Definition of sentence adverb in US English:

sentence adverb


  • An adverb or adverbial phrase that expresses a writer's or speaker's attitude to the content of the sentence in which it occurs (such as frankly, obviously), or places the sentence in a particular context (such as technically, politically).

    • ‘A conjunctive adverb frequently functions as a sentence adverb, but it also has a "joining" (conjunctive) quality that points back toward the preceding clause or sentence.’
    • ‘For decades now self-appointed grammar mavens have railed against the use of hopefully as a sentence adverb.’
    • ‘A good example of the unpredictable and often capricious nature of usage controversies is the current issue of hopefully as a sentence adverb.’
    • ‘Let me add that other clause elements (apart from sentence adverbs) can conclude a sentence.’


The traditional definition of an adverb is that it is a word that modifies the meaning of a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, as in, for example, he shook his head sadly. However, another important function of some adverbs is to comment on a whole sentence. For example, in the sentence sadly, he is rather overbearing, sadly expresses the speaker's attitude to what is being stated. Traditionalists take the view that the use of sentence adverbs is inherently suspect and that they should always be paraphrased, using wording such as it is sad that he is rather overbearing. A particular objection is raised to the sentence adverbs hopefully and thankfully, since they cannot be paraphrased in the usual way (see hopefully and thankfully). However, there is overwhelming evidence that such usages are well established and widely accepted in everyday speech and writing


sentence adverb