Adverbs typically express some relation of place, time, manner, attendant circumstance, degree, cause, inference, result, condition, exception, concession, purpose or means. An adverb usually alters a verb (an action word), an adjective (a descriptive word) and other adverbs. They tell you how or when an action was performed or expound on a description. Not all words that end with "ly" are adverbs --- some adverbs end with "ly," while some do not. Words that are modified by adverbs may or may not appear beside the adverb.
Find verbs within a phrase or sentence with one or more adverbs, such as, "Andy spoke well of her mentor." The verb in this sentence is "spoke." Without the adverb, the sentence reads, "Andy spoke of her mentor," and you don't know how Andy spoke. In this case, the adverb modifies the word, "spoke."
Search for adjectives within a phrase or sentence with one or more adverbs, such as "Sarah is very kind, but not patient." The adjectives in this sentence are "kind" and "patient." Without the adjectives, the sentence reads, "Sarah is kind, but patient," giving the sentence a completely different meaning. In this case, "very" and "not," modify the adjectives.
Look for words that end with "ly" within a phrase or sentence, such as, "The dog took the bone happily." The word, "happily," describes the dog, but tells you how happy the dog is. The adjective in this case is "happy." Without the adverb, the sentence reads, "The dog took the bone happy." The word, "happy," was modified to expound on the dog's description and to make the sentence grammatically correct.
Find adverbs that are used with other adverbs within a phrase or sentence, such as, "Andrew is usually very prompt." The phrase, "usually very," tells you how prompt Andrew is. In this case, "usually" and "very" are both adverbs, but "usually" modifies another adverb, "very," within the sentence. Without it, the sentence reads, "Andrew is very prompt." In another sentence, "Andrew is not very prompt," the adverb, "not," modifies "very," and changes the meaning of the entire sentence.
Check for adverbs within a clause, such as, "Perhaps Emily knows," to find the words they modify. Remove any words (adverbs) that change the clause's meaning, such as "perhaps." Without it, the clause reads, "Emily knows." In this case, the adverb modifies the entire clause and gives it a new meaning, so you are positive Emily knows something.
Identity any words that refer to time within a phrase or sentence, such as, "Suddenly, the rain stopped." or "Harry goes to the dentist today." The adverbs, "suddenly" and "today," modify all the words within the sentences. Without the adverbs, the sentences read, "The rain stopped." and "Harry goes to the dentist." The sentences are not time-specific and you no longer don't know when the rain stopped or when Harry goes to the dentist.