The part of speech (or word class) that is primarily used to modify a verb, adjective, or other adverb. Adverbs can also modify prepositional phrases, subordinate clauses, and complete sentences. Adjective: adverbial.
Positions of an Adverb:
An adverb that modifies an adjective ("quite sad") or another adverb ("very carelessly") appears immediately in front of the word it modifies. An adverb that modifies a verb is generally more flexible: it may appear before or after the verb it modifies ("softly sang" or "sang softly"), or it may appear at the beginning of the sentence ("Softly she sang to the baby"). The position of the adverb may have an effect on the meaning of the sentence.
Functions of an Adverb:
Adverbs typically add information about time (rarely, frequently, tomorrow), manner (slowly, quickly, willingly), or place (here, there, everywhere) in addition to a wide range of other meanings.
Forms of an Adverb:
Many adverbs--especially adverbs of manner--are formed from adjectives by the addition of the ending -ly (easily, dependably). But many common adverbs (just, still, almost, not) do not end in -ly, and not all words that end in -ly (friendly, neighborly) are adverbs. See "Observations," below.
- Adverb Clause
- Adverb Phrase
- Adverb of Emphasis
- Conjunctive Adverb
- Degree and Degree Modifier
- Flat Adverb
- Manner Adverb
- Modification, Modifier, and Submodifier
- Prepositional Adverb
- Relative Adverb
- Sentence Adverb
- Speech-Act Adverb
- Adding Adjectives and Adverbs to the Basic Sentence Unit
- Exercise in Identifying Adverbs: Stuart Little Edition
- Expanding Sentences With Adjectives and Adverbs
- Practice in Forming the Comparative and Superlative Degrees of Adverbs
- Practice in Turning Adjectives Into Adverbs
- Sentence Building with Adjectives and Adverbs
- Sentence Combining With Adjectives and Adverbs
- Present-Day English (PDE)
- Tom Swifty
- The Unfaithful Inaugural Adverb
- Why the Adverb Is Not Our Friend
Etymology:From the Latin, "in relation to" + "word"
- "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive."
(Robert Louis Stevenson)
- "War puts its questions stupidly, peace mysteriously."
- "Elmer Gantry was drunk. He was eloquently drunk, lovingly and pugnaciously drunk."
(Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry, 1927)
- "I will not torment the emotionally frail."
(Bart Simpson, The Simpsons)
- "Life is that which--pressingly, persistently, unfailingly, imperially--interrupts."
(Cynthia Ozick, "Pear Tree and Polar Bear," Esquire, August 1985)
- "In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong."
(John Kenneth Galbraith)
- "It was a frightfully hot day. We'd jammed an absolutely perfect barricade across the bridge. It was simply priceless."
(Ernest Hemingway, In Our Time. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1925)
- "In the heat of a political lifetime, Ronald Reagan innocently squirrels away tidbits of misinformation and then, sometimes years later, casually drops them into his public discourse, like gum balls in a quiche."
- "The thought came gently and stealthily . . .; but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if magically, from before me; the tall candles sank into nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the blackness of darkness supervened; all sensations appeared swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul into Hades."
(Edgar Allan Poe, "The Pit and the Pendulum," 1842)
- "And now, when Danforth and I saw the freshly glistening and reflectively iridescent black slime which clung thickly to those headless bodies and stank obscenely with that new unknown odor whose cause only a diseased fancy could envisage--clung to those bodies and sparkled less voluminously on a smooth part of accursedly resculptured wall in a series of grouped dots--we understood the quality of cosmic fear to its uttermost depths."
(H.P. Lovecraft, At the Mountains of Madness, 1936)
- "A few adverbs exist without the benefit of the ly identity tag. . . . The words include: late, very, well, not, there, fast, quick, slow, close, deep, direct, fair, fine, hard, high, low, right, wrong, straight, tight, loud."
(Val Dumond, Grammar for Grownups. Harper, 1993)
Distinguishing Between Adjectives and Adverbs
Sometimes the same word can be both an adjective and and an adverb. In order to distinguish between them, it is important to look at the context of the word and its function in a sentence>
The fast train from London to Cardiff leaves at three o'clock.In the first and third sentences, the words fast and hard modify nouns. The first is an attributive adjective, coming before the noun it modifies; the second is a predicative adjective, coming after the verb to be. In the second and fourth sentences, the words fast and hard modify verbs. These are both circumstance adverbs which are in the end position."
The sprinter took the bend fast.
The bed was hard and gave me a bad night's sleep.
After faltering, the horses hit the fence hard.
(Sara Thorne, Mastering Advanced Language, 2nd ed. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)
- "The comparative and superlative inflections, -er and -est, combine with adverbs as well as with adjectives, although in a much more limited way. The comparative form of -ly adverbs, usually formed by adding more rather than -er, is fairly common. The superlative degree--most suddenly, most favorably--is rare enough in both speech and writing to have impact when used; it invariably calls attention to itself, and in most cases will have the main focus and main stress of the sentence: The committee was most favorably impressed with the proposal."
(Martha Kolln and Robert Funk, Understanding English Grammar, 5th ed. Allyn and Bacon, 1998)
The Dustbin Class?
"Because of its heterogeneity, the adverb class is the least satisfactory of the traditional parts of speech. As a consequence, some grammarians have removed certain types of items from the class entirely and established several additional classes rather than retain these as subjects within a single adverb class."
(Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik, A Grammar of Contemporary English. Longman, 1972)
"Some have likened the [adverb] to a dustbin, into which grammarians would place any words whose grammatical status was unclear. Certainly, the following words have very little structurally in common, yet all have been labeled 'adverb' in traditional grammars:
tomorrowThe, an adverb? In such contexts as The more the merrier."
(David Crystal, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, 3rd ed. Cambridge University Press, 2010)
Dandelions and Miracles
"I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs. To put it another way, they're like dandelions."
(Stephen King, On Writing, 2000)
"It is not the diamonds or the birds, the people or the potatoes; it is not any of the nouns. The miracle is the adverbs, the way things are done."
(Daniel Handler, Adverbs. Ecco, 2006)
"I'm glad you like adverbs--I adore them; they are the only qualifications I really much respect."
(Henry James, letter to Miss M. Bentham Edwards, January 5, 1912; The Letters of Henry James, 1920)