English Grammar Guide

Adverbs

How are adverbs used? In English, adverbs play an important role. Adverbs can be used to describe how, when, where and how often an action is performed. Adverbs are generally used to modify verbs but can also be used to modify adjectives or other adverbs.

Adverbs

Adverbs are used to describe the way something performs an action. Adverbs are generally used to modify verbs but they are sometimes used to modify adjectives or other adverbs.

Adverb Formation

Many adverbs can be formed from the adjective by adding the ending '--ly' to an adjective:

  • intelligent --> intelligently

  • slow --> slowly

  • precise --> precisely

If the adjective ends with '--le', replace the 'e' with 'y' to create the adverb:

  • simple --> simply

  • subtle --> subtly

The adverb for the adjective 'good' is irregular:

  • good --> well      ;   (My father plays well.....not....My father plays good)

Some adverbs have the same form as the adjective:

  • high

  • low

  • hard

  • better

  • fast  (but, depending on the context, we often use 'quickly')

Most adverbs of time, space and quantity do not have an adjective form. For example:

  • yesterday, today, tomorrow

  • early, soon, late

  • here, there

  • less, more, as

  • very, much, a lot of, little of

Adverb Position

We can put adverbs in different positions in sentences. There are three main positions but also a lot of exceptions. In English we never put an adverb between the verb and the object.

  • Adverb at the beginning of a sentence:   Unfortunately, we could not see Mount Everest.

  • Adverb in the middle of a sentence:   The children often ride their bikes.

  • Adverb at the end of a sentence:   I read a newspaper every morning.

When an adverb modifies a verb, it generally comes at the end of the clause:

  • He writes poorly.

  • She pronounced that word well.

  • Joseph worked diligently.

  • They worked hard before coming home.

Exceptions: certain adverbs which are used to give a speaker's opinion, such as 'probably', 'undoubtedly', 'surely', 'certainly', etc, come at the beginning of the sentence, or between the modal verb (or auxiliary) and the main verb:

  • We are probably going to spend the summer in Corsica.

  • Surely he we would never believe that!

  • We will undoubtedly have yet another election soon.

Adverbs of time and space

These are generally used at the end of the sentence; however, they may be placed at the beginning of the sentence if the main clause is long and complicated:

  • I saw her yesterday.

  • We're going to the beach today.

  • She went to bed very early.

  • Tomorrow we will try to get up early to prepare for our trip.

Adverbs of frequency

Adverbs of frequency are used in front of the verb they modify, except for the verb 'to be'. Adverbs of frequency are placed after 'to be'.  Common adverbs of frequency are:  always, usually, regularly, normally, often, sometimes, occasionally, rarely and seldom.

  • I always read a paper in the morning.

  • I never work on Sunday.

  • I usually get up at 7.30am.

  • I am always tired at the weekend.

The adverbs 'often', 'usually', 'sometimes' and 'occasionally' can also go at the beginning or (less often) at the end of a sentence:

  • Sometimes I go swimming.

  • Often we surf the internet.

  • We read books occasionally.

Interrogative adverbs

Simple questions require a 'yes' or 'no' answer.   Questions which ask for information are formed by using the interrogative adverbs (question words) When, Why, How, How much, Where, etc.   Generally, the interrogative adverb goes at the start of the question.

  • Where are you going?

  • Why do you want to take this class?

  • How much do you earn a month?

  • How do these machines work?

  • When do you expect to get home?

Verbs of perception

When verbs of perception including look, taste, smell, feel and sound are used to express sensation or appearance, they are followed by adjectives, not adverbs:

  • It smells good. NOT: It smells well.

  • The food looks bad. NOT: The food looks badly.

  • Your idea sounds good. NOT: Your idea sounds well.

  • This fabric is nice and soft, it feels good. NOT: This fabric is nice and soft, it feels well.

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