Parts of Speech
Adverbs

Adverb

An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

An adverb usually answers the question When? Where? How? How often? How much?

The use of adverbs enables the writer to be more precise in his writing.

When? Yesterday, Tom visited his cousin.
Where? To his surprise, his cousin was there.
How? His cousin quickly answered the doorbell.
How often? Tom's cousin seldom visits him.
How much? To what degree? His cousin was very excited to see Tom.

The lifeguard quickly jumped into the water to rescue the young boy.

The adverb quickly answers the question how the lifeguard jumped, so it modifies the verb jumped.

Slowly the boy swam to the edge of the pool.

The adverb slowly answers the question how the boy swam, so it modifies the verb swam.

The boy stayed there for a few minutes to regain his breath.

The adverb there tells us where the boy stayed, so it modifies the verb stayed.

Then he swam with the other children in the pool.

The adverb then tells us when the boy swam, so it modifies the verb swam.

Many, but not all, adverbs are easy to identify because they end in ly.
For example, frequent is an adjective while frequently is an adverb.

Hint: To determine the part of speech of a word in a sentence, decide its function in the sentence.

If the word modifies a noun, it is an adjective.

The student gave the correct answer.

Because correct modifies the noun answer, it is an adjective.

If the word modifies a verb, it is an adverb.

The student answered the question correctly.

Because correctly modifies the verb answered, it is an adverb.

Caution: Some words can be used as adverbs and as prepositions.

The place looked familiar because he had been here before.

Before is an adverb because it modifies the verb phrase had been. A word that modifies a verb or verb phrase is an adverb.

The people waiting to be recognized stood in line before the king.

Before is a preposition because it has king as its object. A preposition must have an object while an adverb does not.

Caution: Do not use an adjective where an adverb is required.

 Sandra did good on her algebra test.

Good is an adjective, and it cannot be used to modify the verb did. An adverb is required to modify a verb.

 Sandra did well on her algebra test.

Comparison of adverbs

Most adverbs have three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative, and superlative.

Use the positive degree when you are referring to one person or thing.

 Frank drives cautiously.

Use the comparative degree when you are comparing two people or things.

 Frank drives more cautiously than Harry.

Use the superlative degree when you are comparing more than two people or things.

 Henry drives the most cautiously of the three boys.

Usually, the comparative and superlative degrees are formed by adding more and most to the positive degree, respectively.

PositiveComparativeSuperlative
slowly more slowly most slowly
eagerly more eagerly most eagerly

Other adverbs use -er for the comparative degree and -est for the superlative degree.

PositiveComparativeSuperlative
soon sooner soonest
fast faster fastest

No comparison

Some adverbs, such as uniquely, never, and eternally, cannot be compared.

 I shall be most eternally grateful for your advice.
 I shall be eternally grateful for your advice.

Double negative

A double negative occurs when you use two negatives in the same clause or sentence. Since the use of double negatives is grammatically incorrect, you need to avoid using them.

 Susan does not know nothing about the party.
 Susan doesn't know nothing about the party.
 Susan doesn't know anything about the party.

Eliminate that problem by turning one of the negatives into a positive.

NegativePositive
nothing anything
never ever
nobody anybody

Half-negative

There are some half-negatives which should not be used in a sentence with a negative. If you use them together, you will have a double negative.

Some half-negatives are hardly, scarcely, and seldom.

 The coach doesn't hardly know where to begin.
 The coach hardly knows where to begin.

 My friend seldom never walks at night.
 My friend seldom ever walks at night.

Exceptional verbs

Some verbs need an adjective, not an adverb, after them because they are linking verbs, not action verbs.

These linking verbs are listed in the table below.

appear become feel look
seem smell sound taste

 The church bell sounded harshly on Sunday morning.
 The church bell sounded harsh on Sunday morning.

 The student felt badly because he didn't study for the test.
 The student felt bad because he didn't study for the test.

List of some irregular adverbs

afterwards again almost always daily even
everywhere far here hourly less monthly
more nearly never not often only
seldom soon then there today tomorrow
too very well yearly yesterday  
Practice

Instructions: Identify the 10 adverbs in the following sentences.

  1. The taxi driver drove slowly down the dark street, looking for the right house number.
  2. Yesterday he missed his fare because the house numbers were very difficult to see.
  3. Then his supervisor warned him never to miss a fare again.
  4. Today he was more successful with his fares, and that pleased him, too.
  5. If he continues in this way, his business and his tips will steadily increase.

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