Grammar Basics: Adverbs

Last but not least (and really: by far not least), we’ll talk about another crucial element of basic grammar: Adverbs. Adverbs are indeed quite similar to Adjectives. However, whereas Adjectives focus on describing nouns and tell us “what something or someone is like,” Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. In other words, adverbs tell us how, when, and where an action is performed. 

What Are Adverbs?

Like Adjectives, Adverbs are so-called “describing words.” They modify every word type (verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs) but nouns and pronouns. They express how someone does something or how something happens. 

  • She is talking kindly to the victim. (kindly = adverb to “talking”)
  • The dog is looking desperately at the food. (desperately = adverb to “looking”)
  • He truly believed what they told him. (truly = adverb to “believed”)
  • My neighbor carelessly threw his garbage out of the car while driving. (carelessly = adverb to “threw”)
  • He looked sympathetically at me. (sympathetically = adverb to “looked”)

Let’s have another look at the same examples but remove the adverbs and turn them into adjectives.

  • She is kind to the victim. (kind = adjective to “she”)
  • The dog is desperate for food. (desperate = adjective to “dog”)
  • It is true that he believed what they told him. (true = adjective to “it”)
  • My neighbor is careless and threw his garbage out of the car while driving. (careless = adjective to “my neighbor”)
  • He is sympathetic to me. (sympathetic= adjective to “he”)

Although the sentences above still come to the same conclusion as the examples with adverbs, they contain much less information than before. If you describe the action of someone or something, instead of only describing the character or thing itself, your story or text will become much richer and much more enjoyable to read.

Usage Of Adverbs

Whereas Adjectives are always linked to a noun or pronoun, Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

Adverbs modifying verbs:

She could hardly explain what happened. (“hardly” = adverb to “explain”)
They ran home quickly. (“quickly” = adverb to “ran”)
He sings beautifully. (“beautifully” = adverb to “sings”)

Adverbs modifying adjectives:

Sophie is an extremely ambitious person. (“extremely” = adverb to “ambitious”)
Joe is an incredibly talented football player. (“incredibly” = adverb to “talented”)
This place looks strangely familiar. (“strangely” = adverb to “familiar”)

Adverbs modifying other adverbs:

They worked particularly precisely. (“particularly” = adverb to “precisely” = adverb to “worked”)
She is almost always busy. (“almost” = adverb to “always” = adverb to “busy”)
Jane remembered the story very well. (“very” = adverb to “well” = adverb to “remembered”)

Types Of Adverbs

As mentioned in the intro, adverbs not only tell us how someone or something happens but also express “when,” “where,” and “to which degree” an action is performed. This way, we can split the adverbs up into five categories: manner (how?), place (where?), time & frequency (when?), degree (how much?), and “Conjunctive & Sentence Adverbs.” 

Adverbs of Manner

They usually stand right after the verb or at the end of a sentence.

Loudly, fast, calmly, suddenly, beautifully, carelessly, truly, kindly, etc.

  • The dog barks loudly.
  • Jack runs fast.
  • She explained it calmly.

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of Place can stand anywhere in a sentence.

Here, there, everywhere, near, down, above, upstairs, Seattle, Paris, Europe, etc.

  • She arrived in Seattle
  • He was sitting over there.
  • The sound they heard came from upstairs.

Adverbs of Time & Frequency

They either stand at the beginning or the end of a sentence.

Now, soon, still, yet, then, regularly, frequently, from time to time, annually, eventually, etc.

  • They had to leave soon.
  • He hasn’t found a solution to his problem yet.
  • From time to time, Paula visits her niece and nephews.

Adverbs of Degree

Depending on what these adverbs modify (verbs, adjectives, other adverbs), Adverbs of Degree may vary in their position in a sentence.

A little, a lot, quite, enough, only, just, already, almost, hardly, nearly, etc.

  • My parents argued a lot.
  • She has just arrived.
  • There was hardly enough food left for them. (“hardly” is the adverb of degree for “enough,” which is also an adverb of degree)

Conjunctive & Sentence Adverbs

Conjunctive Adverbs (“Connectors”) connect phrases and independent clauses. Therefore, they stand right in the middle of phrases and clauses.

However, therefore, nonetheless, consequently, despite, hence, etc.

  • The hail storm caused a lot of damage. Therefore the football match got canceled.
  • He truly believed her, despite her lying to him regularly before.
  • I like your idea; however, I think we should do this differently.

Sentence Adverbs modify the whole sentence and stand right at the beginning and rarely at the end of a sentence.

Apparently, actually, unfortunately, perhaps, anyway, hopefully, certainly, etc.

  • Unfortunately, they weren’t able to help him.
  • Actually, I liked his idea.
  • I didn’t want to come to the party, anyway.