What Is an Adverb? Definition, Types & Examples
An adverb is a word that can modify or describe a verb, adjective, another adverb, or entire sentence. Adverbs can be used to show manner (how something happens), degree (to what extent), place (where), and time (when).
Adverbs are usually formed by adding -ly to the end of an adjective (e.g., “quick” becomes “quickly”), although there are also other adverbs that don’t have this ending. There are also adverbial phrases, series of words that play the grammatical role of adverbs.
How are adverbs used in sentences?
Adverbs provide context in a sentence by describing how, when, where, and to what extent something occurs. Adverbs can be used to modify verbs, adjectives, and even other adverbs.
Adverbs can also be used to modify entire sentences by expressing a viewpoint or making an evaluation. These adverbs (called sentence adverbs) are typically set off with commas.
Adverbs vs. adjectives
Adverbs are often formed by adding “-ly” to the end of an adjective. However, adverbs can also be formed from adjectives in other ways, depending on the ending.
|Original ending||Adverbial ending||Example|
|-y||-ily (replacing the “y”)||happy; happily|
|-le||-y (replacing the “e”)||able; ably|
Some adverbs use the same form as their corresponding adjectives. These are known as flat adverbs (e.g., “straight,” “fast,” “early”). Other adverbs (e.g., “never”) simply don’t have a corresponding adjective.
Adverbs and linking verbs
Adverbs are sometimes confused with adjectives when they are used with linking verbs (i.e. a verb that connects the subject of a sentence with a subject complement that describes it).
While adverbs can be used to describe how an action is done, linking verbs (e.g., “look,” “feel,” “sound,” “be”) refer to states of being and therefore take an adjective rather than an adverb.
Adverbs of manner
An adverb of manner describes how an action is performed or how something happens. In most cases, adverbs of manner occur after the main verb.
If the verb has a direct object (a thing being acted upon), the adverb should be placed before the verb or at the end of the sentence. It should never be placed between the verb and its object (in the following examples, “the book” is the object).
Adverbs of degree
Adverbs of degree are used to qualify verbs, adjectives, or adverbs by expressing extent or degree. Some common adverbs of degree include: “extremely,” “absolutely,” “slightly,” “quite,” and “enough.”
Adverbs of place
An adverb of place provides information about the location of an action (e.g., position, distance, and direction). Adverbs of place typically occur after the main verb of a sentence.
Adverbs of time
Adverbs of time (e.g., “yesterday,” “today,” “tomorrow”) describe when something happens. They are typically placed at the end of a sentence.
Adverbs of duration (e.g., “temporarily,” “forever,” “shortly”) are slightly different; they describe the length of time something happens for.
Adverbs of frequency
Adverbs of frequency describe how often something happens. They can be divided into two categories based on how specific they are.
Adverbs of indefinite frequency (e.g., “always,” “sometimes,” “never”) give an idea of how often something occurs, but they don’t give an exact timeframe. Adverbs of indefinite frequency are usually placed before the main verb.
Adverbs of definite frequency (e.g., “hourly,” “daily,” “weekly”) give a more precise description of how often something happens. They typically occur at the end of a sentence.
Adverbs of purpose
Adverbs of purpose (also called adverbs of reason) help to explain why something is the case. Many adverbs of purpose function as conjunctive adverbs. Other adverbs of purpose usually take the form of adverbial phrases instead of individual words.
Other types of adverbs
There are a few additional types of adverbs that are worth considering:
Conjunctive adverbs (also called linking adverbs) connect two independent clauses by turning the second clause into an adverbial modifier of the first. They can be used as transition words to introduce consequence, condition, comparison, contrast, and clarification.
Focusing adverbs are used to emphasize a particular part of a sentence. They’re typically positioned next to the word they’re drawing attention to. Some common focusing adverbs include: “only,” “just,” “especially,” “even,” “either,” and “neither.”
The interrogative adverbs “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” are used to introduce a question.
The relative adverbs “where,” “when,” and “why” are used to introduce dependent or relative clauses (i.e., clauses that contain a subject and verb but do not express a complete thought).
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Frequently asked questions
- What are the different types of adverbs?
There are many ways to categorize adverbs into various types. An adverb can fall into one or more categories depending on how it is used.
Some of the main types of adverbs are:
- What is a conjunctive adverb?
Conjunctive adverbs can be used as transition words to introduce condition, consequence, clarification, comparison, and contrast (e.g., “The weather is fine now. However, it is going to rain later.”). But it’s important not to confuse them with conjunctions.
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