What Are Adverbs? Helpful Guide and Examples

English grammar has two types of modifiers, so what are adverbs? Learn the common types of adverbs and how to identify them in English.

In English, adverbs describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They answer questions like how, when, where, why, and to what extent. Writers can often make adverbs by adding the suffix -ly to adjectives and other words.

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What Are Adverbs in the English Language?

Adverbs are one of two modifiers in the English language. These parts of speech add more meaning to the rest of the sentence, telling more details about the words they modify. Specifically, adverbs will modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adjectives, the other modifier, modify nouns and pronouns. 

Listing all of the words that can be adverbs would be lengthy. The English language has hundreds of words that can function as adverbs, and some words can be adverbs or adjectives depending on how they get used in the sentence. A better way to look at it is to discuss various categories of adverbs. There are five basic types of adverbs in English. These are :

  • Adverbs of frequency
  • Adverbs of manner
  • Adverbs of place
  • Adverbs of degree
  • Adverbs of time

Here is a closer look at these categories and how they show up in English writing. You might also be interested in learning what are limiting adjectives.

Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of frequency answer the question of “how often.” These adverbs often come right before the main verb in the sentence.

Some adverbs of frequency include:

  • Rarely
  • Frequently
  • Seldom
  • Never
  • Always
  • Usually
  • Again
  • Sometimes
  • Normally

Here are some example sentences using these:

  • She rarely eats breakfast on school days.
  • He usually takes his dog for a walk before going to work.
  • They always go out to eat on Sundays.

Adverbs of Manner

What are adverbs?
Adverbs of manner answer the question “how”

Adverbs of manner answer the question “how.” These are some of the most common adverbs in English. Depending on the phrasing, they can show up in many parts of the sentence, before the verb, at the beginning of a sentence, and after the verb.

These adverbs are easy to find because they end in -ly. Some examples include:

  • Slowly
  • Neatly
  • Happily
  • Quickly
  • Rapidly
  • Loudly
  • Politely
  • Calmly

Here are some example sentences:

  • They floated lazily down the stream.
  • He politely took off his hat when he entered the building.
  • Calmly, the mother explained to the children that they needed to exit the store as fast as possible.

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of place answer the question “where.” They usually come after the main verb or its object. They can also come at the end of the sentence. Here is a list of adverbs of place:

  • There
  • Here
  • Nowhere
  • Out
  • In
  • Above
  • Below
  • Inside
  • INto

Most of these words can also be prepositions. If they precede an object and its modifiers, you are looking at a prepositional phrase. If they follow the verb or the verb’s object and do not have an object of their own, then they are adverbs.

Here are some example sentences:

  • There aren’t any chickens outside in the yard.
  • Yesterday there were chickens everywhere!
  • We are wondering if they went inside.

Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of degree answer the question “to what extent.” They show the intensity of the word they modify. Some common examples include:

  • Too
  • Hardly
  • Almost
  • Very
  • Just
  • Simply
  • So

Here are some example sentences:

  • I am so excited about my vacation next week.
  • Can I visit the museum, too?
  • You hardly talked to me during your visit.

Adverbs of Time

Adverbs of time answer the question “when.” They often come at the beginning of a sentence or the end. Some examples of these adverbs include:

  • Never
  • Always
  • Sometimes
  • Soon
  • Later
  • Just
  • So far
  • During
  • Lately

Some of these words can also function as a preposition. Look at how it is used to find out if it is a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb or just an adverb. A preposition will have a noun and its modifiers after it. An adverb will be followed by the verb, a comma, or a period at the end of the sentence.

Here are some examples of these adverbs in a sentence:

  • So far, we have found two grammar mistakes in the entire sentence.
  • Have I told you, lately, that I love you?
  • I haven’t been eating very healthily lately.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Though the five types of adverbs listed above are the most common, English has a few other words categorized as adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs join two independent sentences or clauses, similar to how conjunctions work. They modify the whole sentence rather than just one word.

Some examples of conjunctive adverbs include:

  • However
  • Therefore
  • In addition
  • Meanwhile
  • For instance

These words get set off from the two clauses with a semicolon in front and a comma after the adverb.

Here are some example sentences:

  • I would love to visit this weekend; however, I already have a commitment I can’t change.
  • He studied all the time; nonetheless, he didn’t pass the test.
  • She was driving home from work late at night; meanwhile, her kids were cleaning the house to surprise her.

Adverb Clauses and Phrases

Most adverbs are just one word that modifies other words in the sentence. However, sometimes an entire clause functions as an adverb. This is known as an adverb clause, and it occurs when the full group of words modifies the verb.

Adverb clauses start with words that are typically adverbs. They are divided from the rest of the sentence by a comma, and they can show up in many parts of the sentence. Here are some examples:

  • Whether or not you want to, we are going to have to take the trip.
  • I don’t eat out much since I work from home.
  • Dogs, although they are cute, are quite messy as pets.

Sometimes, prepositional phrases can function as adverbs as well, as in these examples:

  • Please put the book on the table.
  • The boys went with their grandmother to the store.
  • The child spoke loudly at the dinner table.

Adverbial phrases are not clauses, but they are groups of words that function as an adverb. If it has two or more words, it is an adverb phrase. They answer how, where, why, and when. Here are some examples of adverb phrases:

  • Because the teacher was late, class started later than usual. (later than usual is an adverb phrase)
  • The Little Mermaid had to kiss the prince before sunset.

Additional Types of Adverbs

Though the five categories mentioned above are the most common different types of adverbs used in the English language,e some other categories also exist. These are different kinds of adverbs that you may find.

Negative Adverbs

Negative adverbs negate the verb. Words like “never” and “not” fall into this category. The negative adverbs are:

  • No longer
  • Not
  • Never
  • Seldom
  • Rarely
  • Not often
  • Hardly ever
  • Barely ever

Flat Adverbs

Flat adverbs are in their simplest form and have the exact spelling as the matching adjective. The only way to tell them apart from the adjective is to see how they are used in the sentence. Some examples include:

  • Slow
  • Easy
  • Wrong
  • Different
  • Quick
  • Straight
  • Fast

Here are some of these in sentences:

  • Take it easy.
  • You should not drive fast on this road.
  • GIve me the answer straight.

If you still need help, our guide to grammar and syntax explains more.

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  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.