NOTE: I've heavily rephrased the original question in a last attempt to clarify it.

Background to the question

While studying Portuguese literature in secondary school, one learns several rhetorical devices, which include figures of speech and other devices. Within these 'other devices', one learns the 'double adverbiation' and the 'triple adverbiation' (to my knowledge, the term 'adverbiation' doesn't exist in English). These devices consist in using two / three adverbs in a row. The phrase typically includes an asyndeton and can further include a gradation. It was famously used by the Portuguese writer Eça de Queirós, in the 19th century, and it is yet to lose its rhetorical punch.

When students are requested to write short fictional or non-fictional texts, they are often encouraged (if they have a good teacher) to use at least a few rhetorical devices, whether figures or not.

Examples of the double and triple adverbiation:

John breathed deeply, voluptuosly.

Annabel smiled rigidly, frigidly, listlessly.

I personaly use adverbiation while writing in Portuguese. When I started writing in English, I found the triple adverbiation sounded odd, but kept using the double one. My beta at the time (no literature studies or knowledge of rhetorical devices besides the eventual 'comparison' and 'repetition of x') told me straight off not to use two adverbs in a row (and added the clichéd 'avoid adverbs as much as possible'). She said it would always sound wrong to have two -ly ending adverbs put together. Point taken.

Therefore, I may write...

Annabel speared the meat, fast and relentlessly.

But never...

Annabel speared the meat, quickly and relentlessly.

Another curiosity is that when I do use double adverbiation in English, the asyndeton often seems to disrupt the rhythm of the phrase, whereas it would strengthen the rhythm of a Portuguese sentence. So, again, the double adverbiation, when used in English, has different characteristics.


There are plenty of non-native English speakers who try their hand at writing a novel in English. Assuming that:

  1. they have a good control over rhetorical devices as they learnt them in their native language
  2. they are fluent speakers of English (even if some idioms and some advanced vocabulary may still elude them)
  3. they consciously use rhetorical devices in their English writing

Is there at least one specific rhetorical device in any language other than Portuguese that is not (usually) used in the English language?

I am not looking for solutions, since solutions are simply to, first, be aware of the pitfall and, secondly, get an English book explaining rhetorical devices and go through each one of them analysing the examples to see how they are similar and/or different to one's native language.

What I am looking for is at least one example as the triple adverbiation from other languages that not Portuguese so that I can use them in my 'writers' group' in order to widen one's cultural horizons.

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it revolves more around linguistics rather than wriitng Jan 31, 2017 at 16:48
  • @DanielCann: When I first started writing in English, I had been writing in Portuguese for years. I had great control of rhetorical devices and used them... and then, from my beta's reactions I realised some of them did not work in English the same way in Portuguese. My question is not about linguistics; it's about the use of a literary resource that can have serious pitfalls for non-English natives writing in English. Jan 31, 2017 at 17:01
  • @SaraCosta - if it gets closed, give it a try on ELU. I have asked about rhetorical devices there and gotten extremely helpful results. // I'm not sure exactly what you're asking. (I understand the background as you explained it.) Feb 1, 2017 at 5:03
  • 1
    IMHO Writers isn't the wrong place to ask; this is a writing question. It's just an incredibly broad one; literally listing all the subtle differences between two languages. Or, perhaps, a helpful guide to how one goes about identifying and learning, specifically. the nuances of a foreign language, or the nuances of writing in a foreign language. Sara- do you feel like these later options are near to your intention? "How do I learn the nuances of writing in a language that isn't my native one?"
    – Standback
    Feb 2, 2017 at 14:09
  • 1
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossary_of_rhetorical_terms has versions in German, French, Dutch, and Polish. A comparison of the lists in different languages should go a long way to answering that question.
    – user16226
    Feb 2, 2017 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


English does not have an allergy to adverbs. Bad writing teachers sometimes tell their students not to use adverbs, perhaps because they are not skilled enough to teach them to use them well.

Different cultures go through different stylistic periods. These are cultural phenomena more than linguistic. It is hard to say whether the difference you perceive between English and Portuguese is a linguistic one, a stylistic one, or perhaps simply one of idiom. Very often what readers identify as clumsy constructions as simply unidiomatic. They don't point to a general rule about such construction in general, only to the principle that one should write idiomatically. Idiom is one of the hardest things to learn in a language, so writing in a second language may well be not idiomatic even when it is completely fluent in every other way.

In any case, we should be very hesitant to add to the current stock of prohibitions in the lists of advice given to English writers. Most of the stupid things said about writing are simplistic prohibitions, every one of which can be disproven by examples from great writers.

In the end, you have to gain idiomatic fluency in both the language and culture you are writing for, and no list of simplistic prohibitions is going to get you there. It is not about memorizing a list of what not to do, but about developing an innate sense of what to do. That only comes through immersion in the culture and an attentive reading of its literature.

  • I do agree with you that the list of prohibitions (and, conversely, mandates) is ridiculously long... and it does seem to get longer with every passing year. Feb 2, 2017 at 12:52

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