Adverbs are not inflected in Proto-Germanic, but they may have comparative and superlative degrees. They are often derived from adjectives, but there are also many adverbs that stand alone and are not derived, especially those indicating place.
Many adverbs could also be used as prepositions, and vice-versa. The distinction between them was not always clear. Therefore, most of what is explained here also applies to the formation of prepositions.
Derivation from adjectives
Adverbs could be formed from adjectives in several ways.
- With the suffixes *-ô or *-ê. It's not clear what the difference between the two varieties was. They remained productive in all older daughter languages, although usually only one of the two survived (Gothic still had both, Old Norse had a single suffix that could have descended from either).
- By using the adjective in the masculine/neuter genitive singular, productive in all daughters to a degree.
- By using the adjective in the neuter accusative singular, which became very productive in Old Norse.
- With a suffix *-b- which is not reconstructible. It is found only in Gothic.
Adverbs of place and time
A complex system of adverbs denoting place and time existed in Proto-Germanic. Such adverbs were generally formed from a base root, such as demonstratives and interrogatives (*þa-, *alja-, *hwa-), but also from existing adverbs.
- *-r - stationary location
- *-anē - motion from a place
- *-þrô - motion from a place
- *-i, *-ai - stationary location (from the dative case, originally the locative)
- *-n - time, stationary place (possibly an old accusative ending)
- *-þ - *-d - motion toward a place
- *-drê - motion toward a place
Proto-Germanic had a system of directional adverbs formed from prepositions, usually with a nasal suffix. These directional adverbs each bore specific meaning:
- allative: "to (somewhere)";
- locative: "at/by (somewhere)"
- ablative: "from (somewhere)"
|*in ("in")||*inn, ("into")||*innai, ("within")||*innanē, ("from within")|
|*ub, ("up, above")||*upp, ("upward")||*uppai, ("above")||*ubanē, ("from above")|
|*uz, ("out of")||*ūt, ("outward")||*ūtai, ("without")||*ūtanē, ("from without")|
Like adjectives, Germanic adverbs could have a comparative and superlative form. They were formed similarly to those of adjectives. In general, a comparative or superlative adjective could be formed simply by dropping the case suffix: the comparative ended in -iz or -ōz, and the superlative in -ist(a) or -ōst(a). For adverb comparatives that did not derive from adjectives, the suffixes -iz and -ist(a) seem to have been the only ones in use. There were also several other suffixes which had specific uses and seemed to have become unproductive already in Germanic.
Adverbs, like adjectives, sometimes had comparative and superlative forms that were formed from different roots. In most cases, however, there is no corresponding positive degree, but the other two degrees are parallel to the corresponding adjectives.
|*wela (“well”)||*batiz (“better”)||*batist (“best”)|
|"badly"||*wirsiz (“worse”)||*wirsist (“worst”)|
|"greatly, much, frequently"||*maiz (“more”)||*maist (“most”)|
|"little, seldom"||*minniz (“less”)||*minnist (“least”)|
|*laisiz (“less”)||*laisist (“least”)|