What Is an Adverb?An adverb tells us when, where, how, in what manner, or to what extent an action is performed.
An adverb will typically modify a verb, but an adverb can also modify an adjective or another adverb.
Here are some examples of adverbs modifying verbs:
- When: He ran yesterday.
- Where: He ran here.
- How: He ran quickly.
- In what manner: He ran barefoot.
- To what extent: He ran fastest.
(Read more about adverbial phrases and clauses.)
An adverb can also modify an adjective or another adverb. For example:
- He is an extremely nice chap. (Here, the adverb extremely modifies the adjective nice.)
- She can run extremely quickly. (Here, the adverb extremely modifies the adverb 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).
- 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)
Different Types of AdverbsAlthough there are thousands of adverbs, each one can usually be categorized in one of the following groupings:
Adverbs of TimeAn adverb of time tells us when an action occurs. For example:
- Press the button now. (now - adverb of time)
- I have never been. (never - adverb of time)
- I tell him daily. (daily - adverb of time)
- I tell him on a daily basis. (on a daily basis - adverb of time)
(Remember, an adverb can be more than one word. Here, the adverb is a prepositional phrase.)
Adverbs of PlaceAn adverb of place tells us where an action occurs. For example:
- Daisies grow everywhere. (everywhere - adverb of place)
- I did not put it there. (there - adverb of place)
- I did not put it in the box. (in the box - adverb of place)
Adverbs of MannerAn adverb of manner tells us how an action occurs. For example:
- He passed the re-sit easily. (easily - adverb of manner)
- The lion crawled stealthily. (stealthily - adverb of manner)
- The lion crawled like an escaped convict. (like an escaped convict - adverb of manner)
Adverbs of DegreeAn adverb of degree tells us to what degree action occurs. For example:
- That is the farthest I have ever jumped. (farthest - adverb of degree)
- He boxed more cleverly. (more cleverly - adverb of degree and manner.)
The adverb categories above are relatively simple. The next adverb categories are a little more complicated:
Adverbs of ConditionAn adverb of condition tells us the condition needed before the main idea comes into effect. (An adverb of condition often starts with if or unless. For example:
- If it rains, the party will be ruined. (If it rains - adverb of condition)
- I will not talk unless you apologize. (unless you apologize - adverb of condition)
Adverbs of ConcessionAn adverb of concession contrasts with the main idea. An adverb of concession often starts with a subordinating conjunction like though, although, even though, while, whereas, and even if. For exammple:
- Although her face is an odd shape, she is undoubtedly beautiful. (Although her face is an odd shape - adverb of concession)
- A loud voice cannot compete with a clear voice, even if it's a whisper. (Barry Neil Kaufman) (even if it's a whisper - adverb of concession)
Adverbs of ReasonAn adverb of reason gives a reason for the main idea. An adverb of reason usually starts with a subordinating conjunctions like as, because, given, or since. For example:
- Given today's strong tide, you should expect a tough swim. (Given today's strong tide - adverb of reason)
- I don't have a bank account because I don't know my mother's maiden name. (Paula Poundstone). (because I don't know my mother's maiden name - adverb of reason)
Read more about adverbial clauses.
Adverbs Can Modify Adjectives and Other AdverbsAlthough 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.)
- 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.)
(Note: The adjective trained is an adjective formed from the verb to train. It is called a participle.)
Common Questions on AdverbsWhen 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"
Well and FastWith 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 WellThis simple rule will cover most situations:
When preceding an adjective with an adverb, only use a hyphen with well.
- It is a well-known play. (Use a hyphen with well.)
- It is a widely known play. (Do not use a hyphen with any other adverb.)