August 27th, 2020 / 10:11 am


At some point, I started to notice I wanted to modify adverbs with a word before the adverb. Instead of writing, “He quickly ate the mango in a distracted manner,” I wanted to write, “He distractedily quickly ate the mango,” because, among other reasons, I wanted to be more concise. 

I talked to some people about this a little. In 2018, for example, I tweeted this. Later, I named the new-seeming type of word “ily” because to use it you just add “ily” to the word you want to become an “ily.”

An “ily” is a word that qualifies—or adverbs—an adverb. I was going to put ilies in my next novel, and had some in it for a while (“acceleratingily increasing complexication,” “unconsciousily habitually dissimulating”), but then took them out. 

More examples:

She put the large door—that we’d found and carried around—endearingily awkwardly in front of the home area.

A longily concisely written account of skydiving.

Tags: ,


  1. Elijah

      bro this is already what suffixes do? lol

  2. Mira Gonzalez

      i’d like to recommend the name “adadverb” for this new type of word

  3. tao lin

      There isn’t a suffix that is “ily” yet though, right? There’s “ly” and other ones like “er” and “est” but not “ily” from what I can tell.

  4. tao lin

      “Distractedly” exists as an adverb, but you can’t modify other adverbs with it, unless you want to write, “He distractedly quickly ate the mango,” which doesn’t seem as good as “He distractedily quickly ate the mango” to me.

  5. willis plummer

      picturing high school english teachers having to explain adadverbs

  6. tao lin

      Good recommendation. Could be shortened to “adad.”

  7. tao lin

      “He distractedilyily distractedily quickly ate the mango.”

      This is another benefit of ilies/adadverbs, I feel. You can keep modifying the ily endlessly.

  8. willis plummer

      in the before times you would have to write ‘he ate the most hungrily’ but now you can superlative an adad and simply state ‘he ate hungrilyest’

  9. tao lin

      This seems advanced and intriguing. Haven’t thought of this before. You should be the first adad scholar.

  10. Mira Gonzalez

      if you wanted to turn “happily” into an adadverb, would it be “happilyily” ?

  11. tao lin

      It could be that, or it could also, I think, be “happyily.”

  12. willis plummer

      and happyilyily is the adadadverb

  13. willis plummer

      another opportunity is ‘she ate hungrilyer than her brother’

  14. D.C. Park

      Should the -ily structure be flat? It is hard to read the -ily as actually modifying the adverb that comes after. Feels more like a list of adverbs uniformly modifying the verb. The uncompressed version of the first sentence puts enough distance between quickness and distraction to make it clear what the relationships are… without that distance (and lack of concision) it’s hard to get a sense of why “distractedly” would modify “quickly” other than the fact that it comes first.

      I might recommend apostrophes, especially in the flatter case. It functions like a wildcard that acknowledges the flexibility in pronunciation likely to happen:

      He distracted’ly quick’ly ate the mango
      A long’ly concise’ly written account…
      She put the large door […] endearing’ly awkward’ly

  15. Nate

      He ate the mango quickly and distractedly?

  16. tao lin

      Used like that, “quickly” and “distractedly” both modify “ate.”

      With “distractedily quickly,” the word “quickly” is modified.

  17. tao lin

      This feels right.

  18. willis plummer

      i like this it is like olde english

  19. willis plummer

      i like that you used ‘distractedily’ as an example when ‘distractedly’ already exists as an adverb (which can modify other adverbs?).. feel like you really leaned into the controversy. looking forward to shitstorm ily

  20. willis plummer

      if you want to modify an adadverb you have to use an adadadverb which has the suffix ‘ilyily’

  21. joseph grantham

      i like this adadverb because it is telling the words it modifies: ‘i love you’

  22. BBDB


  23. tao lin


  24. tao lin

      I like your comments profile pic

  25. tao lin

      (ignore this part of my post, it’s a mistake: “acceleratingily increasing complexication”)

  26. Hunter Ford

      But what is even distractedily quickly? Are you saying he wasn’t distracted? And that only quickly is deserving of the distraction? Meaning he was focused and attentive, but the speed at which he ate was distracted? It doesn’t make sense.

  27. tao lin

      I’m saying the eating happened quickly, and I’m specifying that it was a distracted kind of quickness rather than, say, a greedy kind of quickness.

      “He distractedily quickly ate the mango.”
      “He greedyily quickly ate the mango.”

      If I said, “He quickly ate the mango,” someone might ask, “quickly how?” Then I could employ an ily, saying, “He __ quickly ate the mango.”

  28. tao lin

      Hm, so there is an ily. This is a different ily though.

  29. Hunter Ford

      Thank you for explaining the difference. And I appreciate the thought experiment. I’m still having a hard time understanding how quickly could be modified and described as greedy or distracted. Those to me are very separate concepts. I may just be unimaginative.

  30. tao lin

      In my view, I’m saying “He quickly ate the mango” but I’m not saying “He ate the mango in a distracted manner.”

      I saying something similar to the latter, but not exactly the same, not literally the same.

      With “He distractedily quickly ate the mango,” I’m saying “He ate the mango with a distracted quickness” in less words.

  31. tao lin

      I agree about the potential awkwardness. To avoid this, one could write “greedyily instead of “greedily” when using the word as an ily. Doing this, one will be able to tell from the suffix whether a word is an ily or an adverb, I think.

  32. btingle
  33. Hunter Ford

      Going back to the text of your post, you wrote:

      Instead of writing, “He quickly ate the mango in a distracted manner,” I wanted to write, “He distractedily quickly ate the mango,” because, among other reasons, I wanted to be more concise.

      You are saying two things:

      1. He quickly ate the mango.
      2. He ate the mango in a distracted manner.

      I feel like this is exactly what Nate said could be accomplished with “quickly and distractedly”.

      Furthermore, I think the most awkward thing in having -ily be used to modify another adverb is that suffix endings help us to quickly identify the function of the word. When you have a modifying word, that shares a similar suffix, but behaves slightly differently, it does become quite confusing.

  34. Alan B

      Other -ly sillyness: I noticed a while ago that “heavenly” is an
      adjective, so the adverb form is, I guess, “heavenlyly”. “The heavenly
      song.” vs “He sang heavenlyly.”

  35. Megan Boyle

      enjoyed this post. i’ve thought about “ily” periodically since reading it

      was just delighted to come across this instance of a crossed-out “ungainlily (?)” from a 12/9/16 journal entry of mine

      some possible reasons for my deletion:

      1. i was aware of misusing “ungainly” while wanting to modify “horribly”
      1a. i was aware of misusing “ungainly” and adding two more “horribly”s was a joke about how i didn’t know what i meant by “[word that ‘ungainlily’ was a placeholder for]”
      1b. i was aware of misusing “ungainly” and adding two more “horribly”s felt like a more accurate description
      2. i was looking for a word like “messy in a bad way,” to modify “horribly,” and i wanted to say “ungainlily” but doubted “ungainlily” was a word
      3. i meant to write another word and accidentally wrote “ungainlily”
      4. i meant to say “ungainlily” but i wanted “ungainly” to mean “without gain,” not “clumsy,” and i was too lazy to look up synonyms for “pointlessly”/”ungainly”

      in the future i might experiment with ily

      i still think “horribly, horribly, horribly” is funny and good, but it would also be interesting to know more about what i originally meant

      thanks tao

  36. tao lin