Compound Adverb

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In English grammar, a compound adverb is a construction in which one adverb is paired with another adverb (or sometimes with another part of speech). Together these words are used to modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or an entire clause.

Also called a compound modifiers, compound adverbs are sometimes written as one word (e.g., somewhere), sometimes as one hyphenated word (self-consciously), and sometimes as two words (inside out). Multi-word adverbs are commonly called adverbial phrases.

In the Oxford Modern English Grammar (2011), Bas Aarts notes that "English allows a great variety of compounds" and "not everyone agrees exactly on how to delimit the class of compounds."


  • "I came every day to see him, neglecting my other students and therefore my livelihood."(Bernard Malamud, "The German Refugee." The Saturday Evening Post, 1964)
  • "Therefore is a compound adverb that has the largest number of occurrences in the Helsinki Corpus... Along with therefore, thereupon is the only other compound adverb that emerges in Middle English but continues into [​Modern English] and up to the present day." (Aune Osterman, "There Compounds in the History of English."Grammaticalization at Work, ed. by Matti Rissanen et al. Walter de Gruyter, 1997)
  • "Instead of ordering an immediate pursuit of the Confederate forces, McClellan waited overnight, and then timidly headed west to South Mountain, still believing that Lee's dirty, hungry, and tired army heavily outnumbered his Union force." (Ed Okonowicz, The Big Book of Maryland Ghost Stories. Stackpole,& 2010)
  • "Emerson made no distinction between honest and dishonest methods of getting the bicycle. Sometimes he would discuss plans for deceiving the owner of the hardware store, who would somehow be maneuvered into sending it to him by mistake, and sometimes it was to be his reward for a deed of heroism. Sometimes he spoke of a glass-cutter." (Elizabeth Bishop, "The Farmer's Children." Harper's Bazaar, 1949)
  • "Each of the career military pilots was a graduate of his respective test pilot school, while the NASA pilots were trained in-house." (Milton O. Thompson, At the Edge of Space: The X-15 Flight Program. Smithsonian, 2013)
  • "Billy spoke off-line, then came back on. 'Leslie will meet you with one at the airplane.'" (Tom Wilson, Final Thunder. Signet, 1996)
  • "There was a time, however, and not too many years ago, when the average plastic worm fisherman wasn't so all-fired certain that a sudden move was the best move." (Art Reid, Fishing Southern Illinois. Southern Illinois University Press, 1986)
  • "[Paul Nitze] tried to halt the Korean War and then helped stop it from spreading. He tried, early on, to extricate the United States from Vietnam." (Nicholas Thompson, The Hawk and the Dove: Paul Nitze, George Kennan, and the History of the Cold War. Henry Holt, 2009)
  • "We went to a restaurant, and I behaved very well, but I couldn't eat, and then we went to the train and people looked at us, but I couldn't smile." (Harold Brodkey, "Verona: A Young Woman Speaks." Esquire, 1978)
  • "The worst of it was it got so hot. That was a bad time for me I tell you. I got pretty thirsty. I don't know how I kept on that piece of board but I did, for three days. I got sunburnt, I tell you, pretty badly. The last day I don't remember anything." (William Carlos Williams, White Mule, 1937)
  • "I amused Emily; I almost always made her smile." (Alice Adams, "Roses, Rhododendron." The New Yorker, 1976)
  • "He addressed a small statue of a saint which stood upside down on the washstand, propped in this uncomfortable position between tooth mug and soap dish." (Lyle Saxon, Fabulous New Orleans, 1939)
  • "He seemed to have a lot of luck—but why not, sometimes you did have luck, and he had felt all along that this leave was going to be wonderful." (Martha Gellhorn, "Miami-New York." The Atlantic Monthly, 1948)
  • "Cato was calling out, over and over, 'Now the ship is sinking inch by inch! Now the ship is sinking inch by inch!" (Elizabeth Bishop, "The Farmer's Children." Harper's Bazaar, 1949)
  • "Quite instructively, Menno Kamminga has made the important point that the European system has performed quite poorly when faced with situations of egregious violations of human rights." (Obiora Chinedu Okafor, The African Human Rights System, Activist Forces and International Institutions. Cambridge University Press, 2007)

Formal Compounds

"Several compound adverbs that can be classed in (iii) [i.e., temporal ordering subsequent to a given time reference] are found only in certain formal varieties of contemporary English: henceforth, henceforward, hereupon, thenceforward, thereafter, thereupon, whereupon." (Randolph Quirk et al., A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, 2nd ed. Longman, 1985)

A Minor Category

"[C]ompound adverbs are not very numerous in Present-day English. Some of them are morphologically opaque historical relics, such as the negative operator NOT, which goes back to the Old English noun phrase NAWHIT. It is questionable whether compounding with WHERE, THERE and HERE is still productive today. Many compound adverbs have become polyfunctional as a result of secondary grammaticalization. Many have also reduced their functional load in the course of time, including the conjuncts HOWEVER and THEREFORE..." (Matti Rissanen, Introduction. Grammaticalization at Work, ed. by Matti Rissanen, Merja Kytö, and Kirsi Heikkonen. Walter de Gruyter, 1997)

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Nordquist, Richard. "Compound Adverb." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). Compound Adverb. Retrieved from Nordquist, Richard. "Compound Adverb." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 8, 2023).