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The Adverb

Updated on December 1, 2015

What is an adverb?

An adverb is defined as any word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. When an adverb modifies a word or phrase, it basically adds to the meaning of the word or phrase.

When an adverb is modifying a word or a phrase, it will answer one of the following questions: How? When? How often? Or To what extent? about the part of speech that it is modifying.

Adverbs modifying verbs

An adverb that is modifying a verb adds something to the meaning of a verb. The majority of adverbs modify verbs.

Examples of adverbs modifying verbs:

  • He walked home quickly. (“Quickly” is the adverb and it is modifying the verb “walked”. How did he walk? Quickly.)
  • The teacher laughed merrily. (“Merrily” is the adverb and it is modifying the verb “laughed”. How did the teacher laugh? Merrily.)
  • Please don’t talk rapidly. (“Rapidly” is the adverb and it is modifying the verb “talk”. How don’t I want you to talk? Rapidly.)
  • He finished the work early. (“Early” is the adverb and it is modifying the verb “finished”. When did he finish the work? Early.)
  • He opened his eyes drowsily. (“Drowsily” is the adverb and it is modifying the verb “opened”. How did he open his eyes? Drowsily.)
  • I regularly visit him at his office. (“Regularly” is the adverb and it is modifying the verb “visit”. How often do I visit him at his office? Regularly.)


Adverbs modifying adjectives

An adverb modifies an adjective when it adds something to the meaning of the adjective.

Examples of adverbs modifying adjectives:

  • She is very beautiful. (“Very” is the adverb which is modifying the adjective “beautiful”. To what extent is she beautiful? Very)
  • The water is extremely hot for me to use. (“Extremely” is the adverb and it is modifying the adjective “hot”. To what extent is the water hot? Extremely)
  • She is really good. (“Really” is the adverb in the sentence and it is modifying the adjective “good”. To what extent is she good? Really)
  • That’s quite awesome. (“Quite” is the adverb and it modifies the adjective “awesome”. To what extent is it awesome? Quite)
  • It is so nice of you to drop by. (“So” is the adverb and it modifies the adjective “nice”. To what extent is it nice? So)
  • Phil is very sad because he lost his money. (“Very” is the adverb in the sentence and it is modifying the adjective “sad”. To what extent is Phil sad? Very)


Adverbs modifying adverbs

Adverbs are very interesting parts of speech because they also modify themselves. An adverb is said to modify another adverb when it adds something to the meaning of another adverb.

Examples of adverbs modifying other adverbs include the following:

  • He speaks too harshly to ladies. (“Too” is the adverb in the sentence and it is modifying the adverb “harshly”. To what extent does he speak harshly to girls? Too)
  • He walked terribly fast that I could not follow him. (“Terribly” is an adverb and it is modifying the adverb “fast”. To what extent or degree did he walk fast? Terribly)
  • The child writes extremely well. (“Extremely” is the adverb and it is modifying another adverb “well”. To what extent does the child write well? Extremely)


The Functions of adverbs

The function of an adverb is to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb in a sentence.

Adverbs can also occasionally modify prepositions and conjunctions. But this is not very common. Let us look at some example of cases where adverbs go beyond modifying verbs, adjective or adverbs and start modifying conjunctions and prepositions:

  • The boy was discriminated against simply because of the religion he belongs to. (Here, the adverb “simply” modifies the conjunction “because”)
  • I left the keys just under the flower pot. (Here, the adverb “just” modifies the preposition “under”)


How adverbs are formed

Adverbs are usually formed by simply adding “ly” to an adjective. For example, these adjectives below can simply be transformed to adverbs by adding “ly” to them.

  • Willing – willingly (He willingly gave me the money.)
  • kind – kindly (Kindly show me the way to the bathroom.)
  • Beautiful – beautifully (She is beautifully dressed.)
  • Lucky – luckily (I luckily got there just as the gates were about to be closed.)
  • Faithful –faithfully (I have faithfully decided to pursue the policy of truth.)
  • Soft – softly (Don’t kill me softly.)
  • Slow – slowly (He slowly showed me the money.)
  • Generous – generously (We want people to generously donate their time and money to help the orphanage.)
  • Professional – professionally (It was professionally done.)

WARNING: Although I have just told you that adverbs are formed by adding “ly” to adjectives, it is not all words ending with “ly” that are adverbs. You should know that some adjectives also end in “ly” and that not all adjectives can be transformed into adverbs. Examples of adjectives ending in “ly” include the following: friendly, timely, mother, brotherly, lovely, costly, loudly, lively, etc.

Also you should know that some words ending in “ly” can be used as both adjectives and adverbs depending on how they are used in a given sentence. Examples of such words are: daily, early, yearly, monthly, only, etc.

  • That is an early (adjective) sign of pregnancy.
  • You must come home early (adverb) if you do not want to be punished.
  • Exercise must be done on a daily (adjective) basis.
  • Our office is open daily (adverb).
  • The boy is their only (adjective) child.
  • This job is only (adverb) temporary.


Comparison of Adverbs

Just like adjectives, adverbs can also be compared. Let us take a look at some examples below.

If the adverb has one syllable, then we add -er and -est to the positive form to get the comparative and superlative forms respectively

Positive
Comparative
Superlative
Late
Later
Latest
Fast
Faster
Fastest
Long
Longer
Longest
Loud
Louder
Loudest

If the adverb is made of two or more syllables, then we add 'more' and 'most' to the comparatives and superlatives respectively

Positive
Comparative
Superlative
Beautifully
More beautifully
Most beautifully
Angrily
More angrily
Most angrily
Carefully
More carefully
Most carefully

Some adverbs have irregular comparative forms. Some of these adverbs include the following:

Positive
Comparative
Superlative
Little
Less
Least
Well
Better
Best
Much
More
Most

Types of adverbs

There are several types of adverbs in the English language. Some of the examples of the numerous types of adverbs include the following: adverbs of time, adverbs of degree, adverbs of place, adverbs of frequency, etc. You can read more about the numerous types of adverbs in this lesson: Types of Adverbs.

© 2014 myvenn

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    • myvenn profile image
      Author

      myvenn 3 years ago from Ghana

      Thank you too for reading. I'm glad it was useful.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      I need to remind myself occasionally on the uses and purpose of adverbs. Thanks for the refresher course.

    • myvenn profile image
      Author

      myvenn 3 years ago from Ghana

      Thank you very much and I'm so glad that you found it very useful.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      This hub is a very useful point of reference. Voting up all the way and sharing.