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Adverbs modifying verbs and predicative adverbs

Adverbs in the Russian language is a vast and complicated topic. There are many kinds of adverbs, but today we are going to talk about two groups only.

About these groups you may already know that
  • They answer the question “How?”
  • Most of them have an ending “-O” and never change their form

The first group is adverbs which describe or modify an action:

For example: быстро, медленно, громко, хорошо

Как он бегает? – Быстро. (How does he run? – Quickly)
Как она говорит по-русски? – Хорошо, но очень медленно. (How does she speak Russian? – Quite well but very slowly)
Музыка играет очень громко. (The music is very loud (plays very loudly – word by word translation)

In this group we can include such adverbs as: мало, много, легко, внимательно, бегло.
Let us make up sentences with them.

Я мало отдыхаю. (I have very little time to rest)
Он очень много смотрит телевизор. (He watches TV a lot)
Она легко решит эту проблему. (She will solve this problem easily)
Слушайте меня внимательно! (Listen to me carefully!)

Они учат русский всего год, а говорят уже очень бегло.(They have been studying Russian for a year only but they already speak very fluently)

The second group that we are going to revise is called predicative adverbs. These adverbs are also often considered to be a separate part of speech – the words describing the state. They describe the state/mood of a human and the state of the things and the world around.

They are called predicative because they play the role of predicate in impersonal sentences (sentences which don’t have a subject)

Мне скучно. (I’m bored)
Ему плохо. (He feels unwell)
Здесь тихо. (It is quiet here)
Это трудно. (It is difficult) (Unlike the English “it”, «это» in the Russian language does not function as a subject.)

In this group you can find some adverbs from the first group and some new ones as well: красиво, чисто, тихо, тесно, весело, скучно, трудно, важно, опасно, интересно, нужно, можно, хорошо, плохо.

Important: part of these words can describe both the state of a human and the state of the world around, like in the examples below:

Correct: Мне холодно. (I’m cold – the state of a human)
В комнате холодно. (It is cold in the room – the state of the world around)
Ему скучно. (He’s bored)
На уроке скучно. (The lesson is boring. (Literally: it’s boring at the lesson)

Another part of them can describe only the state of the world around, but not that of a human.
Correct: В комнате чисто. (The room is clean)
В парке тихо. (The park is quiet)

No good: Ему чисто. (He is (feels) clean) Ей тихо. (She is (feels) quiet)

*I know the translation of the sentences like “She is quiet” may sound normal in English, but in Russian to make a correct sentence in this case you will have to use an adjective (Он чистый – meaning may be “He is clean, he’s just taken a shower”) or to add a verb (Она сидит тихо - “She sits quietly”)

The last part of them can describe only the human’s state of mind. (These words mostly describe emotions)

Correct: Мне грустно. (I feel sad)
Мне обидно. (I feel insulted)

I have to say that when such sentences are translated it is quite difficult to grip the logic of predicative adverbs usage. Indeed, it is impossible to find a perfect match for some phrases. Therefore, in order not to mix them I would recommend you to learn as many examples of usage as possible by heart.

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