Adverbs – how to use them

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Adverbs – definition

adverbs Adverbs usually modify a verb.

redbtn Adverbs describe how, where, why, or when an action was done.

redbtn Adverbs can also modify an adjective, or another adverb.

redbtn It can either precede or follow the word it qualifies.

redbtn Many adverbs end in —ly.


gently – slowly – greatly


redbtn The adverb may follow the verb, as in

He broke the news as gently as possible.

redbtn Or it may precede the verb, as in

She slowly handed him the important document.

redbtn NB! Adverbs can sometimes change the meaning of the word they modify.

redbtn There are three main classes of adverb. Those which describe, those which indicate, and those which show number or amount.

describe – well, greatly, usefully, prettily

indicate – there, here, then

number – once, secondly, very much

redbtn The following examples show adverbs in context:

describe – He has greatly improved his recent coursework grades.

indicateHere they noticed a small red spot on the ceiling.

numberOnce he started he couldn’t stop.

redbtn It is interesting to observe that in English the majority of adverbs end with the suffix -ly, whereas in French they end with the suffix -ment. For example: doucement, lentement, heureusement.

redbtn The ending -ly derives from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘lich’ meaning ‘body’. For instance, a lych gate in a churchyard is one through which the body is brought for burial.

redbtn The French suffix -ment derives from ‘mind’, and it is arguable that the French traditionally have seen themselves as philosophers, where the English have been more practical. Is there a link here?

redbtn Adverbs can occasionally modify a preposition or a conjunction.

Self-assessment quiz follows …

© Roy Johnson 2003

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