What is an Adverb?

adverb (noun): a word that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb, expressing manner, place, time or degree; a word that can modify a phrase, clause or sentence

An adverb is a word that tells us more about a verb. It “qualifies” or “modifies” a verb(The man ran quickly). In the following examples, the adverb is in bold and the verb that it modifies is in italics.

  • John speaks loudly. (How does John speak?)
  • Afterwards she smoked a cigarette. (When did she smoke?)
  • Mary lives locally. (Where does Mary live?)

But adverbs can also modify adjectives (Tara is really beautiful), or even other adverbs (It works very well). Look at these examples:

  • Modify an adjective:
    – He is really handsome. (How handsome is he?)
    – That was extremely kind of you.
  • Modify another adverb:
    – She drives incredibly slowly. (How slowly does she drive?)
    – He drives extremely fast.

Adverb Form

We make many adverbs by adding -ly to an adjective, for example:

  • quick (adjective) > quickly (adverb)
  • careful (adjective) > carefully (adverb)
  • beautiful (adjective) > beautifully (adverb)

There are some basic rules about spelling for -ly adverbs. See the table below:

adjective ending do this adjective adverb
most adjectives add -ly quick
-able or -ible change -e to -y regrettable
-y change -y to -ily happy happily
-ic change -ic to -ically economic economically

But not all words that end in -ly are adverbs. The following -ly words, for example, are all adjectives:

  • friendly, lovely, lonely, neighbourly

And some adverbs have no particular form. Look at these examples:

  • well, fast, very, never, always, often, still

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