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The Basic Rules: Adverbs

1. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

You can recognize adverbs easily because many of them are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, though that is not always the case.


2. The most common question that adverbs answer is “How”?.
Let's look at verbs first.
  • "She sang beautifully."  - Beautifully is an adverb that modifies ‘sang’. It tells us how she sang.
  • "The pianist played carelessly."  - Carelessly is an adverb that modifies ‘played’. It tells us how the pianist played. Adverbs also modify adjectives and other adverbs.
  • ​"That woman is extremely nice."
1. Nice is an adjective that modifies the noun woman.

2. Extremely is an adverb that modifies nice; it tells us how nice she is. How nice is she? She's extremely nice.
  • "It was a terribly hot afternoon."

    1. Hot is an adjective that modifies the noun afternoon.

2. Terribly is an adverb that modifies the adjective hot. How hot is it? Terribly hot.

So, generally speaking, adverbs answer the question
How?. (They can also answer the questions when, where, and why.)

Adverbs: Usage

Verb + Adverb (Adv. of Manner)
e.g., Richard talks carelessly.
                     Verb    Adv


Adverb + Adjective
e.g., Richard is a very careless man.
                           Adv     Adj


Adverb + Past Participle
e.g., The party was badly organized.
                           Adv     Past Part.


Adverb + Adverb
e.g., Richard talks very carelessly
                            Adv      Adv 


Adverb + Subject + Verb (Phrase)
Among some commonly used sentence adverbs are (un)fortunately, probably, obviously, normally, sadly, and (not) surprisingly.

Sadly, Richard talks very carelessly. (= It is sad that Richard talks very carelessly.)
He entered the room wearing bright red silk pajamas. Not surprisingly, everyone stopped and stared at him. (= It was not surprising that everyone stopped and stared at him.)

Note: Adverbs of this type are not necessarily placed at the beginning of a sentence.

The children are normally very lively.(= Normally, the children are very lively.)

Note: Not every adverb used at the beginning of a sentence modifies the whole sentence. Some adverbs can be used at the beginning of a sentence to give them emphasis, though their more usual position is elsewhere.

Occasionally, we go to a concert. (=We occasionally go to a concert.)

Characteristics of Adverbs

Many adverbs end in -ly. More precisely, they are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. However, not all adverbs end in -ly. Note that some adjectives also end in -ly, such as costly, deadly, friendly, lively, lovely, and ugly.

e.g., slow (adjective) + -ly slowly (adverb)
e.g., friend (noun) + -ly friendly (adjective)
Types of Adverbs

(1) Adverbs of Manner: beautifully, fast, quickly, easily, etc.

e.g., Tara sings beautifully.
They passed the test easilyOR They easily passed the test.

(2) Adverbs of Frequency: usually, sometimes, never, rarely, etc.

e.g., Simon may sometimes be wrong.
The police rarely go on strike.

(3) Adverbs of Place: here, there, somewhere, abroad, etc.

e.g., I've left my gloves somewhere.
Her brother is abroad now. *

(4) Adverbs of Time: tomorrow, now, today, soon, etc.

e.g., I'll be checking out tomorrowOR Tomorrow, I'll be checking out.
We 'll have to go back soon.. OR Soon, we’ll have to go back.


The verb "BE" is not only used with adjectives. It can also be used with adverbs of place.


Get Your Adverb Right


Rule 1: Adverbs denoting time are generally placed before the verb and not after it.

Some important adverbs that denote time are:

Always, seldom, often, rarely, generally, sometimes etc.

For example:

I always reach late.
I seldom meet him.


Rule 2: Use of ‘much’ and ‘very’

(i) ‘Much’ is used with an adverb or an adjective in the comparative degree. ‘Very’ is used when an adverb or an adjective is in the positive degree.

Example: It is a
much better scheme.
It is a very good idea.

(ii) Much is used with past participle, and very with present participle.

Example: He was
much disappointed.
It is very disappointing.
‘Very’ is used with the past participle only when it is used as an adjective.

Very tired person.
Very unbalanced approach.


Rule 3: Use of ‘too’

‘Too’ is an adverb showing comparison and means ‘more than enough’. When used in the comparative sense, it is followed by ‘to’, otherwise the sentence would be incomplete the incorrect.

For example:

Incorrect: The news is too good.
Correct: The news is too good to believe.


Rule 4: Use of ‘else’

The adverb ‘else’ is followed by ‘but’ and not by ‘than’.

For example:

Incorrect: It is nothing else than dishonesty.
Correct: It is nothing else but dishonesty.


Rule 5: Use of: hard, hardly, easy, easily.

‘Hard’ and ‘easy’ are adjectives, whereas ‘hardly’ and ‘easily’ are adverbs. They should not be interchanged in their use.

For example:

1. Incorrect: I am hardly pressed for time.
    Correct: I am hard pressed for time.

2. Incorrect: Some people take life easily.
    Correct: Some people take life easy.
The incorrect (2) sentence means ‘some people kill others easily’.


Rule 6: The adverb ‘as’ is not used with verbs like ‘elect’, ‘appoint’, ‘consider’, etc.

For example:
Incorrect: I consider him as my friend.
Correct: I consider him my friend.

Further, the word ‘regard’ must be followed by ‘as’.

For example:

Incorrect: I regard him my brother.
Correct: I regard him as my brother.


Rule 7: Use of As ____ as, So ____ as

‘As ____ as’ is used in affirmative sentences.
‘So ____ as’ is used in negative sentences.

For example:

Incorrect: He is not as good as his brother.
Correct: He is not so good as his brother.


Rule 8: Use of ‘no sooner’ and ‘hardly’

‘Sooner’ is an adverb in the comparative degree, so a clause beginning with ‘no sooner’ should be joined to another clause by the word ‘than’.
In case of ‘hardly’ and ‘scarcely’, the joining word is ‘when’.

For example:
1. Incorrect: No sooner I reached there when it began to rain.
    Correct: No sooner had I reached there than it began to rain.
2. Incorrect: Hardly had I seen the lion then I ran away.
    Correct: Hardly had I seen the lion when I ran away.

Commonly Confused Adverbs


hard: with great effort

e.g.. He works hard to earn a living.

"Hard" is an adverb of manner; therefore, it is used after the verb or the object of a sentence.

hardly: almost not; almost no; almost none

e.g., The children were so excited that they could hardly speak.

"Hardly" has a negative meaning and it is used in the same place as "not".

late: after the expected, arranged or usual time

e.g., The bus arrived late.

lately: recently; in the recent past

e.g.. I haven 't been sleeping well lately.

wide: as far or fully as possible

e.g., Open your mouth wide.

widely: by a lot of people; in or to many places

e.g., 1. Her books are widely read.

2. He has traveled widely in Asia.

high: at or to a position or level that is a long way up from the ground or from the bottom

e.g., I can't jump any higher.

She never got very high in the company.


1. very

e.g., My mother's skin is highly sensitive.

2. at or to a high standard, level or amount

e.g., Japan has a highly developed economy.

3. with admiration or praise

e.g., His teachers think very highly of him.


1 .used to say that you/sb did sth very recently

e.g., I've just heard the news.

2. exactly

e.g., This jacket is just my size.

3. simply

e.g., It was just an ordinary day.

justly: in accordance with justice or the law

e.g., These men are criminals, but they must be dealt with justly.

He was justly rewarded for his extraordinary

work in the firm.

"Justly" is the adverb form of the adjective "just", which means "morally right and fair":

I think this is a just punishment, bearing in mind the seriousness of the crime. Cf .

I think he was justly punished, bearing in mind the seriousness of the crime.

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