What is an Adverb

What is an Adverb? Types and Examples

This post on What is an Adverb discusses another major member of the English Parts of Speech. Adverbs belong to the Open Class in the Parts of Speech. Here, you will learn the definition of an adverb, its forms and formation and other Parts of Speech it modifies.

What is Adverb?

This is one the Parts of Speech that belongs to the Open Class. An adverb is a word that modifies (make partial change to) other Parts of Speech or words to which they apply in a sentence, especially a verb since they limit the words in some ways and make them more specific.

An adverb modifies, that is, adds to the information we have about a verb, an adjective and another adverb in a sentence. It extends the frontiers of the meaning of a verb, telling us more about the manner of the action, the place of the action, the time of the action, the degree of the action, etc. Adding ‘swiftly’ to ‘climb’ as in They climbed swiftly up the hill limits the verb ‘climb’ since all other forms of ‘climb’ such as ‘slowly’, ‘lazily’, etc. have been discarded.

Formation of Adverbs

  1. By the addition of ‘-ly’ to adjectives. E. g. slowly, quickly, softly, rashly, harshly, etc. Most adverbs formed in this way are usually adverbs of manner. Please note that not all words that end in ‘-ly’ can be categorised as adverbs. The following words end in ‘-ly’, but they are adjectives: timely, ugly, woolly, smelly, silly, scholarly, oily, orderly, lively, lovely, lonely, deadly, costly, friendly, likely, cowardly, etc.
  2. Adverbs showing direction end in ‘ward(s)’. E. g. eastward, downwards, westward, forward, backward, etc.
  3. Adverbs expressing manner end in ‘wise’, e. g. likewise, clockwise, anticlockwise, counterclockwise, etc.
  4. No special ending adverbs, e. g. always, early, fast, how, now, late, soon, when, very, etc.

Functions of Adverbs

The main function of adverbs is to modify verbs. This shows place, time, manner, degree, reason, purpose, condition, result, frequency, etc. of the action described by the verb. It answers the questions that have to do with where, when, how, why, to what extent, to what degree, on what/which condition, etc.

Consider these examples:

  • John ate the food in the room. (where/place)
  • John ate the food now. (when/time)
  • John ate the food noisily. (how/manner)
  • John ate the food because he was hungry. (why/reason)
  • John ate the food so much that he constipated. (result)
  • John ate the food too (to what extent/degree)
  • John agreed to eat if someone else would pay the bill. (condition)
  • John always ate in the Chinese restaurant. (frequency)

Adverb as a Modifier of a Verb

Examples showing this include:

  • She works rapidly.
  • Tolu eats slowly.
  • The corpulent woman breathes heavily.
  • I will see you later today.
  • Mary travelled to Port Harcourt.

In any sentence, an adverb is an optional element. A sentence is complete in meaning without adverbs.

As a Modifier of an Adjective

Examples include:

  • She is extremely
  • The man is politely
  • Coal is rarely difficult to find in the area.
  • He is very
  • They were smart enough to outwit the enemy.
  • Jane is far more beautiful than Susan.

As a Modifier of Another Adverb

Examples include:

  • The baby slept very
  • They arrived quite rather
  • The laptop’s processor works very
  • She works hard enough to earn the promotion.
  • Mary Onyali runs very

As a modifier of a prepositional phrase

Examples include:

  • He slapped the student right in the face.
  • We arrived quite on time for the party.
  • He was seldom on time for classes.
  • The man was always in the club.

More Examples of the different Forms of Adverbs include:

Adverbs Examples
Comparison (compares two actions) Than
Concession (admittance of facts) Though, although, nevertheless
Condition (gives condition) If, unless, provided
Purpose (states the purpose of an action) So, so that
Reason (indicates the reason for an action) Because, since
Degree (shows the extent of an action) So, quite, very, somewhat, too
Manner (shows how an action occurs) Foolishly, slowly, nicely, poorly, aptly
Place (indicates where an action occurs) Wherever, here, there, Jos, Abuja
Time (shows when an action takes place) Noon, today, later, soon, tomorrow

Another post has been dedicated to closely examine different types of adverbs with copious examples. In the post, you will also learn the special adverbs that are used in English. See Types of Adverbs. It is a good read.

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