Adverb – Definition

Learning or teaching the English language will require you to master some of the more basic principles such as verbs. However, to become a great communicator, you’ll want to also learn what is an adverb to be able to accurately describe actions.

By definition, Adverbs are a broad collection of words used to change, modify or qualify adjectives, verbs, clauses, phrases, or other adverbs. Adverbs can provide a description of how, when, where, what manner, and to what extent to something done or happens. An adverb can appear before or after the word or phrase that it is describing.

How to use an Adverb

To learn what is an adverb is to understand how it modifies words in a sentence. Normally, it’s quite simple to spot an adverb in a sentence, as they usually end with the suffix -LY.

  • The boy quickly threw the ball.
  • She stamped her feet angrily.
  • The thief silently snuck into the house.

However, there are also a great number of adverbs that don’t end with the suffix. Some of these adverbs share the same form as their adjective counterpart. Adverbs can also be used to modify adjectives as intensifiers to make it stronger or weaker.

  • The plane flew fast.
  • He works hard.
  • The plane flew up high in the sky.
  • He sometimes visits my house.
  • Superman is very strong.

Adverbs can also be used to modify other adverbs, changing their meaning or original intent.

  • He ran too fast for everyone.
  • She sang exceptionally well.

How to form adverbs from adjectives

The most common way to form adverbs using adjectives would be to add -LY to an adjective.

Adjective Adverb
Strong Strongly
Great Greatly
Honest Honestly

For adjectives with suffixes that end with -FUL, you may also just attach a -LY.

Adjective Adverb
Powerful Powerfully
Beautiful Beautifully
Grateful Gratefully

 In the case where an adjective ends with -Y, you may use the letter i instead of y, then add the suffix –LY.

Adjective Adverb
Hungry Hungrily
Steady Steadily
Lucky Luckily
Bloody Bloodily

If the adjective ends with the suffix -ABLE-IBLE, or -LE, replace the -e with -y.

Adjective Adverb
Incredible Incredibly
Laughable Laughably
Gentle Gently

In a situation where the adjectives suffix ends with -IC, you can add –ALLY. The word public is an exception, e.g. Publicly.

Adjective Adverb
Magic Magically
Classic Classically
Comic Comically

For the adjective good, you’ll be able to use the adverb form well. For example:

  • He plays the violin very well.
  • She is very well in her studies.
  • They were well prepared for the exam.

How to form adverbs from comparatives and superlatives

Most adverbs, the ones that end with -LY, can use more for their comparative form and most for their superlative form.

Adverb Comparative Superlative
Gracefully More gracefully most gracefully
Quickly More Quickly Most Quickly
Rapidly More Rapidly Most Rapidly

With most single syllable adverbs that don’t end with -LY, the comparative and superlative forms are similar to the adjective variation; just add -ER for the comparative form and -EST for the superlative form.

Adverb Comparative Superlative
Fast Faster Fastest
Harder Harder Hardest
High Higher Highest

Like irregular adjectives, there are adverbs with the same irregular comparative and superlative forms.

Adverb Comparative Superlative
Far Further The furthest
Well Better The best
Badly Worse The worst
Little Less The least

Types of Adverbs

  1. Adverbs of Manner
  2. Adverbs of Degree
  3. Adverbs of Probability and Certainty
  4. Adverbs of Time (Duration and Frequency)
  5. Adverbs of Place
  6. Adverbs of Purpose (Reason)

Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of manner describe HOW something happens or takes place. It is commonly placed after the main verb or after the direct object. This type of adverb cannot be put in between a verb and its indirect object. It must be placed either before the main verb or at the end of the clause.

  • He quickly broke the record.
  • He broke the record quickly.
  • She slowly ate the cake.
  • She ate the cake slowly.

In sentences which include intransitive verbs (no direct objects), the adverb of manner should come right after the verb.

  • Superman flew high in the air.
  • He drove recklessly around the school.

Adverbs of manner like hard, well, badly, and fast are usually placed right after the verb.

  • She danced well last night
  • He swam fast during the relay event.
  • The plane landed hard on the runway.
  • We lost badly the last time we played against them.

In the situation where there is more than one verb in sentence, the adverb will only directly modify the main verb if it is placed before or after. However, if the adverb is placed at the end of the clause, it will affect the action described in the clause. For example:

  • My brother silently [snuck] out of the house to play baseball.
  • My brother [snuck] silently out of the house to play baseball.
  • My brother [snuck out of the house to play baseball] silently.

Note: In the first two examples, the adverb silently was used to describe the verb snuck. In the third example, the adverb silently described the entire action.

In English literature, adverbs of manner can also be used to add emphasis to the entire action when placed right after the subject or even before the subject.

  • The villain viciously beat the hero with a baseball bat.
  • Viciously, the villain beat the hero with a baseball bat.

Adverbs of Degree (Intensifier)

Adverbs of degree or intensifiers are used to modify the intensity of the words it refers to. They are normally placed before the adjective, verb or even adverb they are amplifying.

Short list of intensifiers

So Too Very Really
Strikingly Dreadfully Extremely Quite
Remarkably Terribly Moderately Rather
Somewhat Fully Super Veritable
Crazy Terrifically Surpassingly Excessively
Colossally Frightfully Astoundingly Phenomenally
Uncommonly Outrageously Fanatically Insanely
Amazingly Exceptionally Incredibly Totally
Especially Unusually Extraordinarily Fantastically

There are other adverbs of degree that are used as intensifiers but only in certain regions or in slang. Warning: Some of them can be very inappropriate in a professional setting.

  • Bloody – That’s bloody ridiculous!
  • Awful – that’s an awful nice thing to do.
  • Dead – You are dead wrong my friend!
  • Hella – That’s one hella great idea.
  • Real – That place was real good.

How to use ENOUGH as an adverb

Enough is a special word that can be used as an adverb, adjective and determiner. The adverb enough is used to modify an adjective, it is also placed after the adjective it modifies. It means necessary or required.

  • He is [old] enough.
  • I’m not [tall] enough.

Enough is often followed by the infinitive structure (to + infinitive).

  • She is not [thin] enough to wear that dress.
  • He is not [rich] enough to buy that car.
  • Are you [old] enough to watch that movie?

The infinitive structure can also be preceded by for + noun/pronoun.

  • She is [good] enough for me.
  • That song is [easy] enough for the children to sing.

Enough can also be used as an adjective and determiner with the same emphasis on being necessary or required.

  • I have enough apples.
  • We didn’t get enough work done.

How to use TOO as an adverb (2 different ways)

The word Too is an adverb with two distinct meanings, it changes the meaning of the phrase depending on its location and pattern use.

First pattern: ‘Too’ can be used to mean ‘Also’

  • Can you buy me a sweater too?
  • Nice to meet you too.

Second pattern: ‘Too’ can be used to mean ‘excessive’, it is placed before the adjective or adverb it modifies.

  • I’m working too [hard]
  • lately.
  • He is too [depressed].

Like ‘Enough’, ‘Too’ is also followed by the infinitive structure (to + infinitive).

  • She’s too [shy]
  • to speak in public.
  • They’re too [slow]
  • to win against the other team.

The infinitive structure can also be preceded by ‘for’ + noun/pronoun.

  • She’s too [pretty] for him.
  • This job is too [hard] for me to continue working.

How to use VERY as an adverb

Very is an adverb that is placed before an adverb or adjective to emphasize strength and degree.

  • The boy was very smart.
  • That dress is very expensive.

When used in a negative sentence, ‘Not very’ can emphasize on the opposite meaning of the adjective or verb. This method is seen as more of an indirect approach and could be considered more polite. For example:

  • The boy was not very smart.
  • The girl was not very beautiful.

The difference between ‘too’ and ‘very’ is that the former emphasizes the excessiveness in that it connotes a problematic meaning.

  • He was a very loud.
  • He was too loud.
  • She was very good at her job.
  • She was too good at her job.

In some cases (usually in written English), negative adverbs and invert the normal pattern of a sentence, placing the verb before the subject. For example:

  • Never had he completed a more difficult task.
  • Rarely has she ever rode her bike to school.

There are other adverbs that can be used just like ‘very’ with varying degrees.

Very Strong Strong Doubtful
Ridiculously, extremely, amazingly, terribly, frighteningly, wonderfully, insanely, massively, etc. Quite, especially, unusually, uncommonly, particularly, remarkably, etc. Fairly, rather, not especially, not particularly, not quite, pretty, etc.

Adverbs of Probability and Certainty

Adverbs of probability express how certain or uncertain we are about an action or event taking place.

Certainly We’re certainly happy to see you. 
Conceivably They could conceivably go elsewhere. 
Definitely We definitely worked together in the past. 
Doubtless Doubtless, you’ll figure it out. 
Indeed She is indeed not a hard worker. 
Likely It is likely this even will be canceled. 
Maybe  Maybe they can help us out. 
Of course Of course, you may go to the bathroom. 
Obviously She is obviously not a hard worker. 
Perhaps Perhaps you should stay here for the night.
Possibly He could possibly be the perpetrator.
Probably I probably won’t be able to join you guys.
Really I really think he’s the culprit! 
Surely He surely won’t forget what you’ve done for him. 
Truly They truly believe they are going to fail the exam.
Undoubtedly Undoubtedly, he is the best athlete in this class.
Unlikely It is unlikely that the world will end in our life-time.

The adverb of probability goes between a helping verb and the main verb, when there is an auxiliary verb included in the sentence.

  • He will probably come late for dinner.
  • She is likely to accept your proposal.

Some of these adverbs of probability can also be placed in the beginning of the sentence.

  • Surely there must be another way.
  • Perhaps there is a better method.

Adverbs of Time (Frequency and Duration)

Adverbs of time describes when an action has happened. It also describes the duration (for how long) and frequency (how often). Adverbs of time are usually placed at the end of a sentence.

Adverbs of When

  • I’m going back to New York tomorrow.
  • She is stopping by the house later.
  • We’re having turkey for dinner tonight.

You may also put the adverb of time at the beginning of the sentence to put more emphasis on time itself.

  • Tomorrow, I’m going back to New York.
  • Later, she is stopping by the house.
  • Tonight, we’re having turkey for dinner.

The adverb of time can also be placed before the main verb to emphasize formality in writing.

  • He later called in the evening to see if she was okay.
  • She later picked up the phone.

Adverbs of Frequency (How often)

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often an action takes place. They are normally placed before the main verb, but just after helping (auxiliary) verbs. However, if the main verb is ‘to be’, the adverb will go after the main verb.

  • I always eat dinner late.
  • I usually drink coffee.
  • He sometimes comes to my party.
  • She rarely visits my house.
  • We seldom meet these days.
  • They never won a single game.

Some adverbs of frequency can be used in two separate positions which emphasizes the strength of the adverb, they can also be placed in the beginning of the sentence or at the end of the sentence.

  • Occasionally, I pass by my old office. (This location puts a huge emphasis on the adverb)
  • I pass by my old office occasionally. (This also puts a similar but slightly weaker emphasis)
  • I occasionally pass by my old office. (This has a neutral nuance)

Here’s a list of some these types of adverbs that can be used in multiple positions.

Generally Normally Usually Occasionally
Regularly Frequently Often Sometimes

There are other adverbs of time that can express the exact amount of time that an action or event takes place.

  • My teacher assigns me homework daily.
  • I try to meet my girlfriend three times a week.
  • I took my drivers license exam four times before I passed.

Adverbs of Duration (How Long)

Adverbs of duration expresses how long an action has taken place. It is also usually placed at the end of the sentence.

  • I worked at my first part time job for an entire year.
  • She was helping me clean my house all week.

FOR is always followed by an expression of duration. SINCE is followed by an expression of point in time where an action begins to take place.

  • I have been working in this business for a year.
  • I have been working in this business since last year.

How to use YET as an adverb of duration?

YET indicates an action that has not taken place or may not have taken place but is expected to take place. It is used in negative and interrogative sentences. It is normally placed at the end of the sentence.

  • I haven’t completed my work yet.
  • Hasn’t she broken up with him yet?

How to use STILL as an adverb of duration?

STILL indicates continuation of an action or event. In a positive sentence, placed before the main verb, after the helping (auxiliary) verb. However, if the main verb is ‘to be’ then you’ll have to play STILL after the verb instead of before. During interrogatives, you’ll place it before the main verb.

  • She still loves playing with her dolls.
  • Do you want me to still hold this cup for you?

In a negative sentence, you can use STILL and YET together to express an action that has not taken place yet but was highly expected to have.

  • I still haven’t found a job yet.
  • Do you still not have a job yet?

How to order adverbs of time

You’ll want to learn how to order the adverbs of time in a proper manner.

  1. How long (duration)
  2. How often (frequency)
  3. When

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of place express where an action or event has taken place. They are normally placed after the main verb or after the clause they modify. Adverbs of place do not modify adjectives or adverbs, they simply express the location in which it takes place.

  • The man came in the store.
  • He looked around but couldn’t find what he wanted.
  • So he went outside and searched everywhere else.

HERE and THERE are common adverbs used to give a location in relation to the speaker. HERE distinguishes something that is happening towards or with the speaker. THERE expresses something that is happening away from or not with the speaker.

  • Come here
  • Go there
  • What are you going to do over there?
  • You dropped your phone here under the couch.

HERE and THERE can be placed in the beginning of the sentence if there is an emphasis needed or an exclamation.

  • Here we go!
  • There they are!

Adverbs of Place used as prepositions

If an adverb of place is used as a preposition, it should be followed up with a noun.

  • He threw the ball over the house.
  • I placed the books on my desk.
  • The bird nest fell off the porch.
  • The soldiers stood around the barracks.
  • I found him behind the counter.
  • He must be floating down the river.
  • He jumped in the car.

Adverbs of place ending with -WHERE or -WARD

If the adverb of place ends with –WHERE, it expresses or indicates the general location of something but is not specified or lacks a specific location.

  • I want to go anywhere you want to go.
  • Let’s move somewhere that is quiet.
  • He is nowhere to be found!
  • I looked everywhere for you!

If the adverb of place ends with –WARD, it expresses movement in a direction.

  • Michael Jackson can walk backwards!
  • The elevator carried us upwards.

Adverbs of place that express both movement and location

Some adverbs can be used to indicate both movement and location. Here are some examples:

  • The girl lived abroad for most of her life.
  • I drove uphill towards my university.
  • The kids played outdoors for hours.

Adverbs of Purpose (Reason)

Adverbs of purpose tell us the reason or why something happened. They can be used to modify adjectives or adverbs. There are several types of adverbs of purpose. You’ll want to look at the following: Conjunctive adverbs, prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, or adverbial clauses.

Conjunctive adverbs of purpose

Conjunctive adverbs of purpose are used to express the relationship or connection of reason between two clauses. Some common conjunctive adverbs of purpose are therefore, consequently, hence, thus, and as a result. Traditionally, a semicolon was used to conjoin two independent clauses. However, a period would also suffice to create two distinct sentences.

  • Marcus didn’t work hard; therefore, he didn’t get promoted.
  • He was the best player in our football team. Consequently, he was offered a scholarship to college.
  •  The knight slayed the dragon; thus, freeing the princess from her torment.

It is possible to use the some of the same adverbs in a non-conjunctive manner.

  • The number of immigrants increased over the years and therefore increased the overall population.
  • The man worked very hard on his craft and hence deserved a bigger payout.

Adverbial phrases of purpose

Adverbial phrases are used to indicate the purpose or reason. There are 2 types of adverbial phrases, prepositional phrases and infinitive phrases.

Prepositional phrases are used adverbially to indicate purpose.

  • I can’t concentrate because of my headache.
  • Because of my work, I couldn’t visit my parents for the holidays.

There are different types of prepositions that can create prepositional phrases. For example:

  • Due to the heavy snowfall, no one could get to work.
  • He worked very hard for his family.
  • Given he had no talent for the job, he did pretty well.

An infinitive phrase is any predictive information that is followed by an infinitive verb.

  • I went to the house to pick up my shorts.
  • I drove to the library to borrow a book.

You may also add ‘in order’ or ‘so as’ to add a formal emphasis.

  • He left early in order to catch his flight.
  • She sneaked in so as not to wake up anyone.

Adverbial clauses of purpose

We can create adverbial clauses that indicate reason or purpose by using subordinating conjunctions. For example:

  • As it is still the weekend, we should play hard until the very last minute.
  • We should all just stay home since everyone is tired.
  • We should wait here so that everyone has a chance to catch up.
  • The teacher prepared a quiz every day for the students in order that they pass the final exam.
  • For fear that everyone will laugh at him, he kept quiet all night.

How to use Viewpoint or Commenting Adverbs

There are some adverbs or adverbial expressions that can expressive the speaker’s point of view or opinion about a certain action. These types of adverbs do not express or modify the verb in the sentence, but rather they modify the entire clause. T

The viewpoint adverbs are placed at the beginning or ending of the sentence. Whereas the commenting adverbs are placed just before the main verb they are describing or modifying.

Adverb Beginning of a sentence Before the main verb End of a sentence
Clearly Clearly, he isn’t working very hard. He clearly isn’t working very hard. He isn’t working very hard, clearly.
Obviously Obviously, she’s crazy. She’s obviously crazy. She’s crazy, obviously.
Personally Personally, I’d rather walk home. I’d personally rather walk home. I’d rather walk home, personally.
Presumably Presumably, they thought he was dead. They presumably thought he was dead. They thought he was dead, presumably.
Seriously Seriously, I can’t work in this condition. I seriously can’t work in this condition. I can’t work in this condition, seriously.
Surely Surely you want to win the lotto. You surely want to win the lotto. You want to win the lotto, surely.
Technically Technically, he isn’t really an engineer. He technically isn’t really an engineer. He isn’t really an engineer, technically.
Undoubtedly Undoubtedly, he is the best man for the job He is undoubtedly the best man for the job. He is the best man for the job, undoubtedly.
Bravely Bravely, she stood against her opponent. She bravely stood against her opponent. She stood against her opponent, bravely.
Carelessly Carelessly, I placed my hand in her purse. I carelessly placed my hand in her purse. I placed my hand in her purse, carelessly.
Certainly Certainly, you could become the next president. You certainly could become the next president/ You could certainly become the next president. You could become the next president, certainly.
Cleverly Cleverly, the inmate outwitted the guards. The inmate cleverly outwitted the guards. The inmate outwitted the guards, cleverly.
Definitely Definitely, you should see a doctor. You definitely should see a doctor. / You should definitely see a doctor. You should see a doctor, definitely.
Foolishly Foolishly, he lost everything in a gamble. He foolishly lost everything in a gamble. He lost everything in a gamble, foolishly.
Generously Generously, he fed the entire neighborhood. He generously fed the entire neighborhood. He fed the entire neighborhood, generously.
Stupidly Stupidly, he created an even bigger problem. He stupidly created an even bigger problem. He created an even bigger problem, stupidly.
Kindly Kindly, she welcomed her family. She kindly welcomed her family. She welcomed her family, kindly.
Luckily Luckily, he had a backup plan. He luckily had a backup plan. He had a backup plan, luckily.
Fortunately Fortunately, he wasn’t the only one left. He fortunately wasn’t the only one left. He wasn’t the only one left, fortunately.
Naturally Naturally, you’ll get better as you practice. You’ll naturally get better as you practice. You’ll get better as you practice, naturally.
Wisely Wisely, I decided not to go to the party. I wisely decided not to go to the party. I decided not to go to the party, wisely.
Confidentially Confidentially, he explained the situation to his superior.   He explained the situation to his superior, confidentially.
Theoretically Theoretically, monkeys can be taught how to work. Monkeys can theoretically be taught how to work. /Monkeys theoretically can be taught how to work. Monkeys can be taught how to work, theoretically.
Truthfully Truthfully, I don’t think that’s a good idea. I truthfully don’t think that’s a good idea. I don’t think that’s a good idea, truthfully.
Disappointingly Disappointingly, he didn’t get what he wanted. He disappointingly didn’t get what he wanted. He didn’t get what he wanted, disappointingly.
Thoughtfully Thoughtfully, I carried her things. I thoughtfully carried her things. I carried her things, thoughtfully.
Simply Simply, it doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t work.  
Unbelievably Unbelievably, the show went well. The show went unbelievably well. The show went well, unbelievably.
Unfortunately Unfortunately, she couldn’t come with us. She unfortunately couldn’t come with us. She couldn’t come with us, unfortunately.

What are Relative Adverbs?

What are relative adverbs? To understand this, you’ll need to know what a relative clause is. A relative adverb is an adverb which introduces a relative clause. Where, when and why can be used to join sentences or clauses.

  • I’m at the café where we first had coffee together.
  • I remember the time when we first kissed.
  • She told me why she broke up with me.

Traditionally, the formal pattern uses preposition + which to introduce the relative clause.

  • I’m at the café at which we first had coffee together.
  • I remember the time in which we first kissed.
  • She told me the reason for which she broke up with me.

What are Interrogative Adverbs?

Interrogative adverbs are words we use to ask questions related to reason, manner, process, time or place. The adverbs how, why, where, and when are placed in the beginning of the sentence.

  • Why did he leave early?
  • Where did you put your shoes?
  • How did you find this place?
  • When do you start your work?

Different ways to use HOW as an interrogative adverb

HOW can be used to ask about process or method.

  • How did you do that?
  • How do I cook this?
  • How do I build a house?

HOW can also be used to express a degree of the attribute when paired with an adjective.

  • How big is his house?
  • How expensive was dinner?

HOW can be used to ask quantity when paired with much/many. Much is for uncountable, whereas many is used for countable.

  • How much do you love me?
  • How many apples do we have?

HOW can be used to ask about frequency or degree of an action.

  • How often does he visit your house?
  • How quickly can you eat a burrito?

Bottom Line

Now that you’ve learned all about what is an adverb, you’ll want to check out the other 8 parts of speech. Familiarize yourself with what is a preposition, noun, verb, adjective, pronoun, conjunction, and interjection.

You can also master English by knowing how to use determiners properly. It’s always a good idea to review your English grammar by checking out ESL Workshop.

Leave a Comment