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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Apr 19th, 2007, 08:53 pm
emile's Avatar
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Default Adverb or not?

Hi all,

A visitor to my website has been arguing with me that 'fast' should not be used as an adverb, and that to do so is colloquial and incorrect.

As far as I can tell, this is not true.

Do you think 'fast' is an adverb or should only 'quickly' be used?
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Unread Apr 19th, 2007, 10:38 pm
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

Since when does colloquial = incorrect?

I say it's fine, but frowned upon by the grammar police. I don't think most people would find anything wrong with something like "That car went fast."

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Last edited by DaveESL : Apr 21st, 2007 at 03:14 am.
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Unread Apr 20th, 2007, 12:45 am
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

fast is absolutely correct. It's an irregular adverb in the sense that it doesn't finish with -ly (eg slow\slowly nice\nicely), but an adverb nevertheless.

'She runs very fast' is actually better than 'she runs very quickly' (as far as my ear is concerned).
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Unread Apr 20th, 2007, 01:17 am
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

According to my grammar book " fast " is an adjective and an adverb.
As an adverb it is a synonyme of quickly. But like Dave I've always said : Oh look, the car is running fast! ( like my English friends !! as it is not my native language )
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Unread Dec 23rd, 2011, 10:27 pm
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

Doesn't it depend on context? For example "she learns very fast" isn't good English, but "she runs very fast" is commonly used in spoken English. You can say "She is a fast learner" or "she learns very quickly"
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Unread Dec 30th, 2011, 05:11 am
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

She learns very fast is perfectly good English. Fast can function both as an adverb or adjective, just as chair can function both as a noun and a verb, and out as a preposition or adverb. It´s normal for words to have more than one function.

There´s nothing "colloquial" about it, either. Here are some authentic examples taken from formal, written texts :

... Siberia was also fast developing into a haven and a land of freedom
... rising prices of bread, milk and meat will worsen the already fast declining living standards of the population
... Unemployment has fallen in the county, although not as fast as in other parts of the region,
... my pleas for help were not heeded. I ran as fast as I dared along the Tottenham Court Road.
... With the West German economy growing fast already, the impetus from the East German migration...


I don´t know where this idea came from, but if the argument that fast isn´t an adverb (or more precisely an adverb of manner) is based on the argument that it doesn´t end in -ly, then this is irrelevant. There are several adverbs of manner which are not formed with -ly eg well, hard, late, straight - and several adjectives which are - eg friendly, likely, lively, lonely, lowly, .
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Last edited by susan53 : Jan 5th, 2012 at 05:42 am.
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Unread Dec 31st, 2011, 02:10 am
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

I think the confusion comes from the way that the students are tested when learning English as a foreign language. If they stick to the general rule of using fast as an adjective and quickly as an adverb, they are unlikely to make a mistake. Although fast CAN be used as both an adjective and an adverb, it is not ALWAYS the case, so if a student is learning academic English in order to pass exams, they are often encouraged to stick to this rule.
For example, in the following gap-fill exercise:
Sometimes an allergy can disappear as ____________ as it arrived, without any treatment.
The answer key only mentions "quickly/suddenly".
"Fast" would be incorrect.
Even if "disappear as fast" sounds perfectly acceptable to some native English speakers, this information is not very helpful to a foreign student who is trying to pass an exam.
I guess the best advice to give is that "fast" can be both an adverb and an adjective, but when in doubt, use "quickly".
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Unread Jan 5th, 2012, 05:35 am
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Default Re: Adverb or not?

You've raised a different issue here - that of variety of English. You said that the learners were taking an EAP course, so this is presumably medical English - which may well have different characteristics from other varieties.

If this were not medical English but just eg an article on allergies in a magazine fast would be fine as a collocation with disappear. Here are some authentic examples :

... the money was disappearing as fast as we replenished it
The strength in the US Dollar, an illusion revealed by the global strength in gold, will disappear as fast as it materialized
The white sandy beaches could disappear as fast as the reefs.

and even...
... allergy can disappear as fast as it emerges
Make Your Allergies Disappear Fast


When I checked a medical English corpus however, I couldn't find any examples of fast used as an adverb, though there were a lot for the comparative, faster, eg :

..with liquids emptying faster than normal and solids being retained in the stomach
incidence and mortality of prostate cancer are increasing faster than can be attributed simply to ...
Gallo noted that virus replicated faster in an activated cell where deoxyribonucleotides



There were a number of examples of quickly. Looking at the examples reporting research (as opposed to medical management) it was clear that the adverb is often used to premodify rather than postmodify the verb it relates to - eg :

This needs emphasising to patients, as some on diet alone quickly learn that ...

rather than "learn quickly that"...

Some other examples :
HBV - DNA disappeared from the serum but quickly reappeared after discontinuation of therapy,
...muscular tissue layers were then separated by quickly pulling the two slides apart.


The preference of to premodify rather than postmodify is common in more formal varieties of English and can at least partially explain why fast is not used : fast can only postmodify and therefore would be grammatically impossible here.

It doesn't explain though why it would not be used in an as...as construction, as in the original example. However, even with quickly, there are only two examples in the whole of the 1.4 million word corpus, so it could be just chance.

I suspect that another reason for the preference for quickly is that, when used as an adverb of manner, fast sometimes has a connotation of urgency. Compare for example :
You need to decide fast/quickly
Fast (to me at least) here conveys a rather dramatic tone which would be out of place in a medical paper, or in academic style in general, and therefore quickly might well be preferred.

The advice to always use quickly would sometimes work It's often an alternative and is sometimes the most likely choice even in general purpose English - eg in
The girl looked around quickly at several of the people.
.. half a minute later a cloaked figure came quickly out of the Garden Tower's entrance
.
However, it could also lead the students into error. There are a lot of situations where they are not alternatives : eg fast rather than quickly is generally used to modify a present participle and create a compound adjective - eg a fast-approaching deadline / the already fast-declining living standards of the population.

At an advanced level (which I presume your students are, if they're studying EAP), it is aspects such as connotation, collocation, and syntactic choice connected with specific varieties of English that the students need to know. Basic definitions of meaning and "play safe" rules (which can be very useful at lower levels) are no longer enough.
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