Can verb+adjective complement be freely inverted into adverb+adjective?

For example:

  • Something seems beautiful.
  • It’s something seemingly beautiful.

  • Something looks special.
  • It’s something visually special.
  • Yes, that's fine but it may not always work.
    – Lambie
    Jul 4 at 13:59
  • 1
    @Lambie: How is that fine? The first sentence is OK, the second one implies the speaker is uncertain./// The third one is fine but the fourth one sounds weirdly special! I don't think those constructions could be used interchangeably.
    – Void
    Jul 4 at 14:06
  • Also, the last sentence means something is special only in appearance, whereas in the third one it could be special for a number of things.
    – Void
    Jul 4 at 14:13
  • appearance can be seeming or not.
    – Lambie
    Jul 4 at 14:38
  • No, they can't. Also, nobody says visually special. Jul 4 at 22:57

@FeliniusRex, both of your notions do not hold when indexing the constructions' usages via ngrams. I can find many instances of "seemingly beautiful" and "visually special". It is instantly intelligible, and I do not even find it to be idiomatic. I regularly use such constructs.

Not only do people say things such as visually special, but OP's constructional group is also quite freely interchangeable in English.

Saying "to seem beautiful" is essentially equivalent to saying "to be seemingly beautiful" when you analyze the adverb (seemingly) to be modifying the copula (to be) in the sentence, rather than the adverb modifying the adjective (beautiful), this is all an aspect of the English equivalent of the mediopassive voice, IIRC.

When we use constructions whereby we use a predicative adjective like this:

Something looks (to be) special.

It's obviously in stark contrast to the sense of the word look when we say something like:

Something looks at me every time I walk over there.

It's because when we say "it looks ..." but it is not actually looking, we are actually just using "looks" to predicate the adjective onto the subject.

If X looks Y or X looks like Y, we can ALMOST ALWAYS construct the statement that "X is Y-looking". The aforementioned construction is pervasive.

So, thereby the following changes occur,

Something looks (to be) special.

Something is special-looking.

Something is visually special.

Here is the cursed construction, which fills in the only hole in the pattern, which also meshes well with OP's usage of "visually special":

Something is lookingly special.


It seems (to be) beautiful.

It is beautiful-seeming.

It is seemingly beautiful.

  • Note: constructions like "to be seemingly beautiful" can be further clarified by splitting the infinitive. "To seemingly be beautiful" is not ungrammatical, don't let the Latin-grammar-adhering pedagogues of yore tell you how to English. Jul 5 at 14:19

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