How do you say the following adverbs in German?

  • Unfathomably
  • Senselessly
  • Terribly

My understanding is that one must add the suffix "lich" to make a word like unfathomable or senseless an adverb (unergründlich or sinnloslich).

I am trying to translate a quote from Franz Kafkas letters to Milena to its original German but I don't know if I have the right translation.

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    Would it not be easier to look up the original? – Gerhard May 2 '17 at 0:02
  • As with all such simplified construction rules, there are lots of exceptions. Btw., the suffix to append to for adverbs formed according to the pattern you mentioned is "-lich", not only "-ich" - might help when looking it up. But note that there are many adjectives that can be used as adverbs without change - "sinnlos" being one of them. – Hulk May 2 '17 at 5:14
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    Have you tried consulting a dictionary? – Hulk May 2 '17 at 5:40

In fact, most of the German adverbs are not built according to the rule you state. unergründlich is an adjective and already has the "adverb suffix" you state. In fact, a lot of German adjectives do. German is by far not as strict with adverbial use of adjectives as English, that strictly asks for a -ly suffix in adverbial use - In German, in a lot, if not most of places, you simply use the adjective unchanged.

Susan is careful.

Susan drives carefully.

while in German:

Susanne ist vorsichtig.

Susanne fährt vorsichtig.

You can see that vorsichtig is still an adjective in this adverbial usage because you can form comparative and superlative sentences like

Susanne fährt vorsichtiger als Hans.

(The main adverb/adjective distinction in German is: A pure adverb cannot form comparative or superlative).

A pure adverb is built from the adjective above like

Susanne fährt vorsichtigerweise langsam um die Kurve.

So - no "-lich" at all.

Note the build rule for vorsichtigerweise is by far not as common as adding the -ly suffix in English. It does somehow work for your examples, though:

Unergründlicherweise hat mir der Mann sein ganzes Geld gegeben. (unfathomably)

Sinnloserweise hat er die ganze Mühe auf sich genommen. (senselessly)


Das hat er aber sinnlos aufwendig ausgeführt (senselessly elaborate)

Schrecklicherweise sind alle Insassen ums Leben gekommen. (terribly)


Die Verunglückten wurden schrecklich verstümmelt (terribly as well)

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  • This is quite a made-up example, but wouldn't the superlative of vorsichtigerweise be vorsichtigsterweise? – Raketenolli May 2 '17 at 7:59
  • I'd rather consider this a made-up fault. What's the comparative, then? – tofro May 2 '17 at 8:03
  • I can't find one that sounds right. Now that I think about it, vorsichtigsterweise doesn't sound absolutely wrong in itself, but I can't really put it in your phrase: *Susanne fährt vorsichtigsterweise langsam um die Kurve. – Raketenolli May 2 '17 at 8:26
  • @Raketenolli, ich glaube dies mal gefragt zu haben: german.stackexchange.com/questions/11928/… – c.p. May 2 '17 at 10:53
  • @c.p. Nun ja, da geht es um Adjektivierungen von Nomen, und dass man solche wie blauäugig oder schwachsinnig (zumindest grammatisch) steigern kann, stand für mich außer Frage. Außerdem kann man die Frage stellen, ob bspw. mutig eine Adjektivierung oder einfach ein Adjektiv ist. Hier allerdings stellt sich die Frage der Steigerung oder zumindest der Superlativ-Bildung von Adverben. – Raketenolli May 2 '17 at 11:52

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