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What is an Adverb?

An adverb is a word or phrase used to modify or qualify an adjective, verb, or another adverb. Adverbs express a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, or degree.

One way to think about it is that an adverb is a word that will provide context. It will tell you how, where, when, or in what manner something is done.

Some adverbs can be identified because they often end in -ly. There are also a lot of adverbs that do not end that way so there are other ways to find the adverb in a sentence.

Regular Adverbs

Adverbs that are formed by adding -ly to the end of an adjective are regular adverbs.

The following sentences show how you change an adjective to an adverb.
The squirrel is quick. (adjective)
The squirrel runs quickly. (adverb)

Bill is kind. (adjective)
Bill speaks to people kindly. (adverb)

Some regular adverbs require adding more than just -ly to the end of the adjective.

When an adjective ends in -ic, the adverb is formed by adding -ally to the end. One exception to this rule is the word “public” which requires just -ly like other regular adverbs.

The following sentences illustrate the rule.

The principal took drastic action. (adjective)
The principal acted drastically. (adverb)

Fred is very sarcastic. (adjective)
Fred spoke sarcastically. (adverb)

Adjectives that end in -y can be changed to an adverb by changing the -y to -i and adding -ly to the end of the word.

Look at the following sentences for an example of how it is done.

The child is happy. (adjective)
The child played happily. (adverb)

The race was easy. (adjective)
I won the race easily. (adverb)

The last rule for regular adverbs is that if the adjective ends in -le or -ue you would remove the final -e before adding -ly.

Here are a couple of examples.

That was a simple test. (adjective)
I completed the test simply. (adverb)

That was a horrible movie. (adjective)
The movie ended horribly. (adverb)

Irregular Adverbs

Irregular adverbs do not follow any of the above rules. They are not formed by adding -ly to the end of the adjective. Adverbs that fall into this category are word that need to be memorized.

One of the most common irregular adverbs is the word “well.” The adjective form of the word is “good.”

He did a good job on the test. (adjective)
He performed well on the test. (adverb)

There are also a lot of words that can be used as an adjective or an adverb. The function of the word will depend on how it is used in the sentence.

The managers hold monthly meetings. (adjective).
The managers hold meetings monthly. (adverb)

She is a fast typist. (adjective)
She can type fast. (adverb)

How to Identify the Adverb in a Sentence

The function of the adverb

An adverb is used to modify a verb or an adjective.  Sometimes it will also modify another adverb when it answers the question “how?”  For instance, “The dog jumped quickly out of the car,” has the adverb “quickly” describing how the dog jumped.  In the sentence, “The elephant is incredibly huge.” The elephant is described by the adjective “huge,” while the adverb “incredibly” tells you just how huge.

Locating the adverb

Adverbs that end in -ly are easy to spot since they follow the rule of regular adverbs. Irregular adverbs may be a little trickier.

The first step is to find the verb in the sentence – the word or words that show action or a state of being. After you find the verbs, look for the words that tell how the action was done.

The next step is to find the adjectives. Adjectives may have adverbs before them that modify them.

Keep in mind that adverbs can also modify words that are separated from the subject of the sentence. An example of this is, “Normally we play outside at recess.” The word normally modifies the verb play. It tells when we play outside.

Types of Adverbs

The types of adverbs are adverbs of frequency, manner, place, time, and degree. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Adverbs of frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell “how often” something happens. Here is a list of common adverbs of frequency.

Never, hardly ever, rarely, seldom, occasionally, sometimes, often, frequently, usually, always, daily, monthly, weekly

Adverbs of manner

Adverbs of manner tell how something happens. These are often regular adverbs that end in -ly. Not all adverbs of manner end in -ly so you need to watch for irregular adverbs as well. Some adverbs of manner include the following:

Quickly, terribly, fast, well

Adverbs of place

Adverbs of place will tell where something happens. Usually, adverbs of place come after the main verb in the sentence. Examples of adverbs of place include:

Downstairs, inside, everywhere

Adverbs of time

Adverbs of time tell us when something happened or when it will happen. Adverbs of time include such words as:

Afterward, now, recently, every day, tomorrow, today

Adverbs of degree

Adverbs of degree describe how much or to what extent something happened. They are used to modify verbs, adjectives, or adverbs to prove a point or make the word stronger. Examples of adverbs of degree include words like:

Most, least, more, very, pretty, extermely

How to Teach About Adverbs

Adverbs are one of the trickier parts of speech for students to grasp. Start by introducing adverbs to students and then provide some guided practice.


Tell students that an adverb gives them more information about another word or phrase. Make sure they know that an adverb can modify a verb, adjective, or adverb. List the ways the adverb can modify something by telling how, when, where, how much, or how often.

Guided practice

Write sentences on the board and read each one aloud. Underline the adverbs in each sentence. Tell the students which word the adverb modifies and how. Then see if the students san come up with other adverbs that would fit in the sentence.

· She ran quickly to the store.

Explain that quickly tells the reader how she ran and there are many other adverbs that can explain how. See if they can come up with some examples (happily, energetically, happily).

· He went to the mall yesterday.

Explain that yesterday tells the reader when he went to the mall. Let them suggest other adverbs of time that would fit the sentence (this morning, last week, Tuesday).

· They can play outside.

Explain that outside tells where they can play. Ask them from more examples (inside, here, there)

· It was a very nice gesture.

Explain that the word very tells how much. Ask for other examples showing how much (really, kind of, pretty).

· He always shares his toys.

Explain that always tells how often. Ask students for other examples of adverbs that show how often (sometimes, never, frequently).

As students provide other adverbs for the sentences above, make sure you are writing them on the board. At the end of the lesson, help the students categorize the words on the board into the five categories of adverbs: how, when, where, how often, and how much.

Independent practice

Ask students to write five sentences. Each sentence should contain an adverb from one of the five categories. Ask them to underline the adverb in their sentence and at the end of the sentence write the category to which it belongs.

Depending on the age or learning level of the students you can categorize using the questions that the adverb answers or adverb of frequency, manner, place, time, or degree.

Using Adverbs Effectively

Adverbs are used to make your writing more interesting, but they should not be overused. Using adverbs properly will help your writing to stand out and keep your reader engaged. Adverbs help to paint a picture in the reader’s mind so that they can see and feel what you are writing. However, using too many adverbs will make your writing seem cluttered and disorganized and the reader may get bored.

· Use adverbs when they make your sentence more interesting.
· If the adverb does not enhance the sentence or seems weak, do not use it.
· If the verb or adjective can stand alone and still sound great, do not use an adverb.
· “Really” and “very” are often overused. See if the sentence is better with it or if there is another adverb you could choose to add emphasis.

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