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In English grammar, adverbs fall into the category called modifiers. (A modifier is a word that either describes or limits the meaning of the word it refers to. There are two main classes of modifiers: adjectives and adverbs.)
An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb or sometimes even an entire sentence:
- The tent collapsed slowly. [slowly modifies the verb collapsed]
- Amy grew increasingly bored. [increasingly modifies the adjective bored]
- Jorge played especially well. [especially modifies the adverb well]
- Naturally, I accepted. [naturally modifies the sentence I accepted]
Five common types of adverbs
Most adverbs can be divided into the following categories:
Adverbs of manner (how?)
- John tiptoed quietly past the sleeping guard.
- The cat leaped gracefully down from the ledge.
Adverbs of place (where?)
- Inwardly, Marielle was seething.
- Eric lives nearby.
Adverbs of time (when?)
- We’ll leave tomorrow.
- The rickety barn suddenly collapsed.
Adverbs of frequency (how often?)
- Jenna and Kurt visit the East Coast regularly.
- My sister frequently has to work late.
Adverbs of degree (to what extent?)
- The fire completely destroyed the building.
- I could barely hear the sound of the distant waves.
Common sign of an adverb
Many of the adverbs in the examples above end in ‑ly. In fact, the ending ‑ly is the common sign of an adverb. We form most of our adverbs by taking an adjective and adding the ending ‑ly: the adjective quiet becomes the adverb quietly, the adjective careful becomes the adverb carefully, and so on.
But there are also many adverbs that do not end in ‑ly. Here are some examples: almost, always, down, fast, hard, here, in, long, never, now, often, out, quite, rather, so, then, there, today, too, up, very, well.
Note: The adverbs of degree too and very cannot modify verbs. They are used only to modify adjectives and other adverbs: very happy, too fast.
Placement of adverbs in a sentence
Adverbs that modify an adjective or another adverb can be found in front of the word they modify: too hot, quite loudly.
But an adverb that modifies a verb or a sentence is movable. These adverbs may appear at the beginning or end of the sentence, as well as before or after the verb:
- Swiftly the runner leaped over the hurdle.
- The runner swiftly leaped over the hurdle.
- The runner leaped swiftly over the hurdle.
- The runner leaped over the hurdle swiftly.
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