An introduction to adverbs
Adverbs qualify individual verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They can also qualify whole sentences. In everyday Dutch, adverbs do not decline, i.e. there are no adverbial endings and many adverbs look just like an adjective. (In a formal register an ending is occasionally used with a limited number of specific adverbs.)
De winnaar van de Tour de France heeft hard moeten fietsen.
The Tour de France winner has had to cycle fast.
De winnaar van de Tour de France heeft heel hard moeten fietsen.
The Tour de France winner has had to cycle very fast.
Gisteren was het een heel warme dag.
Yesterday was a very warm day.
Heel is a so-called reinforcing adverb and is very common. Another common reinforcing adverb is erg. When they reinforce an adjective, as in the above sentence, these two adverbs have a tendency to decline along with the adjective, according to the same pattern as normal adjectival endings (so the adverb does not decline when the following noun is an indefinite het-word). However, this only happens in informal speech.
Gisteren was het een hele/erge warme dag. (dag is a de-word)
Gisteren was het heel erg lekker weer. (weer is a het-word)
Yesterday the weather was very, very nice.
In the following sentence the adverb gelukkig qualifies the whole sentence. From the example it is also clear that Dutch adverbs do not decline, unlike many English adverbs. In the English translation the adverb carries the ending -ly, which is a common adverbial marker in English.
Gelukkig regent het vandaag niet.
Fortunately, it isn’t raining today.
It is uncommon for new adverbs to enter the Dutch language, but when they do, they tend to be adverbs of manner that have been given the ending –jes. This ending has a similar effect as the formation of diminutives in nouns. A Dutch author who has added a number of these to the Dutch language is Louis Couperus:
We zullen … hem … netjes leggen op de grond, met beide schoudertjes op zijn tapijtje, zonder hem pijn te doen, heel voorzichtigjes weg.
We will put him neatly on the ground, with both shoulders on his small rug, without hurting him, very carefully.
In the text above, the adverb netjes provides an example of the established diminutised form of the adverb net (‘neat, tidy’). Voorzichtigjes, however, is not a common form at all. Other such adverbs that are already quite common, are warmpjes (‘nice and warm’) and gezelligjes (‘nice and cosy’).