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English Language and Grammar - What are Adverbs? What do adverbs modify?

Updated on June 14, 2016

English Grammar

English-grammar | Source


Hopefully this hub is useful not only to English Students but to students whose first language is not English. I hope to explain what adverbs are? What they modify and give the reader some good examples.



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What is an adverb?

First of all, an adverb modifies any part of language other than a noun. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, clauses/phrases, sentences and other adverbs. Adverbs add more interesting information by describing verbs, adjective or adverbs.

For example:

She sang.

add an adverb and you have:

She sang effortlessly.

We heard her softly spoken voice.

Adverbs usually answer the questions: how? , in what way? , when? , where? , and to what extent?

In English, adverbs that tell us how something is done are usually formed by adding -ly to adjectives. For example, great becomes greatly , and beautiful becomes beautifully .

Comparative adverbs include more , most , least , and less.

The comparative and superlative forms of some adverbs that do not end in -ly are generated by adding -er and -est - e.g. faster, highest. Others, especially those ending -ly , are periphrastically compared by the use of more or most .

Adverbs also take comparisons with as , less , and least or more, most.

Adverbs are part of speech. Traditional English grammar and parts of speech in grammar are still taught in schools and used in dictionaries.

Words traditionally grouped together as adverbs serve a number of different functions.

Adverbs can be used to modify an entire sentence, whereas others cannot.



Adverbs can be put into 6 groups:

Adverbs that tell how:

absentmindedly, adoringly, awkwardly, badly, beautifully, briskly, brutally, carefully, cheerfully, competitively, correctly, eagerly, easily, effortlessly, extravagantly, fast, girlishly, gracefully, grimly, happily, lazily, lifelessly, loudly, loyally, patiently, quietly, quickly, quizzically, really, recklessly, remorsefully, ruthlessly, savagely, sloppily, slowly, so, stylishly, unabashedly, unevenly, urgently, well, wishfully, worriedly.

Adverbs that tell when:

after, afterwards, already, annually, before, daily, during, finally, just, last, later, never, next, now, recently, soon, still, then, today, tomorrow, weekly, when, while, yesterday.

Adverbs that tell where:

abroad, anywhere, away, downstairs, everywhere, here, home, in, inside, out, outside, nowhere, somewhere, there, underground, upstairs.

Adverbs that tell to what extent:

extremely, not, quite, rather, really, terribly, too, very, more, barely, vaguely

Adverbs that tell why:

so, so that, to, in order to, because, since, accidentally, intentionally, purposely.

Adverbs that tell how often:

always, every, never, often, rarely, seldom, sometimes, usually.

Common Adverbs

There are many common Adverbs - this image shows a few examples
There are many common Adverbs - this image shows a few examples | Source

Common Adverbs:

abnormally, absentmindedly, accidentally, acidly, actually, adventurously, afterwards, almost, always, angrily, annually, anxiously, arrogantly, awkwardly.

badly, bashfully, beautifully, bitterly, bleakly, blindly, blissfully, boastfully, boldly, bravely, briefly, brightly, briskly, broadly, busily.

calmly, carefully, carelessly, cautiously, certainly, cheerfully, clearly, cleverly, closely, coaxingly,
colorfully, commonly, continually, coolly, correctly, courageously, crossly, cruelly, curiously.

daily, daintily, dearly, deceivingly, delightfully, deeply, defiantly, deliberately, delightfully, diligently,
dimly, doubtfully, dreamily.

easily, elegantly, energetically, enormously, enthusiastically, equally, especially, even, evenly, eventually, exactly, excitedly, extremely.

fairly, faithfully, famously, far, fast, fatally, ferociously, fervently, fiercely, fondly, foolishly, fortunately,
frankly, frantically, freely, frenetically, frightfully, fully, furiously.

generally, generously, gently, gladly, gleefully, gracefully, gratefully, greatly, greedily.

happily, hastily, healthily, heavily, helpfully, helplessly, highly, honestly, hopelessly, hourly, hungrily.

immediately, innocently, inquisitively, instantly, intensely, intently, interestingly, inwardly, irritably.

jaggedly, jealously, joshingly, joyfully, joyously, jovially, jubilantly, judgementally, justly.

keenly, kiddingly, kindheartedly, kindly, kissingly, knavishly, knottily, knowingly, knowledgeably, kookily.

lazily, less, lightly, likely, limply, lively, loftily, longingly, loosely, lovingly, loudly, loyally.

madly, majestically, meaningfully, mechanically, merrily, miserably, mockingly, monthly, more, mortally, mostly, mysteriously.

naturally, nearly, neatly, needily, nervously, never, nicely, noisily, not.

obediently, obnoxiously, oddly, offensively, officially, often, only, openly, optimistically, overconfidently,

painfully, partially, patiently, perfectly, physically, playfully, politely, poorly, positively, potentially, powerfully, promptly, properly, punctually.

quaintly, quarrelsomely, queasily, queerly, questionably, questioningly, quicker, quickly, quietly, quirkily, quizzically.

rapidly, rarely, readily, really, reassuringly, recklessly, regularly, reluctantly, repeatedly, reproachfully, restfully, righteously, rightfully, rigidly, roughly, rudely.

sadly, safely, scarcely, scarily, searchingly, sedately, seemingly, seldom, selfishly, separately, seriously, shakily, sharply, sheepishly, shrilly, shyly, silently, sleepily, slowly, smoothly, softly, solemnly, solidly, sometimes, soon, speedily, stealthily, sternly, strictly, successfully, suddenly, surprisingly, suspiciously, sweetly, swiftly, sympathetically.

tenderly, tensely, terribly, thankfully, thoroughly, thoughtfully, tightly, tomorrow, too, tremendously, triumphantly, truly, truthfully

ultimately, unabashedly, unaccountably, unbearably, unethically, unexpectedly, unfortunately, unimpressively, unnaturally, unnecessarily, utterly, upbeat, upliftingly, upright, upside-down, upward, upwardly, urgently, usefully, uselessly, usually, utterly

vacantly, vaguely, vainly, valiantly, vacantly, vaguely, vainly, valiantly, vastly, verbally, very, viciously, victoriously, violently, vivaciously, voluntarily, vastly, verbally, very, viciously, victoriously, violently, vivaciously, voluntarily.

warmly, weakly, wearily, well, wetly, wholly, wildly, willfully, wisely, woefully, wonderfully, worriedly, wrongly.

yawningly, yearly, yearningly, yesterday, yieldingly, youthfully.

zealously, zestfully, zestily.



I wrote this hub in response to a question 'What does an adverb modify'. English Language is my pet hobby so I felt compelled to answer the question in this way. I hope everyone who reads this finds it useful. You could even use the adverbs listed to jazz up your comments in the various hubs you visit.

Thanks for visiting and reading.

All comments appreciated.

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© 2010 Leni Sands


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  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    5 years ago from UK

    Hi, I've just modified this hub, adding polls and photographs as per hubpages 'evergreen'. All comments appreciated.

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    7 years ago from UK

    I have noticed some terrible grammatical errors in some novels I have read recently - it seems even the publishing industry is getting a little lax in that area as well. It is a shame that people don't think it is important anymore. More English Language hubs will follow shortly when I can find the time to put them together. Thanks for your visit DorthyJanes.

  • DorthyJanes profile image


    7 years ago

    Here in the U.S., good grammer is rapidly vanishing. Even the news media people don't use the best English. How long will the language as we know it--survive? I fear that technology is taking over creating a "shorthand" so we can communicate faster by texting. We'll see...

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    An adverb is exactly what it says it is - 'add to a verb' to describe the verb (doing). Describing how something is done! Adverbs usually answer the questions: how? in what way? when? where? and to what extent? - as described in the early part of this hub. All the adverbs demonstrated in the text show this.

  • profile image

    katy poopie  

    8 years ago

    does any one know what an adverb is?

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    Thank you Dream On, I will keep those tips coming, don't worry. I am pleased you find then so useful. Keep checking back. Sorry it took so long to get back to you but I kept getting interrupted by work! Sad that free time should be interrupted by work but that is the story of my life. Keep up your enthusiasm.

  • DREAM ON profile image


    8 years ago

    I have always loved school when other students seem to dislike it so much.I have never been more than a C+ B- student.I try harder than the other students but some things just don't come easy.I was the run on master and I was graded harsh on my grammar mistakes.I have always been filled with endless ideas and thoughts and now I have been trying to share my thoughts with anyone who will listen.I have always wanted to write a book and your helpful tips they can help me even more.I will come back again and again to refresh some of my skills.Please keep the grammar tips coming.There are a lot of students who still need and want some help but have little time for college classes.Thank you so much.

  • attemptedhumour profile image


    8 years ago from Australia

    All you need is a cane and away you go. I was good at writing lines at school. It's nearly midnight now so i can't think of anything intelligent to write. Cheers this will help them whot needs it.

  • Jed Fisher profile image

    Jed Fisher 

    8 years ago from Oklahoma

    When used effectively, adverbs make prose more elegant. Know the rules and break them I say, magnificently; pacing and tone and timbre of narrative voice, deliberately taking pause with adverbs.

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    Nellieanna, I pride myself on my grammar knowledge. My students always enjoyed English Language lessons as I tried to make them as good fun as possible.

    Your comments are always appreciated and anytime you spot an error in my hubs please please highlight the error. Sometimes over enthusiasm in creating a useful hub gets the better of me.

    I plan to do several English language grammar hubs.

    Thanks again.

  • Nellieanna profile image

    Nellieanna Hay 

    8 years ago from TEXAS

    Thank goodness. I just knew it was an accidental or careless error and my comment was aimed more toward readers who might accept it as what you'd meant to say! You obviously know your grammar and in this era of computers and other electronic gadgets which tend to minimize awareness of it, we all need all the reminding we can get. Gone are the days when a big RED comment on our hand-written-on-notebook-paper essays clued us in to our goofs! Now we shortcut and spell phonetically, and many may not even realize the correct usage.

    Perhaps what we consider correct will have to evolve, but it will need to be the standard usage and now, it still "smarts" to see an otherwise good writer blatantly misusing grammar, spelling and even meaning of language, which, after all, has only one real purpose - to accurately communicate. If everyone follows his/her own idea of it, then the continuity and common-language value goes kapoot and it's back to the Tower of Babel again - LOL. Thank you for championing good usage!

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    Ah, Nellieanna, you are so right! I wondered when someone would spot that (lol)! No seriously, thanks for spotting that 'seriously awful mistake' (from my next hub on nouns and adjectives) I will correct that, thank you.

  • Nellieanna profile image

    Nellieanna Hay 

    8 years ago from TEXAS

    Just one thing. In the sentence "She was a lovely, vibrant redhead", lovely and vibrant modify the noun, "redhead", and are adjectives.

    All words ending in "ly" are not automatically adverbs. Just those which are converted from other parts of speech into adverbs. It's the usage which determines the adverb. Lovely is not converted from "love". It's a word to begin with, having its own definition. On the other hand, "gingerly" is converted from the noun "ginger" and "patiently" is converted from the adjective "patient".

    Your article is extremely (converted from extreme to modify the adjective well-done) well done and it is good to see a focus on grammaar!! Bravo! More, more! I will look forward to more of your work!

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    ...and many more lessons to come. Thanks for visiting daydreamer13

  • daydreamer13 profile image


    8 years ago

    Good lesson.

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    dagoglund - thank you, not just for supposedly objective news stories but can also be used for embellishing those comments here in hubland. lol

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    maggs224 - as a teacher I found it better to simplify learning and turn it into a game, I found the kids remembered it better particularly those with learning difficulties - simple is what I do best lol.

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 

    8 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    These are the words to beware of when reading supposedly objective news stories.

  • maggs224 profile image


    8 years ago from Sunny Spain

    I learned more here today about adverbs than I did the whole time I was at school. Thanks for explaining it so simply and for giving all the examples.

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    Gypsy48 - Thank you, it is easy to put all that learning aside. Gentle reminders now and then guide us along. Thanks for stopping by, your comments are appreciated.

  • leni sands profile imageAUTHOR

    Leni Sands 

    8 years ago from UK

    Acaetnna - you got me! Once a teacher always a teacher I guess but I just couldn't resist the question asked by weblog. I love language almost as much as David Crystal.

  • Gypsy48 profile image


    8 years ago

    Great hub! It's amazing how much I've forgotten since my schooldays,a long,long,time ago.

  • acaetnna profile image


    8 years ago from Guildford

    Surely you must be a teacher? This reminded me of my school days!


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