Familiarizing yourself with different parts of speech allows you to understand the basic building blocks of a language. By understanding how nouns, pronouns, verbs and adverbs work in tandem, you are better able to move on to more complex areas of a language. Adverbs are there to explain what the verb is doing.

What’s an Adverb?

Without adverbs, writing, reading and storytelling would not have the same color, nuance and excitement. They allow the writer to tell how something was done beyond a plain description. They allow the listener to picture how an action was completed with more nuance than a verb. An adverb is a word or set of words that modifies or qualifies verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

Adjectives and Adverbs

Discerning between adjectives and adverbs can be troublesome. An adjective describes something, such as happy, sad, stupid, sharp or amazing. The adverb further describes a situation or event with words such as happily, sadly, stupidly, sharply, amazingly, very, often and soon. The adjective modifies a noun or pronoun. An adverb modifies the verb, adjective or another adverb. For instance, in the sentence “He arrived before the class had started,” the verb "arrived" is modified by the adverb "before."

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Use of Adverbs in Writing

A simple way to discern an adverb is to think of adverbs as the words that supply context to a situation, event or action. An adverb answers the questions of how, who, when, where, why or to what extent. Here are a few examples in sentence form that show how an adverb can better illuminate an author’s intent when including adverbs in writing.

How? He rides a horse carefully.
When? They always leave before the movie ends.
Where? The dog goes everywhere with a ball.

Adverbs can also provide better understanding of the extent of an action or feeling. An example of "How hot?" is terribly hot rather than just "hot" or “The coffee wasn’t hot enough.” "Enough" is placed after the adjective or adverb that it modifies.

Types of Adverbs

An adverb of manner shows how an action is carried out, such as rapidly, slowly, sweetly or sadly. Adverbs of place or spatial adverbs explain where an action takes place, such as close, far away, on, underneath, down, up, here, there and everywhere. Adverbs of frequency express how often a thing happens, such as normally, usually and always. Adverbs of time tell when something occurred, such as today, yesterday and tomorrow. Adverbs of purpose describe why something happened, such as thus, because and since.

Rules of Adverb Use

The rules of using adverbs depend on which type of adverb is being used. They can always be used to modify verbs. They make it much more interesting. For example, “She eats vegetables” may be accurate, but it doesn’t supply any information about the person. “She eats vegetables excitedly” offers a little more insight. A word that ends in "–ly" is easily identified as an adverb in sentences. However, this is a rule with many exceptions, such as yearly, hilly, hourly, bully, belly, ally and lily, to name but a few.

Online Resources and Other Assistance

General grammar resources can assist you when you are just starting out or if you come across a fairly difficult sentence structure. If you aren’t sure, an online adverb finder can alert you to an adverb’s location within a sentence. A quick check with a dictionary or grammar site will also help you to know if you are using an adverb correctly. The adverb “badly,” for instance, is often misused. They describe the manner in which an action was performed or delegated. For example, “He played badly” is correct while “He felt badly” is incorrect.

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About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.