July 28, 2014

Modal Auxiliaries


We interrupt our regularly scheduled lineup of grammar myth-busting and other lighthearted stuff to bring you some hardcore grammar. "Can," "could," "may," "might," and some other verbs are called modal auxiliaries and have some interesting properties you may have never noticed. Here's more ...

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Drive Safe vs Drive Safely: Another Flat Adverbs Question
Posted by June on July 28, 2014


I’ve written a lot about flat adverbs in the past. But the subject still generates a lot of reader questions. So it's always worth revisiting. Here's an e-mail I got recently on the subject, followed by my reply.

Hi June,

Just read your column in the Burbank Leader and I have a question.  I've been telling our chauffeurs to always "Drive safely" while others tell them to "Drive safe".  As an instinctive grammarian, I feel comfortable saying safely, but am I right?



Here's how I replied to Gary:

"Drive safely" is more proper. You use an adverb because you're actually modifying the action -- describing how the driving is to be done. (In other words, "drive" is not a linking verb. It's a garden-variety action verb.)

HOWEVER, there exist things call "flat adverbs" -- adverbs without the ly tail -- that are also acceptable. So "Drive safe" is arguably okay. Though personally, I don't recommend it in formal contexts. A lot of people think it's an error and so it may not be worth the grief!


June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

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