Apr 16, 2012

Grammar Hammer: May the Odds Be *Ever* in Your Favor

Photo used under the Creative Commons License.

Even if you’ve never read the books or seen the movies, you’ve probably heard something about “The Hunger Games” series by now.

But for those of you who have been living under a rock, I’ll sum it up quickly: The story, written by young-adult novelist Suzanne Collins, takes place in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world controlled by a totalitarian regime. Every year this regime randomly chooses one male and female teenager from each of its 12 “districts” to participate in a fight to the death against one another, as punishment for a past revolt. The story is narrated by the protagonist Katniss Everdeen, a bold, no-holds-barred underdog who is forced to partake in the game, and ends up dominating with bow and arrow.

So, the story can be categorized with “Lord of the Flies” or “Battle Royale,” or even “Logan’s Run,” if you’re sufficiently devoted to the ’70s to have seen that awesomely bad movie from that decade.

The now famous and always ominous tagline from “The Hunger Games,” frequently said in a sadistic tone by members of the ruling regime to the poor souls forced into in the games, is “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Of course the sentiment behind this expressed concern is, at best, doubtful, but the point here is their use of the word “ever.” What type of word is “ever“?

Ever” is an adverb. Adverbs are words that most commonly modify verbs, usually by adding details about the time, frequency, degree or manner of the action. But, according to your sixth grade English teacher, as well as Anne Stilman in her book, “Grammatically Correct,” adverbs can also modify “adjectives, participles (verb forms acting as adjectives) and other adverbs.”

Adverbs are often recognized by their common -ly endings, such as absolutely, blissfully, colorfully, delightfully, extremely. The -ly ending is a dead giveaway that you’re dealing with an adverb.

  • Katniss hid quietly in the trees with her bow ready, waiting for the boy to approach.
  • Peeta stared longingly at Katniss, wondering if she’d ever realize his feelings for her were real.

However, there are other adverbs, including “ever,” that do not end in -ly. For example: yesterday, afterward, almost, often, never.

  • People from the Capitol weren’t used to the harsh nature of life, as they were fed often there.
  • Rue almost survived.

To determine if a word is an adverb, ask yourself if it modifies another word. Yes? Then does it answer one of these questions: How? In what way? When? Where? To what extent?

The difference between adjectives and adverbs can be confusing. Adjectives modify nouns, unlike adverbs (most of the time). Generally adjectives answer one of these questions: Which? What kind of? How many?

Here are some examples to illustrate the difference:

  • Katniss did a good job. [adjective]
  • Katniss did the job well. [adverb]
  • Rue was beautiful. [adjective]
  • Rue sang beautifully. [adverb]

OK, it’s pop quiz time. What does the adverb “ever” modify in the phrase “May the odds be ever in your favor“?

Author note: Via this column, we’ll explore one grammar rule each week. If you have a grammar question you’d like me to address, please drop me a line at grace.lavigne@prnewswire.com and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Written by Grace Lavigne, senior editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. Grammar Hammer is published weekly on ProfNet Connect, a free social networking site for communicators. To read more from Grace, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.


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