Adverbs

Definition

Adverbs are words that modify any of the following:

  • a verb (He drove slowly. — How did he drive?)
  • an adjective (He drove a very fast car. — How fast was his car?)
  • another adverb (She moved quite slowly down the aisle. — How slowly did she move?)

Adverbs often tell when, where, why, or under what conditions something happens or happened. Adverbs frequently end in -ly; however, many words and phrases not ending in -ly serve an adverbial function and an -ly ending is not a guarantee that a word is an adverb. The words lovely, lonely, motherly, friendly, neighbourly, for instance, are adjectives:

  • That lovely woman lives in a friendly neighbourhood.

If a group of words containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb (modifying the verb of a sentence), it is called an adverb clause:

  • When this class is over, we’re going to the movies.

When a group of words not containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb, it is called an adverbial phrase. Prepositional phrases frequently have adverbial functions (telling place and time, modifying the verb):

  • He went to the movies.
  • They lived in Canada during the war.

Infinitive phrases can also act as adverbs (usually telling why):

  • She hurried to the mainland to see her brother.
  • The senator ran to catch the bus.

But there are other kinds of adverbial phrases:

  • He calls his mother as often as possible.

Adverbs can modify adjectives, but an adjective cannot modify an adverb. Thus we would say that “my professor is really tall, but not “He ran real fast.”

Like adjectives, adverbs can have comparative and superlative forms to show degree.

  • Walk faster if you want to keep up with me.
  • The student who reads fastest will finish first.

We often use more and most, less and least to show degree with adverbs:

  • With sneakers on, she could move more quickly among the patients.
  • The flowers were the most beautifully arranged creations I’ve ever seen.
  • She worked less confidently after her accident.
  • That was the least skillfully done performance I’ve seen in years.

The as — as construction can be used to create adverbs that express sameness or equality: “He can’t run as fast as his sister.”

A handful of adverbs have two forms, one that ends in -ly and one that doesn’t. In certain cases, the two forms have different meanings:

  • He arrived late.
  • Lately, he couldn’t seem to be on time for anything.

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Kinds of Adverbs

Adverbs of Manner:

  • She moved slowly and spoke quietly.

Adverbs of Place:

  • She has lived on the island all her life.
  • She still lives there now.

Adverbs of Frequency:

  • She takes the boat to the mainland every day.
  • She often goes by herself.

Adverbs of Time:

  • She tries to get back before dark.
  • It’s starting to get dark now.
  • She finished her tea first.
  • She left early.

Adverbs of Purpose:

  • She drives her boat slowly to avoid hitting the rocks.
  • She shops in several stores to get the best buys.

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Conjunctive Adverbs

The conjunctive adverbs such as however, moreover, nevertheless, consequently, as a result are used to create complex relationships between ideas. Here is a chart of conjunctive adverbs accompanied with a simplified definition of function (note that some devices appear with more than one definition):

addition

  • again
  • also
  • and then
  • besides
  • equally important
  • finally
  • first
  • further
  • furthermore
  • in addition
  • in the first place
  • last
  • moreover
  • next
  • second
  • still
  • too

comparison

  • also
  • in the same way
  • likewise
  • similarly

concession

  • granted
  • naturally
  • of course

contrast

  • although
  • and yet
  • at the same time
  • but at the same time
  • despite that
  • even though
  • for all that
  • however
  • in contrast
  • in spite of
  • instead
  • nevertheless
  • notwithstanding
  • on the contrary
  • on the other hand
  • otherwise
  • regardless
  • still
  • though
  • yet

emphasis

  • certainly
  • indeed
  • in fact
  • of course

example or illustration

  • after all
  • as an illustration
  • even
  • for example
  • for instance
  • in conclusion
  • indeed
  • in fact
  • in other words
  • in short
  • it is true
  • of course
  • namely
  • specifically
  • that is
  • to illustrate
  • thus
  • truly

summary

  • all in all
  • altogether
  • as has been said
  • finally
  • in brief
  • in conclusion
  • in other words
  • in particular
  • in short
  • in simpler terms
  • in summary
  • on the whole
  • that is
  • therefore
  • to put it differently
  • to summarize

time sequence

  • after a while
  • afterward
  • again
  • also
  • and then
  • as long as
  • at last
  • at length
  • at that time
  • before
  • besides
  • earlier
  • eventually
  • finally
  • formerly
  • further
  • furthermore
  • in addition
  • in the first place
  • in the past
  • last
  • lately
  • meanwhile
  • moreover
  • next
  • now
  • presently
  • second
  • shortly
  • simultaneously
  • since
  • so far
  • soon
  • still
  • subsequently
  • then
  • thereafter
  • too
  • until
  • until now
  • when

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Good vs. Well

In both casual speech and formal writing, we frequently have to choose between the adjective good and the adverb well. With most verbs, there is no choice: when modifying a verb, use the adverb.

  • He swims well.
  • He knows only too well who the murderer is.

However, when using a linking verb or a verb that has to do with the five human senses, you want to use the adjective instead.

  • How are you? I’m feeling good, thank you.
  • After a bath, the baby smells so good.
  • Even after my careful paint job, this room doesn’t look good.

Many careful writers, however, will use well after linking verbs relating to health, and this is perfectly all right. In fact, to say that you are good or that you feel good usually implies not only that you’re OK physically but also that your spirits are high.

  • “How are you?”
  • “I am well, thank you.”

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Bad vs. Badly

When your cat died (assuming you loved your cat), did you feel bad or badly? Applying the same rule that applies to good versus well, use the adjective form after verbs that have to do with human feelings. You felt bad. If you said you felt badly, it would mean that something was wrong with your faculties for feeling.

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Exercises

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