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I am learning English grammar. My teacher gave me this wordform exercise:

It was a terrible game. Our team played very ............. (IMAGINE)

My answer is unimaginably. But when I search the internet, many people say imaginary is the correct answer. I thought the suitable word should be an ADVERB. Could you explain why we need to use imaginary here instead of unimaginably or imaginarily?

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The correct form of imagine in this sentence would be unimaginatively.

The verb we are trying to modify with an adverb is “play”. “Imaginary” is an adjective that means that something is not real. One isn’t trying to say here that the “playing” had not actually occurred. It occurred, it was just bad. “Imaginable” is an English word, but I don’t think “imaginably” is. If it is, it is not appropriate in this sentence. The sense of the sentence is that the players played badly because they did not use their imaginations. They were unimaginative. They played without imagination. They played very unimaginatively.

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  • Can you explain more? Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 4:09
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    The verb we are trying to modify with an adverb is “play”. “Imaginary” is an adjective that means that something is not real. One isn’t trying to say here that the “playing” had not actually occurred. It occurred, it was just bad. “Imaginable” is an English word, but I don’t think “imaginably” is. If it is, it is not appropriate in this sentence. The sense of the sentence is that the players played badly because they did not use their imaginations. They were unimaginative. They played without imagination. They played very unimaginatively. Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 4:21
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Imaginary means something that's only in your imagination (and is therefore not real).

Unimaginable means something that cannot be a imagined -- opposite of imaginable. Example: "A hundred years ago, it would be unimaginable to be able to talk to someone in real time through a handheld device."

In case of your question, it should be unimaginably because your team played so bad that it couldn't be even imagined -- therefore unimaginably.

If you say the team played imaginarily, it would mean your team played only in imagination -- it would mean the team never played in real life!

I hope it helps.

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    "Our team played very unimaginably" sounds very strange. Firstly, one tends to use "unimaginably" with a qualifier rather than by itself, as it alone gives absolutely no clue about how the team played. A more natural use would be "our team played unimaginably poorly". Secondly, unimaginable is a rather black-and-white status, you either can imagine something or you can't - to describe something as "very unimaginable" sounds odd, like describing something as "very impossible" or "very absent". Commented Nov 30, 2021 at 15:45

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