What’s an Adverb in English Grammar?

What's an adverb

An adverb is a modifying word that can modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs by making their meanings more specific. Adverbs indicate when, where, how, and to what degree. You can think of an adverb as a more descriptive word that spruces up the main word or words in a sentence.

What’s an Example of an Adverb?

Example: Very few people have ever written so successfully.

In this example, the bold words are considered adverbs because they modify their neighbor words few, written, and successfully.

Example: She claps very loudly.

Here, the word very modifies the word loudly.

Example: He jumped extremely high.

Here, the word extremely modifies the word high.

You can think of adverbs as something like a reporter because they tell us additional information about what’s going on such as how, when, where, how much, and how often something happens in your sentence.

Degrees of Comparison with Adverbs

Like adjectives, sometimes adverbs use different forms to express degrees of comparison:

Positive Degree (no comparison)
Comparative Degree (Comparison of two actions)
Superlative Degree (Comparison of one action with two or more other actions)

Flew highFlew higherFlew highest
Dances gracefullyDances more gracefullyDances most gracefully
Writes wellWrites betterWrites best
Ran farRan fartherRan farthest
Painted badlyPainted worsePainted worst

Now that you know what an adverb is, and what it can do in a sentence, let’s take a look at how it can modify different aspects of a sentence and its placement.

How Adverbs Modify Verbs

If an adverb is modifying a verb, it may be placed in different positions in relation to the verb.

Example: Apparently she lost.

Example: She apparently lost.

In both of these examples, the word apparently is the adverb, but because it’s modifying the word lost, it can be placed at the beginning of the sentence or in the middle.

How Adverbs Modify Adjectives

For an adverb to correctly modify an adjective, it must be placed immediately before the word it modifies.

Example: That dress is very slimming.

Here, the word very is modifying the word slimming.

How Adverbs Modify Other Adverbs

Adverbs can modify other adverbs. Just like the case with adjectives, an adverb that modifies another adverb must be placed immediately before the word it modifies.

Example: Only rarely do I go hiking.

Here, the word only modifies the word rarely.

Understanding Adverb Clauses

If all this about adverbs wasn’t enough for you, there’s more! The same way a single word is considered an adverb if it modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, there are also groups of words you can consider adverbs, which are called adverb clauses. Adverb clauses are parts of a phrase or sentence that add more detailed information about the rest of the sentence.

What’s an Adverb Clause?

An adverb clause is a subordinate clause that modifies a verb, an adjective, or an adverb. It tells when, where, how, why, to what extent, or under what conditions.

What’s an Example of an Adverb Clause?

Modifying a verb: Whenever he reads directions, he bakes well.

Here, the bold part of the sentence adds extra clarity to why he bakes well.

Expressing conditions: He is happy as long as he gets his way.

Here, the bold part of the sentence describes what conditions must be true for him to feel happy.

Expressing extent: I can jump higher than a rabbit.

Here, the bold part of the sentence shows the extent of how high she can jump by comparing it to a rabbit, which, in hindsight, isn’t very high…

In Summary

Well, that’s everything you need to know about adverbs. Still have questions? Check out our YouTube channel and subscribe to our email list to get more lessons on grammar and writing!

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