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Adverbs: What You Need to Know
Explanations and examples of adverbs
The adverb belongs to a large class of words that add information by qualifying or modifying a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, or a clause—basically anything except nouns and pronouns (which are modified by adjectives). They can behave quite differently from one another and yet still be classified as adverbs. Confused? Don't be! After we provide some examples of adverbs, you will have a much better understanding of this mystifying modifier.
Examples of adverbs #1: Adverbs in action
The following are examples of how adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, prepositions, and entire clauses:
He walked (verb) aimlessly (adverb).
That sounded like an extremely (adverb) interesting (adjective) plan.
The cyclist pedaled very (adverb) swiftly (adverb).
The parrots flew right (adverb) over (preposition) the house.
Apparently (adverb), they had already left for Berlin (clause).
Examples of adverbs #2: Understanding different types of adverbs
A useful way of summing up these hard-working words is to say that they are used to describe one of the following instances of an event or action:
1. How an event occurs (also known as adverbs of manner)
He ate his pear noisily (adverb).
2. When an event occurs (also known as adverbs of time)
He left the town yesterday (adverb).
We'll meet again (adverb).
3. Where an event occurs (also known as adverbs of place)
I left the book here (adverb).
Outside (adverb), the rain poured down.
4. How often an action or event occurs
She takes the train daily (adverb).
5. The degree or extent of an action (also known as degree adverbs)
How (adverb) tall is she?
She discovered that the plant was highly (adverb) toxic.
6. To strengthen or weaken the meaning of an adjective, adverb, or verb
Lucy speaks more loudly (adverb) than her brother.
Examples of adverbs #3: How to spot adverbs
It is impossible to tell by the appearance of a word that it is an adverb. Indeed, the same word may be an adverb in one sentence and a different part of speech, such as a noun or adjective, in another sentence. The only way writers can recognize an adverb is by the work the adverb does in a sentence. Compare the following:
The trip went well.
The old well was full by morning.
In the first sentence, the adverb "well" describes the verb "went," and therefore is an adverb (of manner). In the second sentence, the word "well" names something, and thus is a noun.
Similarly, in the sentence,
I'll catch the early train,
"early" describes the noun, "train," and is an adjective. In the sentence,
I awoke early this morning,
"early" tells us more about the verb "awoke," and is an adverb of time.
Some adverbs have the same form as adjectives. As we have seen in the example above, "early" works in a sentence as an adjective (used to describe nouns, including people, places, and things) or an adverb. The words "hard," "fast," "late," and "long" are other examples.
To make your meaning clear, an adverb should usually be placed as close as possible to the word the adverb is intended to describe or modify. Compare the meaning in these two sentences:
We nearly lost all our research material.
We lost nearly all our research material.
The first sentence means that the material was saved, but the second says that almost everything was lost.
Examples of adverbs #4: A trick for recognizing adverbs of manner
In English, adverbs of manner are often created from adjectives by adding the suffix "ly" to the end; for example, "soft" becomes "softly" and "gradual" becomes "gradually." The placement of "ly" on the end of a word can be a good clue that the word is an adverb.
On the other hand, remember that adjectives naturally ending in "le" or "ly" do not form attractive adverbs, for example, "silly" as "sillily." These and other words ending in "ly," such as "friendly" (adjective) or "lonely" (adjective), are never used as adverbs.
Examples of adverbs #5: Spot a degree adverb easily
Like adjectives, many adverbs can be graded; that is, we can modify them using very or extremely:
softly: very softly
suddenly: very suddenly
slowly: extremely slowly
The modifying words "very" and "extremely" are themselves adverbs that, as we have seen, are called degree adverbs, since they specify the degree to which an adjective or another adverb applies. Other examples are "almost," "barely," "entirely," "highly," "quite," "slightly," and "totally."
An adverb ending in "ly" does not need a hyphen to indicate that the adverb is modifying the adjective or participle next to the adverb. When adverbs that do not end in "ly" are used as compound words in front of a noun, they should be hyphenated, but if they follow the noun, do not use a hyphen:
He brought a carefully prepared breakfast.
She bought a pair of much-needed shoes.
Her new shoes were much needed.
Understanding and identifying adverbs is easy—when you know what you're looking for. If you're concerned with your use of adverbs, have our English academic editors take a look at your document to ensure that it is free from grammatical and spelling errors!