What is an adverb?

These words modify your “doing” and “describing” words, known as verbs and adjectives. Here’s how to use them! 

Christina Levandowski

Christina Levandowski

March 2024

What is an adverb?

These words modify your “doing” and “describing” words, known as verbs and adjectives. Here’s how to use them! 

Christina Levandowski

Christina Levandowski

March 2024

What is an adverb?

These words modify your “doing” and “describing” words, known as verbs and adjectives. Here’s how to use them! 

Christina Levandowski

Christina Levandowski

March 2024

Key takeaways

  • Many adverbs end in “-ly” – Examples of this include “really,” “rarely,” “early,” and others. While there may be some exceptions, many adverbs follow this rule. 
  • Adverbs tell us a lot with a word or two – When adverbs modify verbs, they often tell us how something is happening. When they modify adjectives, they usually tell us the degree to which an adjective is true. 
  • Adverbs can modify entire sentences – These are known as “sentence adverbs.” They tell us information about the feeling of a sentence.

Adverbs are modifiers that give us more information about a sentence. They typically modify verbs and adjectives — although sometimes, they can modify entire sentences or other adverbs! 

Learning how to use adverbs in your schoolwork and speech allows you to communicate clearly with whoever you’re speaking or writing to. You’ll use them in your schoolwork, essays, and speeches, and you’ll also use them in your daily conversation. (We bet you’ve already been using adverbs in your daily life!)  

Ready to dig in? Read on to learn more about the role that adverbs play in almost all of your sentences.

What is an adverb?

Adverbs are singular words that modify (or describe) adjectives, verbs, sentences, and other adverbs. They’re often used to add detail to speech and written work — explaining how an action is happening or how the speaker or the writer is feeling about whatever statement is about to be said or written. 

Adverbs vs. adjectives

Adjectives describe, or modify, nouns. Nouns are people, places, and things. Adverbs, on the other hand, typically modify verbs, adjectives, sentences, and other adverbs. 

Adjectives can turn into adverbs by adding “ly” to the end of the adjective, in many cases. We see this in words like “loudly” or “perfectly.” If your adjective ends in “-y,” you can usually still turn it into an adverb. You’ll just add “ily” instead of “ly.” An example of this would be “easily” or “luckily.”

The different kinds of adverbs

Adverbs are like the “chameleons” of the English language, since their shape and form are constantly changing. Here are the different types of adverbs, and examples of each:

Adverbs of manner

Adverbs of manner tell the reader or listener how something is happening. We often use lots of adverbs of manner in direct conversation, describing action words (or verbs). 

Examples of adverbs of manner include: 

  • Quickly 
  • Slowly 
  • Excitedly

Adverbs of degree

Adverbs of degree explain the degree of intensity (or extent) to which something is happening. They are commonly seen as single words, and include terms such as: 

  • Barely 
  • Totally
  • Slightly
  • Quite

Adverbs of place

Adverbs of place tell us where the main topic of conversation happens. They’re commonly seen placed after the main verb or after the main clause, and don’t typically modify adjectives or adverbs. 

  • Nearby 
  • Everywhere
  • Around 

They can also be used as a part of an adverbial phrase, or a group of words that act as a single adverb. Examples of adverbial phrases using adverbs of place include: 

  • Behind the schoolyard 
  • Around the parking lot 

Adverbs of time

Adverbs of time tell a reader or a writer how long it took for something to happen. They can also explain when and how often the action happened. They can often be used interchangeably or closely with adverbs of frequency, which we explain down below. 

Common adverbs of time include: 

  • Tomorrow 
  • Later 
  • Yesterday 
  • Weekly 
  • Daily 

Adverbs of time are typically placed at the end of sentences as well, or they can be placed at the beginning of a sentence if you want to call more attention to a single aspect of the sentence in question.

The following sentences offer examples of each use case: 

  • My room got quite messy, I plan to clean it weekly instead of daily
  • Later, Romeo kissed Juliet. 

You can also use adverbs of time mid-sentence if you plan to use the adverb in formal writing, as you might for a science or history report. An example of this would be: 

  • Romeo later kissed Juliet

Adverbs of frequency

While adverbs of time are parts of speech that can be used broadly, describing how long it took something to happen or when something happened; adverbs of frequency have a narrower, more exclusive focus — telling how often something happened. 

Common adverbs of frequency include: 

  • Always
  • Rarely

The following examples show adverbs of frequency in action: 

  • I always get ice cream after school. 
  • I rarely get mint chip, though. I prefer chocolate. 
  • I usually invite Brianna, but she’s always busy studying. 

👉 While adverbs of time can also tell how often something happened, they have other functions. Adverbs of frequency exclusively tell us the frequency of events and actions.

Adverbs of purpose

Adverbs of purpose are commonly seen in school assignments, as they explain why something is the way that it is. These can be used broadly, modifying adverbs, adjectives, and verbs. 

Examples of adverbs of purpose include: 

  • We went early in order to get snacks before the show. 
  • I paid extra for another plate. 
  • I am saving up so I can buy a car. 

Other types of adverbs

Adverbs can take on a few other roles in the English language. We’ve summarised four additional adverb types below:

Conjunctive adverbs (or, adverbials for cohesion)

Conjunctive adverbs are the glue that combines two clauses together. They do this by smoothing out the jarring gap that would otherwise be there if there were two clauses laid together, separated only by punctuation. 

Here’s an example: 

Clauses without conjunctive adverbs: I wanted to order coffee. The coffee shop is closed. 

Clauses with conjunctive adverbs: I wanted to order coffee; however, the coffee shop is closed. 

Above, we can see that conjunctive adverbs make two clauses appear conversational, connecting the flow of ideas easily. 

Focusing adverbs

Focusing adverbs do just that — working overtime to call focus to a specific part of a sentence. As such, they’re usually put right next to the area of the sentence that you want to emphasise. 

Common focusing adverbs include: 

  • Especially 
  • Either 
  • Only

Here are some examples of focusing adverbs in action: 

  • I don’t like fruit, especially apples. 
  • I only like to read fiction. 

Interrogative adverbs

Interrogative adverbs ask questions and prompt for more information. They switch the flow of a typical sentence, putting the verb in front of the subject in most cases. Interrogative adverbs are words that we use every day, including: 

  • Where
  • How
  • Why
  • When

We see an example of sentence syntax change with the natural conversational flow and use of these adverbs: 

  • Why are you late for school? 
    • (“Why” is the interrogative adverb, “are” is the subverted verb that has taken its place ahead of the subject, and “you” is this example).

Relative adverbs

While interrogative adverbs may look the same as relative adverbs, they have two different jobs. Interrogatives interrogate, directly asking questions. Relative adverbs take on the same words (i.e., “where,” “when,” and “why,”) to introduce an adverb clause. 

We’ve offered some relative adverb examples below to clarify:

  • Look for the glasses where you last left them  
  • When she came over, we read together

Explore adverbs with DoodleEnglish

DoodleEnglish is an app that’s filled with thousands of fun, interactive exercises covering grammar, punctuation, spelling and more!

Designed by teachers, it creates each child a unique work programme tailored to their needs, boosting their confidence and skills in English. Try it for free today!

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FAQs about adverbs

If you see a word modifying (read: describing) an adjective or verb, you’ve likely found an adverb. They commonly end in “-ly” or “-ily.”

Adjectives primarily modify nouns and pronouns; or people, places, and things. Adverbs provide additional information, describing or “modifying” verbs, adjectives, adverbs, or entire sentences themselves. 

Adverbs don’t typically modify nouns or pronouns. Adverbs of degree can be used to modify noun phrases, however. 

Now can be an adverb, describing something occurring at the given moment. 

Screenshot 2023-10-13 at 16.29.14

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