[ ad-vurb ]
/ ˈæd vɜrb /
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See synonyms for: adverb / adverbs on Thesaurus.com

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).


Click for a side-by-side comparison of meanings. Use the word comparison feature to learn the differences between similar and commonly confused words.


What Exactly Is An Adverb?

Adverbs tell us how, when, where, and to what degree something happens. In this way, they modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. But how do you find one in a sentence?

There are grammar debates that never die; and the ones highlighted in the questions in this quiz are sure to rile everyone up once again. Do you know how to answer the questions that cause some of the greatest grammar debates?
Question 1 of 7
Which sentence is correct?
See also sentence adverb.

Origin of adverb

First recorded in 1520–30; from Latin adverbium, equivalent to ad- “toward” + verb(um) “word, verb” + -ium noun suffix; loan translation of Greek epírrhēma; see ad-, verb, -ium

grammar notes for adverb

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”!


ad·verb·less, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is an adverb?

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, clause, adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs tell us how, when, or where.

Adverbs can modify verbs to give us more information about an action. In the sentence She walked quickly, the adverb quickly tells us how she walked. In the sentence The car turned left, the adverb left tells us where the car went.

Adverbs can also modify adjectives, usually to indicate degree or intensity, as in I was very happy. The adverb very tells us more about the happy feeling.

Adverbs can also modify other adverbs, as in She drove very carefully. Here, the adverb very tells us more about the adverb carefully.

Typically, you want to place an adverb next to the word it is modifying. In a verb phrase, the adverb is usually placed immediately before the action verb, as in We were pleasantly watching the birds.

Sometimes, an adverb describes an entire clause. Rather than modify a single word, the adverb is instead describing the general mood or feeling of the clause, as in Amazingly, the zookeeper wrangled the lion without getting injured.

Many adverbs end in –ly and many adjectives can be turned into adverbs by adding –ly to them. For example, slow becomes slowly and happy becomes happily.

Learn even more about adverbs in our extensive article.

Why are adverbs important?

The first records of the term adverb come from around 1520. It comes from the Latin adverbium, which means “added word.” Adverbs can follow verbs and are added on to a sentence to provide more information.

You need to be careful when using sentences that contain linking verbs, like be, seem, or look. Often, what comes after a linking verb modifies the subject of the sentence, which is a noun or pronoun. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns, while adverbs modify verbs. For example, we would say The flowers smelled nice not The flowers smelled nicely. This is because we want a word to describe the noun flowers, not the verb smelled. The flowers aren’t actually smelling anything.

Did you know … ?

Sometimes, where the adverb is in the sentence can change the meaning of the sentence. The adverb only is a common example of this. For example, the sentence I only baked the cake means that all you did was bake the cake and you didn’t eat it or do anything else to it. I baked only the cake means that the cake was the only thing you baked and you didn’t bake the pies or cookies.

What are real-life examples of adverbs?

Here are some examples of the different ways we use adverbs:

We use adverbs to spice up our sentences.


What other words are related to adverb?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following words is an adverb?

A. he
C. very
D. sad

How to use adverb in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for adverb

/ (ˈædˌvɜːb) /

  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
Abbreviation: adv

Word Origin for adverb

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

Cultural definitions for adverb


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.”

notes for adverb

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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.