentence):

The sun is bright.
Hope is eternal.

Here is a list of verbs which are the most commonly used as linking verbs:
  • appear
  • be
  • become
  • feel
  • get
  • go
  • grow
  • look
  • prove
  • remain
  • seem
  • smell
  • sound
  • stay
  • taste
  • turn
No help here!

Using the adjective makes the verb transitive? Where's the object? The sun shines bright! Shines my shoes? Shines what?

To my ear, this usage resembles the "verbs of sense," which act like being verbs, and take adjective complements.

I feel very bright today. The sun shines bright.

The difference is, you can say "The sun shines brightly today," but you can't say "I feel brightly today."

To my ear, "The sun shines bright in the sky" is close to "The sun is bright in the sky."

I'm sure someone has a name for this usage. I should think all you'd need is a list of verbs where it applies.

Edit. I think Amy has answered your question about the difference this makes in the meaning of the sentence.

In some cases, when you change the adverb to an adjective, it doesn't turn out to describe the actor as well as it described the action.
The moon appeared slowly from behind the cloud. The moon appears slow tonight. (Well, maybe.)

Then there are some special cases. She looks carefully. She looks well. She looks good.
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Thank you both for your interesting answers. I didn't think of it this way but it does makes sense. The strange thing is, I have this thick grammar book here at home that doesn't even mention the issue, but it's something that comes up constantly in ordinary english. I'll have to dig further in other books.
(Oh by the way I'm the original anon. This site is very interesting so I've created an account.)
I'm not sure why these would be considered adjectives and not adverbs. It seems to me that they are flat adverbs - adverbs without "ly". For instance, drive fast, go slow, the sun shines bright, he hit the ball hard.
AlienvoordI'm not sure why these would be considered adjectives and not adverbs. It seems to me that they are flat adverbs - adverbs without "ly". For instance, drive fast, go slow, the sun shines bright, he hit the ball hard.

Well, the particular excerpt from the M-W's Dictionary of English Usage to which you link specifically states that "bright" is an adverb just as "brightly" is, and the rest of the article pretty much answers similar questions I had about the proper use of other such adverbs/adjectives. As for "hope springs eternal", the quote dates back to 1734, and the M-W article says flat adverbs were more common in the past, so that figures.

My original question is therefore answered: the two sentences have the same meaning because they are the same sentence Emotion: smile

Great site, great posters, very informative all this. Thanks again!
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Giraut (Oh by the way I'm the original anon. This site is very interesting so I've created an account.)
Thanks for joining us, Giraut. Welcome to English Forums!

Alienvoord's post and your reply seem to leave us in limbo. There's no question that "He hit the ball hard" describes the action more than it describes the actor. But we surely don't want to accuse him of "hardly hitting the ball" ! Calling these "shortened adverbs" adjectives does appear to have it's limitations. I think more needs to be said on this subject. At the very least, it seems fair to say that some of them act adjectivally and some continue to function as adverbs. (How about the passive? "The ball was hit hard." We have to admit that transitive verbs sometimes get into this act.)
Hi all, and welcome to the site, Giraut!

What about this:

He's acting silly.

Is "silly" an adjective or an adverb in that sentence?
Is the verb "act" an "action verb" or a linking verb?
AvangiAt the very least, it seems fair to say that some of them act adjectivally and some continue to function as adverbs.

Which ones are not adverbs? The ones following linking verbs?

I'd say that if you can replace the word with an "-ly" adverb, then it's a flat adverb, as in

the sun shines bright/brightly

but if you can't replace it with an "-ly" adverb, then it's presumably an adjective and a linking verb

He's acting silly

*He's acting sadly

I feel bright

*I feel brightly

I don't think transitives, intransitives or passives are relevant, at least to the question of flat adverbs.
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