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English grammar (adverbs)


Adverbs are traditionally defined as words that describe verbs.

Adverbs answer any of the following questions about verbs:

how? when? where? why?
Adverbs are the most moveable of all parts of speech; therefore, it is sometimes difficult to identify an adverb on the basis of its position in a sentence.
Most adverbs end in -ly. In fact, most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to adjectives:


Following examples illustrate adverbs modifying verbs:

Sam easily lifted the box
How did he lift the box ?
Easily is an adverb.

Rani hide the key nearby
Where did Rani hide the key?
Nearby is an adverb.

I will use new computer tomorrow
When will I use it?
Tomorrow functions as an adverb.

Type of adverbs

There are different kinds of adverbs expressing different meaning. The following are some of the common ones.
 Adverb of time
An adverb of time tells us when something is done or happens. We use it at the beginning or at the end of a sentence. We use it as a form of emphasis when we place it at the beginning. Adverbs of time include afterwards, already, always, immediately, last month, now, soon, then, and yesterday.
  • Sam collapsed and died yesterday.
  • His factory was burned down a few months ago.
  • Last week, we were stuck in the lift for an hour.
 Adverb of place
An adverb of place tells us where something is done or happens. We use it after the verb, object or at the end of a sentence. Adverbs of place include words such as abovebelowhereoutsideover therethereunder,upstairs.
  • We can stop here for lunch.
  • The schoolboy was knocked over by a school bus.
  • They rushed for their lives when fire broke out in the floor below.
 Adverb of manner
An adverb of manner tells us how something is done or happens. Most adverbs of manner end in –ly such as badlyhappilysadlyslowlyquickly, and others that include wellhardfast, etc.
  • The brothers were badly injured in the fight.
  • They had to act fast to save the others floating in the water.
  • At the advanced age of 88, she still sang very well.
 Adverb of degree
An adverb of degree tells us the level or extent that something is done or happens. Words of adverb of degree are almostmuchnearlyquitereally,sotoovery, etc.
  • It was too dark for us to find our way out of the cave. (Before adjective)
  • The referee had to stop the match when it began to rain very heavily. (Before adverb)
  • Her daughter is quite fat for her age.
  • The accident victim nearly died from his injuries.
  • After all these years, she is still feeling very sad about her father’s death.
 Adverb of frequency
An adverb of frequency tells us how often something is done or happens. Words used as adverbs of frequency include againalmost, alwaysever,frequentlygenerallyhardly evernearlynearly alwaysnever,occasionallyoftenrarelyseldomsometimestwice, usually, and weekly.
  • They were almost fifty when they got married.
  • Tom hardly ever say something nice to his wife.
  • While overseas, she frequently phoned home.
  • She is not nearly always right although she thinks she is always right.
  • He complained that she never smiled back.
  • We only write to each other very occasionally.
  • Peter seldom reads the Bible.
  • Sometimes he stays late in the office to complete his work.
  • Our cat was bitten twice by the same dog.
  • The man usually proposes marriage.

Forms of Adverbs

There are three forms of adverbs: adverbs formed by adding -ly to an adjective, adverbs that share identical words with an adjective, and adverbs not derived from an adjective or any other word.

a) Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective

He had a sudden heart attack while jogging. (Adjective)
He suddenly had a heart attack while jogging. (Adverb)
She had a quick walk to get there on time. (Adjective)
She walked quickly to get there on time. (Adverb)

b) Adverbs that share identical words with an adjective

He found the exam quite hard. (Adjective)
He failed his exam as he didn't try very hard. (Adverb)
The two brothers live on opposite sides of the city. (Adjective)
She has a brother who lives opposite to her. (Adverb)

c) Adverbs such as as, even, how, never, next, now, rather, so, soon, still, then, too, etc.

He doesn't even know where the Pacific Ocean is.
He said he had never been to a circus.

She has got rather a lot of money to spend at this time of the month.
She has eaten two big pizzas and is still hungry.

Converting a number of adjectives to adverbs by adding -ly entails removing a letter as shown in the following:

by adding –ly or –ally to the end of an adjective (quick –quickly, heroic –heroically),
by adding –ly after removing the last –e from an adjective (comfortable–comfortably, possible–possibly), or
by dropping the last y from an adjectiveand replacing it with –ily (easy–easily, happy–happily).

Adverbs are also formed from other parts of speech such as noun (accident)and verb (hurry), and from present participle (frightening).

Shedeleted my file by accident. (Noun)
He accidentally deleted my file. (Adverb)
Nick hurried to answer the telephone. (Verb)
Nick moved hurriedly to answer the telephone. (Adverb)
He's frightening us with the speed he's driving. (present participle)

Positions of Adverbs

Adverbs occupy different positions in a sentence.
1. At the beginning of a sentence before the subject
Sometimes she gives me a lift to work.
Fortunately we got home before it started to rain.
Suddenly all the lights went out.

2. After the auxiliary verb and before the main verb
The father was tragically killed in a road accident.
We do occasionally go bird-watching.
The rain has already stopped when we arrived.

3. After the auxiliary verb (be) that is used as the main verb
She is always quick to point out other people's faults.
As usual, they are very late.
The boys were incredibly lucky to be alive after what happened.

4. Before the main verb if there is no auxiliary verb

Their parents often go to the cinema.
She reluctantly agreed to his proposals.
Your fat uncle accidentally knocked my vase of fresh flowers over.

5. After the main verb if there is no auxiliary verb
The sisters dressed beautifully for the occasion.
The tourist looked carefully at the antique before she bought it.
She spoke loudly to the crowd on women's issues.

6. At the end of a sentence
He admitted punching and kicking the man repeatedly.
Our old neighbour fell and hurt her leg badly.
Hey, you have not pronounced my name correctly.

Adverbs comparison

There are three degrees of comparison in adverbs – the Positive, the Comparative, and the Superlative. The adverbs form their comparatives and superlatives using –er and –est , and more and most. Adverbs that end in –ly use the words more and most to form their comparatives and superlatives.
The one-syllable adverbs use ‘-er’ in the comparative form, and ‘-est’ in the superlative form.

Adverbs which end in ‘-ly’ or have three or more syllables each form the comparative with ‘more’ and the superlative with ‘most’.
angrilymore angrily most angrily
brightlymore brightlymost brightly
dimlymore dimlymost dimly
freelymore freelymost freely
heavilymore heavilymost heavily
 Some adverbs form the comparative and the superlative irregularly.

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