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Adverbs in English Language

Written version: Adverbs | Written version.
Audio version: Adverbs | Podcast.


  1. Definition of adverbs
  2. Kinds of adverbs with examples
  3. Use of adverbs with examples
  4. Comparison
  5. Formation of adverbs
  6. Positions of adverbs in sentence
  7. Inversion of subject and verb with adverbs

Definition of adverbs
Adverbs are words that modify a verb, adjective, another adverb, determiner, noun phrase, clause, or an entire sentence.

Kinds of adverbs
There are eight kinds of adverbs in English language

  • Adverbs of manner – Adverbs of manner tell us how something happens (examples: quickly, fast, carelessly, well etc.)
  • Adverbs of place – Adverbs of place tell us where something happens (examples: here, there, nowhere, inside, out etc.)
  • Adverbs of time – Adverbs of time tell us when or how long something happens (examples: now, yesterday, immediately, then etc.)
  • Adverbs of frequency – Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens (examples: often, never, always, frequently etc.)
  • Adverbs of degree – Adverbs of degree tell us about the intensity or degree of the action carried by the verb (examples: very, too, fairly, quite, almost etc.)
  • Affirmation and negations (examples: yes, no, not etc.)
  • Interrogations (examples: when? how? why? etc.)
  • Relation (examples: when, where, why, how etc.)


Use of adverbs
An adverb can modify the following parts of a sentence:

  • A verb (example: I washed the dishes today.)
  • An adjective (example: Washing dishes was very quick work.)
  • An adverb (example: I washed dishes very quickly.)
  • A noun or noun equivalent (example: The very thing I wanted, the up train.)
  • A preposition or a prepositional phrase (example 1: I am almost through my work; example 2: I live nearly on top of the hill.)
  • A whole sentence (example: Fortunately, I remembered his face.)


Comparison of adverbs
Adverbs that can be compared have the same degree of comparison as adjectives.
Hard, harder, the hardest
Often, oftener, the oftenest
More often, the most often

Formation of adverbs
There are eight ways to form adverbs; each of them is explained and exemplified below.

(1) The basic form of forming adverbs is to add the suffix –ly to an adjective (adjective + ly = adverb). Unfortunately, the rule above doesn’t apply in all situations.

(2) What happen if an adjective ends in –ly, such as lovely and friendly, to name just two very common adjectives? Well, in this situation the suffix –ly is not usually added, instead, forming the adverbial phrase is preferred: in a lovely way and with a friendly attitude.
She looked at me in a lovely way.

There are adjectives and adverbs with the same form. I will divide them into two categories: adjectives concerning time and others that are both adjectives and adverbs.

(3) The first category is adjectives concerning time (early, monthly etc)
(Adjective) – Let’s buy a ticket for the early bus.
(Adverb) – We must wake up early.
(Adjective) – This is a monthly magazine.
(Adverb) – The school pays me monthly.

(4) The second category contains words that are both adjectives and adverbs (straight, clean etc).
(Adjective) – Drawing a straight line is difficult.
(Adverb) – Go straight on the street.
(Adjective) – There is a clean glass on the shelf.
(Adverb) – He just got clean from alcohol.

(5) There is another situation when the adjective form and the adjective + ly form are used as adverbs (sometimes with different meaning). The best example here is using the word cheap (Example: The pants were cheap. I bought them cheap/cheaply).

(6) There are adverbs that have the same form as the adjectives and add –ly in a different meaning. These are: hard, high, late, and pretty. Probably there are few others.
He worked hard / He hardly worked.
The house is high / He is highly appreciated.

(7) Adverbs can be form with the help of the following suffixes: -way, -wards, and –wise.
(-Way) – I have to walk sideways on this street.
(-Wards) – I went backwards.
(-Wise) – He sat with his legs crosswise.

(8) There are some adverbs formed with the prefix a-. Such adverbs are: ashore, aloft and abroad (and probably there are some others).
We swam ashore.
It was raised aloft.
I should go abroad this vacation.

Positions of adverbs in sentence
There are three common positions for adverbs in a sentence: front position, mid position, and end position.

(1) Adverbs that modify adjectives or other adverbs usually come before them (examples: very tired, quite quickly, etc).

(2) Adverbs that qualify a whole sentence usually come at the beginning but they can have a mid position or end position (examples: Still, I don’t think it is true).

(3) Adverbs that qualify verbs are used in a great variety of positions. However, I will present the commonest positions in certain cases.

Situation 1 – Adverbs of manner, place, and time are commonly used at the end of a sentence following the order shown in the example.
Example: The principal spoke well at the ceremony yesterday morning.
Well – adverb of manner (first)
At the ceremony – adverb of place (second)
Yesterday morning – adverb of time (third)

The situation is a little bit different when the sentence contains a verb of movement. In this situation the adverb of place comes immediately after the verb.
Example: They got here easily today.
Here – adverb of place

Situation 2 – Adverbs of frequency usually come before the main part of a verb (the verb “be” in present and past simple tenses creates an exception).
Example 1: I have always lived in this house.
Example 2: I am never bad-tempered.

Note: An adverb is not usually put between the verb and its direct object. Other positions are usually preferred.
The student reads the lesson quickly.
Quickly the student reads the lesson.
The student quickly reads the lesson.

Inversion of subject and verb with adverbs
Inversion of subject and verb with adverbs may occur in certain situations.

Situation 1 – In a sentence that contains the word “so” as an adverb that is qualifying either an adjective or another adverb.
The housekeeper finished her work so quickly that she was given a bonus.
So quickly did the housekeeper finish her work that she was given a bonus.

Situation 2 – Usually, for emphasis, an adverb or adverb phrase which does not normally have a front position in sentence may have it.
Twice within my grandfather’s lifetime have world wars taken place.

Situation 3 – Inversion of subject and verb must occur with negative adverbs in front position (or adverb equivalents).
Nowhere else in the world will you find so many motorcycles.

Situation 4 – When the word “only” is in front position and it is qualifying a verb then inversion must occur:
Only by hard work are you able to pass English examinations.

Situation 5 – The inversion of subject and verb occur in exclamatory sentences introduced by the words “there” or “here” if the subject of the sentence is a noun:
Here comes the bus!

1 Comment - Leave a comment
  1. Bob says:

    Hi Dan.

    Thanks for this. But you write:

    “Adverbs that qualify a whole sentence usually come at the beginning but they can have a mid position or end position (examples: Still, I don’t think it is true).”

    I guess the others two would be (2) “I still don’t think it is true.” and (3) “I don’t think it is still true.” and – possibly – (4) “I don’t think it is true still.”.

    While all are sort of possible I think I see different meanings here. The first (yours) implies somewhat mild disagreement. The second – “still don’t” sounds somewhat more emphatic. The third implies that it was true in he past but is no longer true; though in this case the “still” could be regarded as referring to the word “true” and not to the whole sentence. But in the rather dubious “I don’t think it is true still.” I have the same impression.

    My point is, I guess, that while you can move the adverb you may also be moving the emphasis.


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