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[ad-vurb] /ˈæd vɜrb/
noun, Grammar.
any member of a class of words that function as modifiers of verbs or clauses, and in some languages, as Latin and English, as modifiers of adjectives, other adverbs, or adverbial phrases, as very in very nice, much in much more impressive, and tomorrow in She'll write to you tomorrow. They relate to what they modify by indicating place (I promise to be there), time (Do your homework now!), manner (She sings beautifully), circumstance (He accidentally dropped the glass when the bell rang), degree (I'm very happy to see you), or cause (I draw, although badly).
See also sentence adverb.
Origin of adverb
1520-30; < Latin adverbium, equivalent to ad- ad- + verb(um) word, verb + -ium -ium; calque of Greek epírrhēma
Related forms
adverbless, adjective
Grammar note
For some, distinguishing adjectives from adverbs is impossibly confusing. Yet telling them apart should be easy. Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns (tight shoes, She is brilliant!), while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs (drive carefully, rather hasty, more rapidly). Adjectives provide answers to “what kind,” “which one,” and “how many,” while adverbs answer “how,” “when,” and “where” (to boldly go, see you later, happening here).
Simply put, adverbs modify everything that adjectives don’t—including whole sentences! They are a grammatical wastebasket—the part of speech into which you toss anything you can’t otherwise categorize.
The source of bewilderment, then, may not be function but form. We think of adverbs as typically ending in -ly (badly, quickly, completely), unlike their adjective counterparts (bad, quick, complete). But some adjectives end in -ly (cowardly lion, motherly affection, friendly persuasion), while some adverbs, called “flat” adverbs, do not (sit up straight, work hard, aim high). To add to the ambiguity, a small number of words can function as adverbs with or without the classic ending (walk slow on the ice / speak more slowly; hold me close / a closely knit family). Still others shift meaning as they change form (She arrived late. Lately, she’s been doing that). And some are both adjectival and adverbial without changing form (fast trains, run fast; early morning, wake up early). No wonder the mind boggles.
Perhaps in response, there has been a resurgence of common adjectives used adverbially (You played amazing. It worked out fantastic.) Similar flat adverbs, like sudden, extreme, and wondrous, were standard in early Modern English. But in the 18th century, grammar mavens began to disparage them, insisting on the -ly form, and for certain adverbs, that is now the norm. While our language may be shifting back toward increasing use of flat adverbs, an adjective where an adverb is expected may still be subject to criticism. It’s fine to use these newly flattened adverbs with friends, on social media, etc. But traditional cautions apply. It’s probably best to stay with established forms in academic writing, during a job interview, and in other circumstances that call for more formal language. You’re bound to do “great”! Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for adverbs
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Why do substantives often differ in meaning from the verbs to which they are related, adverbs from adjectives?

    Cratylus Plato
  • Of course the comma is not used when these adverbs are used in the ordinary way.

    Punctuation Frederick W. Hamilton
  • Prepositions might then be introduced into his vocabulary; and, later, adjectives and adverbs.

  • When used as adverbs they may be printed in italics without the hyphen.

    The Uses of Italic Frederick W. Hamilton
  • Helen is learning adjectives and adverbs as easily as she learned nouns.

    Story of My Life Helen Keller
  • Adjectives are used for adverbs; “real good” is not yet forgotten.

    English: Composition and Literature

    W. F. (William Franklin) Webster
  • Certain prepositions and adverbs, as ov-er, und-er, af-t-er.

    A Handbook of the English Language Robert Gordon Latham
  • In this case we speak of the adverbs of time, place, number, manner.

    A Handbook of the English Language Robert Gordon Latham
British Dictionary definitions for adverbs


  1. a word or group of words that serves to modify a whole sentence, a verb, another adverb, or an adjective; for example, probably, easily, very, and happily respectively in the sentence They could probably easily envy the very happily married couple
  2. (as modifier): an adverb marker
Word Origin
C15–C16: from Latin adverbium adverb, literally: added word, a translation of Greek epirrhēma a word spoken afterwards
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for adverbs



late 14c., from Late Latin adverbium "adverb," literally "that which is added to a verb," from ad- "to" (see ad-) + verbum "verb, word" (see verb). Coined by Flavius Sosipater Charisius as a translation of Greek epirrhema "adverb," from epi- "upon, on" + rhema "verb."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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adverbs in Culture

adverb definition

A part of speech that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs usually answer such questions as “How?” “Where?” “When?” or “To what degree?” The following italicized words are adverbs: “He ran well”; “She ran very well”; “The mayor is highly capable.”

Note: Adverbs are often formed by adding -ly to an adjective, as in truly or deeply.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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