All About Adverbs In English Grammar

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In our series that explores all word classes of the English language in depth, we already had a look at some of them. Today, we want to focus on a word class that is, for most people, quite confusing: the adverb.


Find out what adverbs are, what they look like, how they are formed and in which order they should be used. It’s time to bring some clarification into this matter.


Adverbs In The English Language


What Are Adverbs?

Despite their name, adverbs are not similar to verbs. Instead, they share many functions with adjectives. In a sentence, they are used to modify other word classes, just like adjectives do with nouns. Instead of nouns, however, adverbs can modify the following word classes:

  • verbs: She walked quickly.
  • adjectives: He owned a very expensive car.
  • other adverbs: They worked out quite effortlessly.


Thus, adverbs add even more detail to your writing, further modifying descriptive words. Their modifying function is to add certain information to the writing. Adverbs and adverbial phrases can be grouped by the information they add to a sentence, which can be easily explained by them answering according questions:

  • of Manner answer the question “How?“: slowly, quietly, beautifully
  • of Place answer the question of “Where?“: there, at home
  • of Time answer the question of “When?“: now, early
  • of Frequency answer the question of “How often/much?“: often, every day
  • of Purpose answer the question of “Why?“: to get the best price, to spare herself the pain



What Do Adverbs Look Like?

Typically, adverbs can be identified by the suffix -ly. In most cases, they are adjectives that just take the suffix:

bad / badly

loud / loudly


However, not every adverb is formed by adding this suffix. Adverbs like quite and very can not be determined by the -ly suffix. Furthermore, not all words that end with -ly are adverbs:

ugly, friendly, lovely, fatherly (adjectives)


Comparative & Superlative

Just like adjectives, adverbs can have a superlative or are comparable.

adjectives: old, older, oldest

adverbs: fast, faster, fastest


In most cases, word like more and most as well as less and least are used to express the degrees of an adverb:

She has the most beautifully arranged collection of antique dolls.


Likewise, an adverb can express equality when placed in an as _ as construction:

He really is as slow as a tortoise.


The Order Of Adverbs

There is a particular order in which adverbs are supposed to be used when there is more than one in a sentence. While this order is similar to the “Royal Order of Adjectives”, it is way more flexible and thus hasn’t to be followed as strictly:

  1. Manner
  2. Place
  3. Frequency
  4. Time
  5. Purpose

An example of this correct order would be:

Rebecca jogs slowlyManner through the parkPlace every dayFrequency before sunriseTime to stay fitPurpose.