Classical Adverbs

第018課: Adverbs

       Adverbs, as you will find, are pretty much how they are in Modern Japanese. Many patterns, however, have changed or have lost currency over time. Nevertheless, don’t let this get in the way of you understanding them. 


     The Japanese way to classify adverbs involves four categories.

 Condition Adverbs With verbs of condition.
 Degree Adverbs Shows degree.
 Syntax Agreement Adverbs Agrees with conjugation/particles.
 Instruction Adverbs Shows instruction.

      Condition adverbs are used with verbs whereas degree adverbs are used with adjectives. These are the easiest to use and to recognize. Consider とても (very) as an example. 

      When an adverb requires a sentence to be in a certain conjugation, it will always be a syntax agreement adverb. Another word for this is “correlated”. Correlated adverbs are found in very common combinations. The instruction adverbs are similar, and we will look at them later.  

Where Adverbs Come From

     This, though, causes a lot of ambiguity on what constitutes an adverb as far as where they come from. All adverbs in Japanese come from another part of speech. 

  • True Adverbs: These adverbs are those that are purely adverbs and are found as such in the dictionary. 
  • Varying Part of Speech: Some adverbs are used adverbially, but are classified as other parts of speech when used differently.
  • From Grammatical Nouns: Most of these nouns are temporal nouns that describe time such as “now” and “today”. They can either be used as nouns or adverbs. Counter phrases are also great examples.
  • From Adjectives: The 連用形 of adjectives can also be used as adverbs. For ナリ型形容動詞 you use the に-連用形, for タリ型形容動詞 you use the と-連用形, for ク活用形容詞 you use the く-連用形, and for シク活用形容詞 you use the しく-連用形. These adverbs are normally translated with “-er” or “-ly”. All adjectives may be changed into adverbs in Japanese whereas this is not the case in English.
  • From the Gerund of Verbs: Verbs in the gerund can sometimes be used to make adverbs too. For example, 初めて can be used to mean “for the first time. 
  • From Suffixes: Suffixes such as すがら in 夜もすがら (all night) can make adverbs.
  • Onomatopoeia: There is a lot of variety in onomatopoeia just as in Modern Japanese.

Correlated Adverbs

      The majority of this lesson will be about what is not the same as in Modern Japanese. You already know the 連用形 of adjectives can be used adjectivally, and since the process is the same, you just need examples of Classical Japanese sentences with them. Many of the most common Japanese adverbs in Modern Japanese are common in Classical Japanese too. 

Correlated Adverb Combination Categories

  • Negative
  • Prohibition
  • Interrogative
  • Hypothetical
  • Desiderative
  • Appropriateness
  • Suppositional

Warning Note: Some of the endings will not be familiar, but just focus on the adverbs. It will help you tremendously if you can remember the full patterns though. 

Set-Up Note: In order for better memorization, categories will be mixed. They will be labeled.

 Important Common Combinations (Not Exhaustive)

 Pattern Type Meaning
 え…ず Negative Cannot
 努(ゆめ)…な; ゆめ…ず Prohibition; negative Absolutely not; by no means
 など…連体形 Interrogative Why?
 たとひ…とも Hypothetical Even if
 願はく…む Desiderative What I wish for is
 たへて…ず Negative Not at all
 よも…じ Negative It can’t be
 なんぞ…連体形 Interrogative Why?; what kind of? 
 いかばかり…らむ Suppositional How…it must be
 な…そ・ぞ Prohibition Do not!
 さだめて…む Without a doubt No doubt


1. すべからく約束は守るべし。
     You ought to keep your promise(s).

2. 安志比紀乃 夜麻保登等藝須 奈騰可伎奈賀奴 (原文)
    Why doesn’t the mountain cuckoo come and sing? 
From the 万葉集.

3. けだし至言なり。
    I dare so it’s a wise saying.

4. 山主者 盖雖有 吾妹子之 将結標乎 人将解八方 (原文)
  Even if by some chance the mountain guard were to be there, I wonder if a person could untie the       sign you (my daughter) fastened?
From the 万葉集.

5. なほ奥つ方にでたる人、いかばかりかはあやしかりけむを。
   As a person who grew up in a far region of the country, how queer I must have been!
From the 更級日記.

6. いかで月を見ではあらん。
   How is it that you not look at the moon?
From the 竹取物語. 

7. 念仏に勝る事さうらふまじとはなどまうし給はぬぞ。
    Why don’t you say that it is unlikely that it is superior to chanting the name of Buddha?
From the 徒然草.

8. 月な見給ひそ。
   Do not look at the moon.
From the 竹取物語.

9. 春の鳥な鳴きそ鳴きそ。
   Do not sing spring bird, do not sing.
By 北原白秋.

10. 誰もいまだ都慣れぬほどにて、え見つけず。
   Since it was a time when no one was yet accustomed to the capital, they weren’t able to find it.
From the 更級日記. 

11. むべなるかな。
    It is quite plausible. 

12. あの国の人を、え戦はぬなり。
   It is said that one cannot fight the people of that country.
From the 竹取物語. 

13. 願はくは幸多からんことを。
   What I wish for is a lot of happiness.

Grammar Note: ~む is often contracted to ~ん in the 連体形. 

14. たけき心つかふ人もよもあらじ。
   A person with a bold heart could not possibly exist.
From the 竹取物語. 

15. 昔ながらつゆ変はることなきも、めでたきことなり。
    Though there is not a thing at all changed from the past, it is still auspicious.
From an unnamed author.

16. ゆめ疑うことなかれ
   Absolutely do not doubt. 

17. さて冬枯ふゆがれのけしきこそ、秋にはをさをさ劣るまじけれ。
    Well, a withered winter landscape would not certainly be at all inferior to that of autumn!
From the 徒然草.

More Adverbs

      This section will serve to show you more examples of adverbs used in Classical Japanese contexts. You should be very familiar with these adverbs, and if you are not, you can probably find them in Modern Japanese texts as well. 

18. いかにせまし。
   What should I do?
From the 堤中納言物語

19. 毎度ただ得失なく、この一矢に定むべしと思へ。
   Each time do not think of hitting or missing, just think that you will certainly hit if with a single arrow.

20. え読みえぬほども心もとなし。
   When you cannot compose a poem, it is nerve-racking.
From the 枕草子.

21. その沢にかきつばたいとおもしろく咲きたり。
   In that swamp, irises were blooming very beautifully.
From the 伊勢物語.

22. なべて心柔らかに、情けあるゆゑに、人の言ふほどのこと、けやけくいなびがたくて、よろづえ言ひ放たず、
Since in all respects they are gentle in heart and have compassion, it is clearly hard for them to deny someone’s favor, and without being able to assert all the circumstances, they ended up timidly took it upon themselves.
From the 徒然草.

23. 夜もすがら月を眺む。
   To gaze at the moon all night.

24. ほのぼのと春こそ空に来にけらし。
   Spring seems to have come faintly to the sky.
From the 新古今和歌集.

25. ちと承らばや。
   I would like to hear a little bit (about it).
From the 徒然草.

26. いつしか咲かなむ。
   I want the plum tree to bloom quickly!
From the 更級日記.

 Even More Adverbs

 漸う やうやう Gradually いとど いとど All the most
 最も もつとも The most 全て すべて All
 極めて きはめて Extremely 軈て やがて Presently; immediately
 終日 ひねもす From morning to night 恐らく おそらく No doubt
 縦しや よしや For example 定めて さだめて No doubt


1. いかが…べき means “how (should one)?”. Create a simple sentence with this.

2. Create a simple sentence with an adverb from an adjective. Make sure your verb or adjective is correctly

3. What kind of adverb would さばかり (that much) be?

4. Find an example in Modern Japanese with the adverb いと “very”. 

5. な…そ is replaced by what in Modern Japanese?

6. え泳がず would mean?

7. Translate the following into either English or Modern Japanese.


8. Translate the following into either English or Modern Japanese.


9. Translate the following into Modern Japanese.