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This question leaped to my mind after reading the definition of basis, especially in this sense:

on a … basis the way things are organized or arranged; how often something happens (1).

In relation to the first sense, i.e. the way things are organized or arranged, the first thing that appears in my mind is adverbs. I was always taught by my teachers that adverbs, especially that modify verbs can be thought as 'the way we do something' (The italicized phrase is roughly the same translation said by my teachers in our native language).

For instance:

All members of the committee work voluntarily.

Notice that voluntarily is an adverb. And as what my teacher taught me, it can be thought as all members of the committee do their work with voluntary. (Please note, although it may sound unnatural, this is used to understand how advebs work, not the literal usage. We don't say this sentence, but the my teachers use this to help me to understand.)

Anyway, back to my question, if my understanding is correct, then voluntarily can be replaced by:

All members of the committee work on a voluntary basis.

As I said in the title, I assume some adverbs that modify adjectives can be treated like this. I mean, any adverbs that have the same sense of (1). Is my assumption correct?

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  • Why downvote? Is there any reason? Explain yourself! It will help me to improve my questions in the future.
    – user516076
    Oct 18, 2021 at 1:11
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    adverbs, especially that modify adjectives can be thought as 'the way we do something' - in contrast it's adverbs that modify verbs that express the way we do something. Adverbs that modify adjectives express the precise quality of an attribute, such as "unconventionally beautiful" where "unconventionally" modifies "beautiful" to provide a more precise definition of appearance (nothing to do with how anyone does anything).
    – Stuart F
    Oct 18, 2021 at 8:51

1 Answer 1

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In your example, it is correct and perfectly idiomatic. In fact, it adds something to the sentence, as "on a voluntary basis" sounds more organised than "voluntarily", and you would expect work to be organised.

However, I would not agree that we can make this substitution 'in general'. In fact, structures like this can be overused by individuals and become irritating once noticed.

There are adverbs where it would subtract meaning from what was being said by over-formalising it. For example, "I love you unconditionally" would not sound quite so romantic if you said "I love you on an unconditional basis".

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