What Are Adverbs?
 
Adverbs are used to modify verbs. They tell us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent an action is performed. Some examples:

  • When: He ran yesterday.
  • Where: He ran here.
  • How: He ran quickly.
  • In what manner: He ran barefoot.
  • To what extent: He ran fastest.
In these examples, the adverbs are all just one word, but they can be made up of more than one word. (See: adverbial phrases and clauses.)

Adverbs are also used to modify adjectives and other adverbs. For example:

  • He's an extremely nice chap.
  • She can run extremely quickly.
 

What Is an Adverb?

An adverb can be added to a verb to modify its meaning. Usually, an adverb tells you when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent an action is performed.

Many adverbs end in ly — particularly those that are used to express how an action is performed.

Although many adverbs end ly, lots do not, e.g., fast, never, well, very, most, least, more, less, now, far, and there.

Examples:

  • Anita placed the vase carefully on the shelf.
  • (The word carefully is an adverb. It shows how the vase was placed.)

  • Tara walks gracefully.
  • (The word gracefully is an adverb. It modifies the verb to walk.)

  • He runs fast.
  • (The word fast is an adverb. It modifies the verb to run.)

  • You can set your watch by him. He always leaves at 5 o'clock.
  • (The word always is an adverb. It modifies the verb to leave.)

  • The dinner guests arrived early.
  • (early modifies to arrive)

  • She sometimes helps us.
  • (sometimes modifies to help)

  • I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly. (Oscar Wilde)
  • (thoroughly modifies to know)
 
Click on the adverbs:



 
 

Types of Adverbs

Although there are thousands of adverbs, each adverb can usually be categorized in one of the following groupings:

Adverbs of Time

  • Press the button now.
  • (now - adverb of time)

  • I have never been.
  • (never - adverb of time)

  • I tell him daily.
  • (daily - adverb of time)

Adverbs of Place

  • Daisies grow everywhere.
  • (everywhere - adverb of place)

  • I did not put it there.
  • (there - adverb of place)

Adverbs of Manner

  • He passed the re-sit easily.
  • (easily - adverb of manner)

  • The lion crawled stealthily.
  • (stealthily - adverb of manner)

Adverbs of Degree

  • That is the farthest I have ever jumped.
  • (farthest - adverb of degree)

  • He boxed more cleverly.
  • (more cleverly - adverb of degree and manner.)
Read more about comparatives of adverbs (like more cleverly).

Adverbs Can Modify Adjectives and Other Adverbs

Although the term adverb implies that they are only used with verbs, adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs. For example:

  • The horridly grotesque gargoyle was undamaged by the debris.
  • (The adverb horridly modifies the adjective grotesque .)

  • Peter had an extremely ashen face.
  • (The adverb extremely modifies the adjective ashen.)

  • Badly trained dogs that fail the test will become pets.
  • (The adverb badly modifies the adjective trained.)
    (Note: The adjective trained is an adjective formed from the verb to train. It is called a participle.)

  • She wore a beautifully designed dress.
  • (The adverb beautifully modifies the adjective designed.)

  • Peter Jackson finished his assignment remarkably quickly.
  • (The adverb quickly modifies the verb to finish. The adverb remarkably modifies the adverb quickly.)
 




 
 
COMMON QUESTIONS REGARDING ADVERBS

When an adverb modifies an adjective, there is no need to join the two with a hyphen. For example:

  • Thomas was a highly respected member of the team.
  • (There is no need to join the adverb highly to the adjective respected with a hyphen.)

  • She passed him the most crimson apple in the basket.
  • (There is no need to join the adverb most to the adjective crimson with a hyphen. Incidentally, most is an adverb of degree.)

  • Dawn was an exceptionally-talented teenager.
  • (There is no need to join the adverb exceptionally to the adjective talented with a hyphen.)

should be "neatly arranged"
(newspaper article)


WELL AND FAST

With words like well and fast (which are both adjectives and adverbs), a hyphen can be used to avoid ambiguity. For example:

  • We will be visited by a well-known actress.
  • (In this example, a hyphen is added to differentiate between well-known (i.e., a widely known actress) and well and known (i.e., healthy and recognized actress). As unlikely as the latter may be, it is grammatically feasible. The hyphen eliminates all ambiguity.)

  • He tried to sell me 200 fast-growing chickens.
  • (A hyphen is added to differentiate between fast-growing (i.e., chickens which grow quickly) and fast and growing (i.e., chickens which are good runners and still growing). As unlikely as the latter may be, the hyphen eliminates all ambiguity.)

    Read also about hyphens in compound adjectives.
 
 
USE A HYPHEN WITH WELL

This simple rule will cover most situations:

When preceding an adjective with an adverb, only use a hyphen with well.

  • well-known play
  • (hyphen with well)
  • widely known play
  • (no hyphen with any other adverb)
 

See also:

What are adverbial clauses and phrases?
What are adjectives?
What are conjunctions?
What are interjections?
What are nouns?
What are prepositions?
What are pronouns?
What are verbs?