The Quick Answer
What Is an Adverb?An adverb is a word used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. For example:
- She swims quickly. (Here, the adverb quickly modifies the verb swims.)
- She swims extremelyquickly. (Here, the adverb extremely modifies the adverb quickly.)
- She is an extremely quick swimmer. (Here, the adverb extremely modifies the adjective quick.)
- How: He ran quickly.
- When: He ran yesterday.
- Where: He ran here.
- In what manner: He ran barefoot.
- To what extent: He ran fastest.
- How: He ran at 10 miles per hour.
- When: He ran when the police arrived.
- Where: He ran to the shops.
- In what manner: He ran like a man possessed.
- To what extent: He ran quicker than me.
What Is an Adverb?At school, you may have been told that adverbs end ly and modify verbs. That is all true, but adverbs are far more diverse than that description suggests.
Adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs. Although many adverbs end ly, lots do not (e.g., fast, never, well, very, most, least, more, less, now, far, and there).
Adverbs Modifying VerbsAn adverb that modifies a verb usually tells you when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent the action is performed. (NB: The ones that end ly are usually the ones that tell us how the action is performed, e.g., quickly, slowly, carefully, quietly.)
Here are some examples of adverbs modifying verbs:
- Anita placed the vase carefully on the shelf. (The word carefully is an adverb. It shows how the vase was placed.)
- Tara walks gracefully. (The word gracefully is an adverb. It modifies the verb to walk.)
- He runs fast. (The word fast is an adverb. It modifies the verb to run.)
- You can set your watch by him. He always leaves at 5 o'clock. (The word always is an adverb. It modifies the verb to leave.)
- The dinner guests arrived early. (Here, early modifies to arrive.)
- She sometimes helps us. (Here, sometimes modifies to help.)
- I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly. (Oscar Wilde) (Here, thoroughly modifies to know.)
Adverbs Modifying AdjectivesIf you examine the word adverb, you could be forgiven for thinking adverbs only modify verbs (i.e., add to verbs), but adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs. Here are some examples of adverbs modifying adjectives:
- The horridly grotesque gargoyle was undamaged by the debris. (The adverb horridly modifies the adjective grotesque.)
- Peter had an extremely ashen face. (The adverb extremely modifies the adjective ashen.)
- Badly trained dogs that fail the test will become pets. (The adverb badly modifies the adjective trained.)
- She wore a beautifully designed dress. (The adverb beautifully modifies the adjective designed.)
(Note: The adjective trained is an adjective formed from the verb to train. It is called a participle.)
Adverbs Modifying AdverbsHere are some examples of adverbs modifying adverbs:
- Peter Jackson finished his assignment remarkablyquickly. (The adverb quickly modifies the verb to finish. The adverb remarkably modifies the adverb quickly.)
Different Types of AdverbsAlthough there are thousands of adverbs, each one can usually be categorized in one of the following groupings:
Adverbs of TimeAn adverb of time tells us when an action occurs. For example:
- Press the button now.
- I have never been.
- I tell him daily.
- I tell him on a daily basis. (Remember, an adverb can be more than one word. Here, the adverb is a prepositional phrase.)
Read more about adverbial clauses.
Adverbs of PlaceAn adverb of place tells us where an action occurs. For example:
- Daisies grow everywhere.
- I did not put it there.
- I did not put it in the box. (Remember, an adverb can be more than one word.)
Adverbs of MannerAn adverb of manner tells us how an action occurs. For example:
- He passed the re-sit easily.
- The lion crawled stealthily.
- The lion crawled like an escaped convict.
Adverbs of DegreeAn adverb of degree tells us to what degree action occurs. For example:
- That is the farthest I have ever jumped.
- He boxed more cleverly.
The adverb categories above are relatively simple. The next adverb categories are a little more complicated:
Adverbs of ConditionAn adverb of condition tells us the condition needed before the main idea comes into effect. (An adverb of condition often starts with if or unless. For example:
- If it rains, the party will be ruined.
- I will not talk unless you apologize.
Adverbs of ConcessionAn adverb of concession contrasts with the main idea. An adverb of concession often starts with a subordinating conjunction like though, although, even though, while, whereas, and even if. For example:
- Although her face is an odd shape, she is undoubtedly beautiful.
- A loud voice cannot compete with a clear voice, even if it's a whisper. (Barry Neil Kaufman)
Adverbs of ReasonAn adverb of reason gives a reason for the main idea. An adverb of reason usually starts with a subordinating conjunctions like as, because, given, or since. For example:
- Given today's strong tide, you should expect a tough swim.
- I don't have a bank account because I don't know my mother's maiden name. (Paula Poundstone).
Take another test on adverbs.
Grammar Hunter!Your scorecard:
Common Questions on AdverbsWhen an adverb modifies an adjective, there is no need to join the two with a hyphen. For example:
- Thomas was a highly respected member of the team. (There is no need to join the adverb highly to the adjective respected with a hyphen.)
- She passed him the most crimson apple in the basket. (There is no need to join the adverb most to the adjective crimson with a hyphen. Incidentally, most is an adverb of degree.)
- Dawn was an exceptionally-talented teenager. (There is no need to join the adverb exceptionally to the adjective talented with a hyphen.)
should be "neatly arranged"
Well and FastWith words like well and fast (which are both adjectives and adverbs), a hyphen can be used to avoid ambiguity. For example:
- We will be visited by a well-known actress. (In this example, a hyphen is added to differentiate between well-known (i.e., a widely known actress) and well and known (i.e., healthy and recognized actress). As unlikely as the latter may be, it is grammatically feasible. The hyphen eliminates all ambiguity.)
- He tried to sell me 200 fast-growing chickens. (A hyphen is added to differentiate between fast-growing (i.e., chickens which grow quickly) and fast and growing (i.e., chickens which are good runners and still growing). As unlikely as the latter may be, the hyphen eliminates all ambiguity.)
Use a Hyphen with WellThis simple rule will cover most situations:
When preceding an adjective with an adverb, only use a hyphen with well.
- It is a well-known play. (Use a hyphen with well.)
- It is a widely known play. (Do not use a hyphen with any other adverb.)
See Also...What are adverbial phrases?What are adverbial clauses?What are adjectives?What are conjunctions?What are interjections?What are nouns?What are prepositions?What are pronouns?What are verbs?
Kindly, slowly, here, often, and very are examples of adverbs. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. Modify means to add to or change the meaning of a word.
Spotting an Adverb
End in "-ly"
Many adverbs end in “-ly”. If you are not sure of the part of speech a word would be, and it ends with “-ly”, it is probably an adverb.
Other examples of adverbs would be words that describe how something was done or the manner in which it was done. These would be words like:
Tell Where Action Happened
Some adverbs tell the location of an action, or where it occurred. Adverbs like this would be:
Tell When Action Happened
Examples of adverbs that tell when an action occurred, or its time, include:
Tell the Extent of the Action
Adverbs can describe to what extent something was done or an action was executed, including:
View adverbs flashcards for more examples!
Adverbs Are Intensifiers
One function of adverbs is to intensify the meaning of the word it is modifying. It does this by putting more or less emphasis on the word, amplifying the meaning of the word, or toning down the feeling of the word.
Here are some sentences with the emphasizing adverb underlined:
- I really don’t care.
- He literally wrecked his car.
- I am certain of the facts, for sure.
- You simply don’t understand.
- I so want to go to the concert.
Sentences that amplify would be like:
- She completely rejected his proposal.
- I heartily endorsed the new restaurant.
- I so want that new toy.
- He completely understands me.
- I absolutely refuse to stay here any longer.
Adverbs and adverb phrases that tone down the feeling or mood would include:
- I sort of felt betrayed by you.
- You can improve on this to some extent.
- She kind of likes the movie.
- The boss almost quit his job after that.
- I somewhat understand what you are saying.
- She mildly disapproved of his actions.
Adverb phrases function like adverbs. They can tell when, how, where, and to what extent or purpose. Adverb phrases can start with a preposition.
Some examples of these are:
- With a hammer
- Next door
- Before the holidays
- Every month
- For his mother
Adverb phrases can also start with the infinitive form of a verb, like in these examples:
- To buy a car
- To support the team
- To show her mother
Here is a list of sentences with the adverb phrase underlined:
- He lived in the north of Germany.
- We went out today to buy a car.
- She went to the movies every month.
- I laughed every time he cracked a joke.
- It is kept where the students can read it.
- She looked for flowers to show her mother.
- He acts like he owns the place.
- I went to bed after I finished my homework.
- Please stay as long as possible.
- We cheered loudly to support the team.
An adverb or adverb phrase is a workhorse in the world of grammar, changing and enhancing the meaning of their partner verbs.