What does an adverb do?
An adverb is “a word that modifies or describes verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.” Adverbs typically answer questions like how or when in relation to the action of a sentence. Many common adverbs end in -ly, like quickly, usually, and completely, but not all adverbs do, such as very, now, here, and sometimes.
How do adverbs modify verbs?
As their name implies, adverbs describe or modify verbs. A verb is the action word in a sentence. For instance, in the sentence “John runs home quickly,” runs is the verb, and quickly is the adverb, as it describes how John runs.
How do adverbs modify other adverbs?
Adverbs also modify other adverbs, as in this sentence from Matilda by Roald Dahl: “Very slowly the boy cut himself another slice and began to eat it. Matilda was fascinated.” Here, very is an adverb that describes slowly, and slowly is an adverb that describes the verb cut.
How do adverbs modify adjectives?
Adverbs modify adjectives as well. Adjectives are like adverbs, but instead of describing verbs, they describe nouns. Take, for example, the following sentence: “The really tall man towers above everyone else in the room.” Here, tall is an adjective describing the noun man. Really is the adjective that describes tall.
Adjective and adverb confusion
People sometimes incorrectly use adjectives in place of adverbs, and vice versa. For example, in the sentence “I took a quick nap,” quick is an adjective that describes the noun nap.
However, you could also use the adverb form of quick by saying “I napped quickly.” Here, nap is functioning as a verb instead of a noun, and quickly becomes the adverb describing it.
To identify an adverb, find the word it’s describing, and remember that adjectives only describe nouns.
Good vs. well
An example of the correct use of well and good is seen in The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan: “It smelled of hot chocolate and fresh-baked brownies, hamburgers on the grill and wildflowers, and a hundred other good things that shouldn’t have gone well together, but did.” In this sentence, good is an adjective that describes the noun things, while well is an adverb describing the verb gone.
While adjectives are words that describe nouns, adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. If you’re confused about whether to use an adjective or an adverb, pinpoint the word you’re trying to describe. If it’s a person, place, or thing, use an adjective. If it’s an action or a modifying word, use an adverb.
Specific types of adverbs
The most common types of adverbs are those of frequency, manner, place, purpose, and time. They describe when, how, where, and why an action occurs.
Adverbs are sometimes used to intensify an action, or they may describe the circumstances in which an action takes place.
Adverbs of frequency
These adverbs answer the question How often? Examples include rarely, sometimes, and occasionally. If someone asks you how often you have trouble doing something and you answer, “I occasionally have trouble,” the adverb of frequency here is occasionally.
Adverbs of manner
Adverbs of manner describe the conditions under which something happens. They answer the question How? and can be created by adding -ly to an adjective. They’re typically located immediately before the main verb or after the direct object in a sentence.
Adverbs of place
These adverbs answer the question Where? They can be single words, such as here, there, inside, or outside, or they can be adverbial phrases, such as in my house or on the bus.
Take, for example, the following sentence: “She moved into her mother’s apartment while she looked for a new place.” Here, the adverbial phrase into her mother’s apartment describes where she moved.
Adverbs of purpose
These adverbs answer the question Why? They’re often phrases that begin with to or because.
Examples include “He left an hour early to beat traffic,” or “He left the party early because he didn’t feel well.” Here, to beat traffic and because he didn’t feel well are adverbial phrases that describe why he left early.
Adverbs of time
Adverbs of time explain when something happens. They answer the question When? Examples include yesterday, today, never, and always.
Here’s an example from Fangirl: A Novel by Rainbow Rowell: “We met yesterday. I was in the room when you met me.” Here, the adverb yesterday describes when the two people met.