31st March 2023
Grammar Tips: What Is an Adverb?
If you’re not sure what an adverb is or how to use one in a sentence, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re looking at nine types of adverbs, their correct use (including examples), and some common adverb-related mistakes.
In English, adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, clauses, and other adverbs. They’re not adjectives, which modify nouns or pronouns only. However, adverbs function similarly to adjectives because they both give additional details or information. For example, adverbs can describe how an action is performed (adverb of manner), how often an action occurs (adverb of frequency), or where an action happens (adverb of place).
Generally, adverbs end in ly, (slowly, quickly, usually, extremely, etc.). However, some don’t end in ly: very, quite, yesterday, therefore, fast, etc. Sometimes, adverbs even look like prepositions!
Nine Types of Adverbs
Adverbs of Manner
Adverbs of manner describe how an action (verb) is performed: quickly, slowly, carefully, happily, sadly, etc. They generally answer the question, How? For example, How did the dog run? Answer: The dog ran fast.
More examples follow:
The turtle walked slowly to his food.
Placement of Adverbs of Manner
Adverbs of manner generally go after the verb they modify. For example, The dog fast ran is incorrect. You’ll also often find them at the end of a sentence. In the example above, we could move slowly to the end of the sentence: The turtle walked to his food slowly. That would also be correct.
Adverbs of Frequency
Adverbs of frequency indicate how often an action occurs: always, often, sometimes, rarely, never, etc.
Here are some examples:
I rarely see my neighbor now.
He never eats breakfast.
Placement of Adverbs of Frequency
We generally place adverbs of frequency before the action they modify, as in the examples above. However, these adverbs can also go at the beginning or the end of a sentence when you’re making general statements:
We’re having bad weather this winter, unfortunately.
Sometimes we go out on Saturdays.
Pro tip: rarely, always, ever, seldom, and never can’t go at the end or the beginning of a sentence.
Adverbs of Time
These adverbs describe when an action occurs: yesterday, today, tomorrow, now, later, etc. They usually go at or near the end of a sentence:
My brother arrived yesterday in the evening.
Adverbs of Place
Adverbs of place (e.g., here, there, near, far) indicate where an action occurs. They generally go after the main verb:
Let’s go downstairs after we eat.
Adverbs of Degree
Adverbs of degree indicate the intensity or degree of an action, an adjective, or another adverb: very, quite, extremely, almost, hardly, etc.
A few more examples follow:
They’re a very attractive couple.
I nearly lost my way in the crowd.
She sang quite loudly in the car.
Pro tip: adverbs go before the adjective they modify, as in a very attractive couple.
We use interrogative adverbs to ask questions that often begin with when, where, why, how, or what:
Where are you going tomorrow?
Why didn’t you do your homework?
Relative adverbs, such as when, where, and why, introduce relative clauses:
That’s the town where I grew up.
Do you know why she left?
We use conjunctive adverbs to connect two independent clauses (sentences that can stand alone as complete thoughts). We can also use them to show how two ideas or clauses are related: cause and effect, contrast, similarity, etc.
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Here are some conjunctive adverbs and their meanings:
● However: shows contrast between two ideas or clauses
● Therefore: shows a cause-and-effect relationship between two ideas or clauses
● Meanwhile: shows two actions happening at the same time
● Moreover: shows addition or emphasis
● Nevertheless: shows a contrast or concession
And here are a few examples of conjunctive adverbs in sentences:
She was cooking dinner; meanwhile, he was setting the table.
The roads were icy; therefore, we had to drive slowly.
He wanted to go to the beach; however, the weather was rainy.
Placement of Conjunctive Adverbs
We can place conjunctive adverbs at the beginning or in the middle of a sentence, but we usually separate them from the rest of the sentence with a semicolon or a comma. It’s important to note that the two independent clauses a conjunctive adverb connects should be related in meaning, and the sentence should be grammatically correct.
Adverbs of Affirmation and Negation
These adverbs indicate agreement or disagreement with a statement: yes, no, certainly, probably, unlikely, etc.:
I’ll probably arrive at two o’clock.
You’ll certainly be invited.
He never eats fast food.
Placement of Adverbs of Affirmation and Negation
We usually place adverbs of affirmation and negation before the main verb in a sentence. When the verb is a helping verb, such as can, will, should, or must, the adverb of affirmation or negation comes before that verb, as in the above examples.
Common Mistakes with Adverbs
You should be careful to place adverbs correctly; otherwise, the sentence may sound awkward or confusing. For example:
In the first sentence, only is next to the word it modifies, but only eats doesn’t sound correct. And in the second example, readers may think that the subject eats nothing but pizza on Fridays.
Using Adjectives Instead of Adverbs
Adverbs have different forms, depending on the words they modify. For example, good is an adjective, and well is an adverb.
While adverbs can add emphasis and descriptiveness to a sentence, using too many can make the sentence sound cluttered and awkward. Choosing the most appropriate adverb for the situation is key:
Using Double Negatives
Using two negative words in the same sentence can create confusion and ambiguity. For example, with the negative adverb “not” (i.e., “do not” or “don’t”), adding another negative word is unnecessary.
There are many types of adverbs in English, and they have different uses and meanings. It’s extra confusing when one adverb can have different meanings or placements depending on the sentence. So, learning to use adverbs correctly in English takes time and practice.
If you want to learn more about English grammar, check out our Grammar Tips page, where you’ll find hundreds of entries on how to use nouns, articles, conjunctions, and much more.
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