Adverbs – Types, Examples & Using Them Correctly

04.10.23 Language rules Time to read: 16min

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Adverbs-01

Adverbs are essential to English grammar, functioning as adaptable modifiers that can change the meaning of other parts of speech. They also add nuanced layers to “how,” “where,” “when,” and “to what extent” questions for more clarity and emphasis. Understanding their function and positioning them is crucial for mastering the subtleties of language rules, as they can significantly alter sentence structure and meaning.

Adverbs in a nutshell

Adverbs define words or a group of words that modify other parts of speech or even whole sentences to give additional significant meaning to qualities, actions, or conditions. They typically answer the questions “how,” “where,” “when,” “why,” or “to what degree” of something occurring or happening.

Definition: Adverbs

The word derives from the two syllables: “ad” + “verbum,” originating from the Latin word “adverbium.” Its etymology has the litreal meaning of a “word added to a verb” and acts as a modifier. Although the definition explicitly states that a verb is modified, other parts of speech like adjectives, phrases, or entyre sentences can also be modified by providing additional information about the manner, frequency, time, place, and degree of something happening.

Adverbs often have the distinctive characteristic of ending with “-ly.” This, however, is not a set rule that helps recognise them, as there are exceptions, where they take on the same form as their adjective counterparts, as well as, some adjectives ending with “-ly.”

Examples

Parts of speech Examples
Verbs
  • He always comes late.
  • She reacts fast.
  • She danced gracefully.
Adjectives
  • The lesson was really boring.
  • The child was very talented.
  • The food was incredibly salty.
Other adverbs
  • She grew rapidly fast.
  • It got dark very quickly.
  • He sings really beautifully.
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Examples of adverbs

The most common ones can again be allocated to a type of adverb, as shown in the list below.

Kinds of adverbs

Below, you find a list of the types, their functions, and the most common adverbs used respectively.

Adverbs of manner are a type of adverb that add information on how an action is executed.

Examples

  • Quickly
  • Slowly
  • Carefully
  • Loudly
  • Softly
  • Gently
  • Adverbs of frequency are a type of adverb that describe how often an action is performed, or if there is an indefinite frequency. Adverbs of frequency examples are:

Examples

  • Always
  • Never
  • Rarely
  • Sometimes
  • Often
  • Frequently
  • Adverbs of time are a type of adverb that indicate when or in what period of time an action or something happens. Adverbs of time examples are:

Examples

  • Yesterday
  • Soon
  • Now
  • Today
  • Later
  • Immediately
  • Adverbs of place, also referred to as spatial adverbs, are a type of adverb that inform about where something takes place.

Examples

  • Here
  • Anywhere
  • Inside
  • Near
  • Below
  • Over there
  • Adverbs of degree are a type of adverb that modify the extent or quality of other parts of speech.

Examples

  • Barely
  • Almost
  • Really
  • Very
  • Quite
  • Totally
  • Adverbs of probability are a type of adverb that indicate the likelibonnet of something happening.

Examples

  • Certainly
  • Definitely
  • Maybe
  • Possibly
  • Probably
  • Perhaps
  • Adverbs of emphasis are a type of adverb that intensify an expression.

Example

  • Just
  • Only
  • Even
  • Of course
  • Obviously
  • Absolutely

Modifying verbs

In most cases, adverbs add more information to verbs to enrich the context. In other words, they indicate how an action is executed or occurs.

Examples

  1. The audience clapped loudly in the arena.
  2. He visited his twin brother yesterday.
  3. They searched for the body everywhere.
  4. She barely made it to the meeting.

Here, the purpose is to create a more detailed and clearer understanding of the occurrence. Each example refers to a different type of adverb:

  1. Refers to manner, describing the volume of the clapping.
  2. Refers to time, describing the visiting took place yesterday.
  3. Refers to place, specifying where the search occurred.
  4. Refers to the degree, describing the extent of manageing to make it.

Linking verbs

Linking verbs refer to verbs that function as connections between the subject and the subject complement in a sentence. In other words, they link the subject to additional information to create a clearer image. The most commonly used linking verbs are “to be”, “to feel”, “to seem”, “to become”, and “to appear”.

Combining linking verbs and adverbs is often problematic in English grammar, as they have the foundational function of modifying action verbs rather than linking them. In this constellation, they typically modify different parts of the sentence rather than the linking verb itself. Linking verbs are typically modified by adjectives, as shown in the examples below:

Examples

She feels awfully about the accident.
She feels awful about the accident.

He seems sadly after the interview.
He seems sad after the interview.

In rare cases, adverbs of time or probability can modify linking verbs.

Examples

  • He is never happy with his performance.
  • She feels definitely ready for the exam.

Moreover, some verbs can function as action and linking verbs. Then, the focus should lie on the context.

 Examples

  • He feels certain.
  • He feels certainly reassured about his future.

Modifying adjectives

In the realm of the English language, adverbs and adjectives both pose modifiers, however, they differ in modifying different parts of speech and take on different functions within sentences. Adjectives modify pronouns and nouns by adding descriptions to their characteristics or qualities. Adverbial adjectives are mainly used to enhance or minimize the degree of something that is described.

Examples

  • The crowd was too large.
  • The test was quite easy.

Additionally, adverbs of probability are often used to modify adjectives.

Examples

  • The dog is definitely happy.
  • The train is probably late.

Adjectives are seldom modified in the context of frequency.

Examples

  • The psychologist is never sad.
  • The doctor is rarely sick.

Modifying other adverbs

Adverbs of degree are often used to modify other adverbs with the purpose of specifying or intensifying the extent to which an action is executed.

Examples

  • The girl hides very quickly.
  • He gets sick quite often.

Adverbs of probability are also often used for nuance and emphasis.

Examples

  • The professor’s predictions are almost always correct.
  • The plumber can certainly easily fix the water leak.

Furthermore, adverbs of frequency provide more specific information about the action being performed.

Examples

  • The grandma is always constantly telling stories.
  • My dad rarely frequently goes to the gym.

Adverbial phrases

Adverbial phrases consist of several words, but have the same function as adverbs. They also modify other parts of speech or even whole sentences and clauses by answering questions such as “how”, “when”, “where”, “why”, and “to what extent”.

Examples

For a better vision and understanding, take a look at the following examples of adverbial phrases. When adverbial phrases serve to modify verbs, they commonly answer the questions of manner, time, frequency, place, and degree or intensity.

Examples

  • She exercises really vigorously. (How?)
  • They practice the guitar in the afternoons. (When?)
  • The family lives in the suburbs of Paris. (Where?)
  • The clown fell to entertain the audience. (Why?)
  • The seed grew into a massive tree. (To what degree?)

Adverbial phrases can also be used to modify adjectives to intensify a described characteristic. However, differently from modifying verbs, an adverb must be included in the adverbial phrase to modify an adjective.

Examples

  • The ocean is incredibly dark blue.
  • The boy is outstandingly talented.
  • The movie was horrifically boring.

When an adverbial phrase modifies another adverb, it provides more emphasis or detail, whereby the meaning of the initial word is amplified.

Examples

  • They worked extremely effectively from home.
  • He spoke rarely too softly to not understand.
  • The newcomer swims surprisingly quickly.

Adverbial phrases can also modify entyre clauses or sentences for more detailed context, more specified tone, and emphasis.

Examples

  • To be completely honest, I never liked olives.
  • At the end of the day, we are better off without them.
  • After all, the project turned out to be a success.
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Adverbial clauses

Adverbial clauses, or adverb clauses, consist of a group of words and also function as modifiers for other parts of speech. The clause content always consists of a subject and a verb. In terms of their purpose, they also add information about manner, time, place, frequency, degree, etc., but have the distinct characteristic of frequently starting with a subordinate conjunction.

Examples

  • You handled the situation as if you were a professional. (Manner)
  • She left the ball when the clock struck twelve. (Time)
  • They looked for the body wherever they could. (Place)
  • He goes to the gym as often as he can possibly go. (Frequency)
  • Although he had an immense desire to stay, he left. (Degree)

Note: Adverb clauses starting with a subordinate conjunction are not always subordinate clauses!

Conjunctive adverbs

Conjunctive adverbs, also known as connective or coordinating adverbs, refer to phrases or words that operate as adverbial conjunctions connecting two independent clauses. Their purpose is to indicate the relationship between the clauses like cause-and-effect, contrast, sequence, etc. Common adverbial conjunction examples are:

Examples

  • Accordingly
  • Also
  • Conversely
  • Furthermore
  • Hence
  • However
  • Meanwhile
  • Moreover
  • Nevertheless
  • Nonetheless
  • Otherwise
  • Similarly
  • Therefore

Examples

The following will show different examples, containing adverbial conjunctions, that refer to different types of relationships between two independent clauses. They also help create a cohesive and coherent text flow. Usually, they are preceded by a semicolon and separated by commas.

Examples

  • Result aligning with statement:
    She had the highest score; accordingly, she was admitted to the university.
  • Additional information:
    The girl is athletically talented; also, she has a passion for gymnastics and ballet.
  • Contrast:
    The older generation prefers reading; conversely, the younger prefers audio books.
  • Additional Information:
    The magazine subscription is price-effective; furthermore, it’s available online.
  • Cause-and-effect:
    The storm destroyed the trails last night; hence, the trains were cancelled.
  • Contrast:
    She wanted to join her friends at the party; however, she had to finish studying.
  • Indicating simultaneous actions:
    He started mopping the floor; meanwhile, his wife started dusting the furniture.
  • Adding positive attributes:
    She is a great and creative artist; moreover, she is a talented musician and chef.
  • Contrast/Unexpected result:
    She was not feeling well; nevertheless, she finished the fitness course at the gym.
  • Contrast between condition and decision:
    It was snowing; nonetheless, they decided to walk to the supermarket.
  • Potential consequence of condition:
    Please get up earlier tomorrow; otherwise, we will miss our flight.
  • Similarity in preferences:
    He loves watching historical movies; similarly, his sister enjoys reading history books.
  • Cause-and-effect:
    He did not study for the theoretical test; therefore, he failed to get his license.

Relative adverbs

Relative adverbs typically introduce relative clauses in a sentence. Relative clauses are dependent clauses and usually contain additional details about a preceding noun. Similarly to adjectives, they describe nouns and add extra information to a sentence.

Examples

  • When
  • Where
  • Why

Examples

Here are more examples of the most common ones.

Examples

When:

  • 2019 was the year when I graduated from University.
  • Our anniversary is the day when we eat out at a restaurant.
  • Christmas is the time when we decorate the house.

Where:

  • The database is the source where you will find all the information.
  • Do you know the area where they sell second-hand clothes?
  • The lake in the suburbs is where I learned how to swim.

Why:

  • He never told us why he did not show up at the wedding.
  • This is the reason why I do not attend award shows.
  • We still don’t know why she did not come to the meeting.

Interrogative adverbs

Typically, interrogative adverbs introduce and determine the focus of a question. They are usually followed by an auxiliary verb and a subject and focus on aspects such as manner, time, place, reason, and the extent of something happening.

Examples

  • How is this possible? (Manner)
  • When will the festival take place? (Time)
  • Where is the arena? (Place)
  • Why is everybody sick? (Reason)
  • What time is it? (Extent)

Sentence adverbs

Adverbs that modify a whole sentence rather than phrases, clauses, or words, are called sentence adverbs (also sentence adverbials). They typically depict the tone of the intention of the narrator/speaker in a sentence, as well as, specify the meaning of the context.

Examples

  • Clearly, he has the right competencies for this job.
  • Frankly, I don’t condone his behaviour.
  • Generally, I am pleased with the University.
  • Hopefully, the weather will be sunny tomorrow.
  • Luckily, I brought my raincoat for the hike.
  • Obviously, you can’t go to work in your PJs.
  • Perhaps they should reconsider their trip.
  • Surprisingly, they met the deadline for the project.

While they are often placed at the start of a sentence, they can also be placed amidst or at the end.

Example

  • At the start: Honestly, I never liked her anyway.
  • In the middle: I, personally, think it’s a bad idea.
  • At the end: He hasn’t recovered from the flu, apparently.

Sentence adverbs modify entyre sentences, whereas regular adverbs used in sentences generally modify other parts of speech.

Example

  • Surprisingly, he dances.
  • He dances professionally.

Degrees of comparison

Similarly to adjectives, adverbs can also be presented in degrees of comparison. As they are used to modifying other parts of speech, the degrees of comparison also determine the level of manner, intensity, or quality of the occurring actions. There are three degrees of comparison:

Degrees of comparison Definition
Positive degree
  • Foundational form
  • Describes a single action
  • No comparison
Comparative degree
  • Second-degree form
  • Compares two actions
Superlative degree
  • Third-degree form
  • Compares three or more actions
  • Identifies the highest level of intensity

The base form describing only one action is the positive degree. In other words, a positive adverb does not compare, but describes. Below you can find examples of positive adverbs.

Examples

  • They made it easily.
  • She performed well.
  • He reacts quickly.

The second level is the comparative degree, which compares the extent of two actions. Adverbs that end in “-ly” preceded by the word “more” shape the comparative degree.

Examples

  • They made it more easily than we expected.
  • She performed better than the previous one.
  • He reacts more quickly than anyone else in the group.

The third level is the superlative degree, which compares the extent of three or more actions and evaluates the highest level of intensity. Here, they are preceded by the word “most.”

Examples

  • They made it most easily of all the participants.
  • She performed best of all the competitors.
  • He reacts most quickly of all the fighters.

Flat adverbs

Adverbs that don’t end in “-ly”, but have the same form as their adjective counterparts, are referred to as flat adverbs. They also take on different forms in the comparative degree and the superlative degree, as shown in the examples below.

Examples

Positive degree She works hard.
Comparative degree She works harder than her boss.
Superlative degree She works hardest of all employees.

 

Positive degree He runs fast.
Comparative degree He runs faster than his competitor.
Superlative degree He runs fastest of all athletes.

Note: There are also irregular forms of comparative degrees and superlative degrees such as “badly”, “worse”, “worst” and “well”, “better”, and “best.”

The following list outlines the most common irregular forms.

Examples

  • Clear
  • Deep
  • Early
  • High
  • Late
  • Long
  • Loud
  • Low
  • Near
  • Quick
  • Right
  • Safe
  • Soon
  • Straight

Positions of adverbs

The positions of adverbs are crucial to avoid confusing the reader/listener and to clarify and specify the context. Generally, they should be placed closely to the word, phrase, clause, or sentence, they intend to modify to convey the correct meaning. Placing them in different positions in the same sentence can convey two entyrely different meanings.

Example

  1. She nearly lost all the cash in her wallet.
  2. She lost nearly all the cash in her wallet.

Example 1 modifies the verb “lost,” conveying the message that she was close to losing the cash but managed not to. On the contrary, example 2 modifies the adjective “all,” conveying the message that most of the cash was, in fact, lost.

Another crucial factor to consider is what part of speech the adverb is meant to modify.

Position with verbs

When a one-word verb is modified, it generally follows the verb.

Example

  • He dances professionally.

In relation to phrasal verbs, it can be positioned between the verb and preposition or after the preposition.

Example

  • She skimmed quickly through the book.
  • She skimmed through the book quickly.

Position with adjectives or other adverbs

The adverb position with adjectives or adverbs is usually right before the modified word.

Examples

  • The teacher was extremely strict.
  • He hides very precisely.

Position in sentences

In sentences, they can be placed at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. Placing them in the initial position sets or emphasizes the tone.

Example

  • Obviously, she arrived late for the meeting.

The placement between the subject and the verb or the auxiliary verb is referred to as the mid position of a sentence. Adverbs are often placed there to indicate probability, extent, or frequency.

Example

  • He has often considered switching jobs.

When the focus lies on manner, place, and time, they are usually placed at the end position.

Example

  • The bathroom is nearby.

Special placements

Adverbs of frequency can be placed in the mid, initial, and end positions for emphasis.

Example

  • He sometimes forgets his homework.
  • Sometimes he forgets his homework.
  • He forgets his homework sometimes.

Flat adverbs are commonly placed at the end position, as well as, the initial position.

Examples

  • He runs fast. (Most common)
  • Fast he runs. (Uncommon)

Negative adverbs commonly stand in the initial position, proceeded by an auxiliary verb.

Example

  • Never have I witnessed such a tragedy.

As mentioned before, sentence adverbs modify entyre sentences and are, therefore, mainly positioned at the beginning of them.

Example

  • Interestingly, the case was never solved.

When to avoid them

Using adverbs properly can improve your writing style and speech, however, using the wrong adverb can raise many downsides. Below are some of the most common instances when using them should be decreased or completely avoided.

Superfluous adverbs

When you find yourself using superfluous adverbs that don’t provide important meaning or seem redundant, you should consider minimizing or completely avoiding them.

Example

He screamed loudly.

This seems redundant, as screaming already refers to a loud action. When you try to intensify a weak verb, try to use a stronger verb that conveys your intended message better.

Example

She spoke faintly.

She whispered.

Clarity

It is important to maintain clarity and precision when using adverbs to avoid confusing the readers/listeners and convey the correct meaning. When this is done incorrectly, the meaning can become ambiguous.

Example

  • She almost drove to the school.

This is unclear, as it can indicate that she started driving but turned back, or it can indicate that she considered driving but never did.

In addition, overusing intensifiers such as “really,” “quite,” and “very” can weaken the impact of your message and become confusing.

Example

  • I am really quite happy with the results.

Style and tone

In academic writing, formal writing is the norm to go for. Formal writing is characterized as direct and concise; thus, it is imperative to avoid overusing adverbs, as your writing may appear subjective or too casual. On the contrary, in creative writing, the majority aims to “visualize” an action rather than “tell” it.

Example

He aggressively kicked the door.

His eyes squinted, face red, he kicked the door with a force that broke it.

Test yourself!

Practice sheet

To see how well you understand adverbs, try if you can detect the adverbs in the following sentences and what they modify. Once you’re done, cheque if your answers are correct in the second tab. The words marked in green will show the adverb of the sentence and in brackets you will find what it modifies.

  1. She usually goes for a walk after dinner.
  2. The tiger sat almost completely still.
  3. She dances most beautifully of all.
  4. The event ended quite abruptly.
  5. They always bring snacks to parties.
  6. She coughed quite noisily.
  7. He rarely cooks at home.
  8. It’s important, especially for you.
  9. She spoke so softly, I could barely hear her.
  10. The view looks more stunningly in the autumn.
  11. The wolf howls loudly at full moon.
  12. We often visit in the summer.
  13. I nearly forgot my wallet at home.
  14. They completed the task incredibly quickly.
  15. Surprisingly, the outcome as good.
  1. She usually goes for a walk after dinner. (verb: “goes”)
  2. The tiger sat almost completely still. (adverb: “completely”)
  3. She dances most beautifully of all. (adverb: “beautifully”)
  4. The event ended quite abruptly. (adverb: “abruptly”)
  5. They always bring snacks to parties. (verb: “bring”)
  6. She coughed quite noisily. (adverb: “noisily”)
  7. He rarely cooks at home. (verb: “cooks”)
  8. It’s important, especially for you. (prepositional phrase: “for you”)
  9. She spoke so softly, I could barely hear her. (adverb: “softly”)
  10. The view looks more stunningly in the autumn. (adverb: “stunningly”)
  11. The wolf howls loudly at full moon. (verb: “howls”)
  12. We often visit in the summer. (verb: “visit”)
  13. I nearly forgot my wallet at home. (verb: “forgot”)
  14. They completed the task incredibly quickly. (adverb: “quickly”)
  15. Surprisingly, the outcome as good. (sentence: “the outcome was good”)

FAQs

They are words, phrases, clauses, or sentences that modify other parts of speech or entyre sentences. They usually add information to context in terms of manner, cause, extent, time, place, frequency, and circumstance.

Examples are:

  • He always comes late. (modifying verb)
  • The lesson was really (modifying adjective)
  • She grew rapidly (modifying other adverbs)
  1. She draws beautifully.
  2. The child learned quickly.
  3. The boy cried loudly to get attention.
  4. The girl played the harp gracefully.
  5. She entered the stage confidently.
  6. Obviously, he arrived late for the meeting.
  7. It was raining; Nevertheless, we still went on the hike.
  8. Although the water was cold, they jumped in the pool.
  9. He regrets deeply that he didn’t go to the concert.
  10. She drove surprisingly fast.

They can often be recognised by their “-ly” ending. However, in some cases, they take on the shape of their adjective counterparts.

The most common adverbs are:

  • Not
  • Also
  • Very
  • Often
  • However

Since adverbs are modifiers for verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, you should look for words or phrases that give additional meaning to these components in a sentence. Get more tips for identifying them in this article.