Duden lists inopportun and unangebracht as adjectives, but I want an adverb. How can I be sure that these can also be used as adverbs? For instance, would one say?

Ich schlief schlimm.

  • Wiktionary lists schlimm as an adverb so for that example you could just look it up. It's probably not applicable to schlafen, but I imagine it would be to schlagen.
    – RDBury
    Apr 16, 2021 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


Grammatically, you can generally use adjectives as adverbs, too.

A different question is whether the adjective is suitable to provide information that fits the verb you are using -- or any verb. As RDBury pointed out, there are adjectives like "sonstig" that just don't make sense as adverbs.

Examples for uses of inopportun and unangebracht as adverbs:

Die Maßnahmen der Bundesregierung schränken die Rechte der XYZ unangebracht ein.

Die ...-Fraktion äußerte sich im Bundestag zu diesem Thema inopportun und ohne eigene Vorschläge.

Your example

Ich schlief schlimm

is a good example of why I wrote that the adverb needs to fit the verb. It isn't very idiomatic, but not wrong either. You can use "schlimm" in that way, the sentence is grammatically correct, everyone would know what you mean, it would even sound original, but native speakers would probably use a different adverb just because we tend to stick to certain figures of speech, like in this case "schlecht schlafen".

  • 2
    There are, of course, some adjectives which can't be used as adverbs, typically when it just wouldn't make sense for the word to be used as an adverb. For example *sonstig * -- "other" can't be used as an adverb because the meaning, "otherly", would be nonsensical. I think there are also a few cases where there is an actual adverb which fits the purpose better than using the adjective, and the adjective is never used as an adverb in those cases as well.
    – RDBury
    Apr 16, 2021 at 14:26
  • PS. The reason you don't see the adverb meanings in German dictionaries is because it's pretty much implied.
    – RDBury
    Apr 16, 2021 at 14:30
  • This is exactly what I am trying to understand: that there are some adjectives that cannot be used as adverbs, but which ones? How do I come to know which ones? Is the answer that I simply must learn all the idioms, or is there somewhere where this issue is addressed per say?
    – user44591
    Apr 16, 2021 at 21:37
  • @user44591: There may be such a list but I don't think there would be much need for it; if it makes sense to use it as an adjective (think of adding -ly to the English translation) then it can be. You can probably count the exceptions on one hand. For your examples, "inopportunely" and "inappropriately" both exist in English, so it's reasonable to assume that you can use the corresponding German adjectives as adverbs. (I'd be hard pressed to use "inopportunely" in a sentence though.)
    – RDBury
    Apr 16, 2021 at 22:31

You are mixing up parts of speech and grammatical functions.

A word belongs to a certain part of speech, even if it stands alone, i.e. if it's not part of a sentence, for example when it's listed in a dictionary. »Der« is an article, »Mann« is a noun, »essen« is a verb, »schön« is an adjective etc.

But in sentences words or groups of words have grammatical functions, and these functions depend on the other words within the same sentence.

Adjectives can be used in three different grammatical functions:

  • as an attribute (»attributiv«)

    Das schnelle Auto fährt in die Stadt.

  • as part of the predicate (»prädikativ«)

    Das Auto ist schnell.

  • as an adverbial phrase (»adverbial«)

    Das Auto fährt schnell.

But there is another part of speech that can be adverbial:

Das Auto fährt vielleicht.

Words like »vielleicht« can not be used as attributes and can not be used as part of a predicate:

wrong: Das vielleicht Auto fährt in die Stadt.
wrong: Das Auto ist vielleicht.

And because this kind of words can only be used adverbial, they are called adverbs. But this doesn't mean, that only adverbs can be used adverbial. In adverbial usage you can have:

  • Adverbs

    Otto wartet vielleicht.

  • Adjectives

    Otto wartet ruhig.

  • prepositional phrases

    Otto wartet an der Haltestelle.

  • participles

    Otto wartet singend.

I'm not sure what you wanted to express in your German sentence, but I guess it's

I slept badly.

The construction you used was correct, but you used the wrong adjective in the adverbial function. It's not »schlimm« (which mainly means evil in the sense of being vicious), but »schlecht« (who's meaning is more like poor or uneasy).

So, a better version probably might be

Ich schlief schlecht.

or even better (in another tense):

Ich habe schlecht geschlafen.

The word »schlecht« still is an adjective (this is how it's classified in a dictionary), but it's grammatical function within the sentence is adverbial.

The words »inopportun« and »unangebracht« are both adjectives, and both of them can be used ...

  • attributive

Sein inopportunes Verhalten sorgt für Aufsehen.
Ihre unangebrachte Äußerung rief Empörung hervor.

  • predicative

Sein Verhalten war inopportun.
Ihre Äußerung war unangebracht.

  • adverbial

Er verhält sich inopportun.
Sie benimmt sich unangebracht.

  • Great comprehensive answer. "Part of speech" is such a confusing expression in English grammar though, and unsuitable for German. For example, "adjective" and "adverb" are definitely seen as different parts of speech, and "different" and "differently" are seen as two different parts of speech, so imo it doesn't even really make that much sense to say "You are mixing up parts of speech and grammatical functions" here. "Wortart" (word category) and "Satzglied" (what you call grammatical functions) are so much more concise when speaking about German grammar.
    – HalvarF
    Apr 16, 2021 at 17:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.