Are words ending in -ly adverbs?

Adverbs often end in -ly. But the word friendly is not an adverb, is it? A friendly advice is incorrect, but a friendly person is correct. Is the word friendly very unusual or are there many non-adverbs ending in -ly?


This is fundamentally a historical question, and if asked on ELU would deserve a very long and interesting answer. Here I will offer only so much history as might help a learner avoid confusion.

The -ly ending on adjectives descends from an Old English suffix -lic which was very often employed to turn a noun into an adjective. Consequently there are many adjectives today which have the -ly suffix: manly, womanly, daily, kingly, cowardly, to name only a very few in addition to your friendly.

This use declined in Early Modern English, and today it is no longer ‘productive’—that is, we no longer employ the ending to create adjectives. (Today we mostly use the -ish or -like or -y suffixes, or just use the bare noun as an adjective, or create an adjective from Greek or Latin roots.)

The -ly ending on adverbs descends from a very similar OE suffix -lice. When the adjective -ly fell into disuse, the adverbial -ly had the field to itself. Well into EModE, however, it was more usual to use the unmodified adjective in an adverbial sense. In the 17th and 18th century, however, there was a strong movement towards rationalizing the written language; and at this time the -ly ending became what it is today, the standard and almost universal way of distinguishing an adverb from its corresponding adjective.

Source : Link , Question Author : gerrit , Answer Author : StoneyB on hiatus

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