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.

Examples: Adverbs in a sentence
Ali walked quickly.

Charlize never answers her phone.

It is an incredibly exciting film.

Actually, I’m not sure.

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.

Examples: Adverbs modifying verbs, adjectives, and adverbs
Tamara danced slowly.

Jeff is extremely talented.

I started playing golf quite recently.

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.

Examples: Sentence adverbs
Luckily, the fire department responded immediately.

Monica can’t attend the party, unfortunately.

Adverbs vs. adjectives

While adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and entire sentences, adjectives can only modify nouns and pronouns (e.g., “the red door”).

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
-ic -ally energetic; energetically

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.

Tip
If you’re unsure whether a word is being used as an adverb or an adjective, look at the word that it’s modifying. If it’s modifying a noun or a pronoun, it’s an adjective. If it’s modifying anything else, it’s an adverb.

For example, in the sentence “Don’t drive fast,” the word “fast” is an adverb because it’s modifying the verb “drive.”

In the phrase “a fast car,” the word “fast” is an adjective because it’s describing the noun “car.”

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.

Examples: Adverbs and adjectives with linking verbs
  • Angela seems angrily.
  • Angela seems angry.

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.

Examples: Adverbs of manner in a sentence
Jessie read quietly.

Tom laughed loudly.

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).

Examples: Adverbs of manner and direct objects
  • Jessie read quietly the book.
  • Jessie quietly read the book.
  • Jessie read the book quietly.

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.”

Examples: Adverbs of degree in a sentence
The treehouse you built is very unstable.

I’ll be ready soon; I’m almost finished.

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.

Examples: “Adverbs of place” in a sentence
Go downstairs and open the door.

Confetti was thrown everywhere.

Come here!

Note
Some words can be used as both an adverb of place and a preposition. When the sentence has no object, it’s considered an adverb (e.g., “go inside”). If the sentence has an object, it’s considered a preposition (e.g., “go inside the house”)

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.

Examples: Adverbs of time in a sentence
I have to run, but I’ll see you tomorrow.

Dylan has a dentist appointment, so he will be late for school today.

Adverbs of duration (e.g., “temporarily,” “forever,” “shortly”) are slightly different; they describe the length of time something happens for.

Examples: Adverbs of duration in a sentence
The power outage should be fixed shortly.

I played football briefly, but I didn’t enjoy it.

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.

Examples: Adverbs of indefinite frequency in a sentence
Anna always works on Saturdays.

Jessica never washes the dishes.

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.

Examples: Adverbs of definite frequency
I check my email hourly.

We visit France yearly.

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.

Examples: Adverbs of purpose in a sentence
The company made a huge profit; therefore, the employees were given raises.

Since you’re busy, I’ll call back later.

Other types of adverbs

There are a few additional types of adverbs that are worth considering:

Conjunctive adverbs

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.

Examples: Conjunctive adverbs in a sentence
The wedding is scheduled for tomorrow. However, we no longer have a caterer.

Kelly’s funding application was denied; therefore, she can not continue her research.

Note
Conjunctive adverbs are often confused with coordinating conjunctions (e.g., “and,” “but”). However, unlike coordinating conjunctions, conjunctive adverbs can’t connect two clauses grammatically.

Instead, conjunctive adverbs are typically separated from a preceding clause by a period or semicolon and followed by a comma.

  • The car is damaged, besides it’s too expensive.
  • The car is damaged. Besides, it’s too expensive.
  • The car is damaged; besides, it’s too expensive.

Focusing adverbs

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.”

Examples: Focusing adverbs in a sentence
Natalia loves reading, especially fiction.

Jen had a great time at the party; she even danced.

Interrogative adverbs

The interrogative adverbs “when,” “where,” “why,” and “how” are used to introduce a question.

Examples: Interrogative adverbs in a sentence
When do you want to go shopping?

Where did you get that doughnut?

Relative adverbs

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).

Examples: Relative adverbs in a sentence
This is the city where the soldiers were stationed.

That was the moment when I first noticed him.

Other interesting language articles

If you want to know more about nouns, pronouns, verbs, and other parts of speech, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations and examples.

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?

A conjunctive adverb is a type of adverb used to connect and modify two independent clauses. It does this by turning the second clause into an adverbial modifier of the first.

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.

What is a relative adverb?

A relative adverb is a type of adverb used to introduce a dependent or relative clause (i.e., a clause that contains a subject and verb but can’t act as a standalone sentence). The three relative adverbs are “where,” “when,” and “why.”

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

This Scribbr article

Ryan, E. (2023, February 01). What Is an Adverb? Definition, Types & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/parts-of-speech/adverbs/

Sources

Aarts, B. (2011). Oxford modern English grammar. Oxford University Press.

Butterfield, J. (Ed.). (2015). Fowler’s dictionary of modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

Garner, B. A. (2016). Garner’s modern English usage (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.