Types of Adverbs: An ESL Learner’s Guide

Let’s revisit a basic English concept: 

Adverbs modify—describe or alter the meaning of—a verb, adjective or another adverb. These modifiers can add depth and/or indicate key details in communication.

 

Examples of Adverbs in a sentence:

  • They marched slowly along the riverbanks.
  • She found his manner to be aggressively bold.
  • The snake slithered quietly across the desert sand.
  • Unknowingly, the boy knocked the candle over as he left the room.
  • We stayed there for two weeks.

 

We know the basic definition, but adverbs can be a complex topic. In this article, we’re going to break down adverbs by their types and various uses in English, and we’ll explore how words change form to become adverbs and their placement in a sentence.

 

Forming an Adverb

Before examining the various types of adverbs, let’s examine how to form an adverb.

Converting Adjectives into Adverbs

Adjectives describe a noun or pronoun, so naturally, many adjectives convert into adverbs when describing a verb, adjective or other adverb instead. Here are the different ways to change an adjective into an adverb:

 

1. Most adverbs form by adding -ly to an adjective

  • Slow -> Slowly, Quick -> Quickly, Polite -> Politely

 

2. If an adjective ends in -y, replace the -y with an -i and add -ly.

  • Easy -> Easily, Happy -> Happily, Lucky -> Luckily

 

3. If an adjective ends in -le, replace the -e with a -y

  • Probable-> Probably, Forcible -> Forcibly, Terrible -> Terribly

 

4. If an adjective ends in -ic, add -ally to the end.

  • Periodic -> Periodically, Basic -> Basically, Economic -> Economically

 

5. Some adjectives do not change at all when acting as an adverb.

  • Fast, Straight, Hard, High

Again, in a great majority of situations, an adverb forms by adding -ly to an adjective.

 

Different Types of Adverbs

Now that we know how to form adverbs, let’s look at what they do. 

Think of the different types of adverbs as answers to ‘wh- questions’ within a sentence. Often, they indicate the ‘who?’, ‘when?’, ‘where?’, ‘how?’, and ‘how often?’ about the words they modify.

Note: In the examples below, we put adverbs in bold and italics, and the words they modify are in italics and underlined.

 

Adverbs of Manner answer ‘How?’

Think of adverbs of manner as adverbs that answer ‘how’ an action performs. They express the manner or process of how something was done. Here are some examples:

 

  • They equally divided the cake between the four of them.

The adverb equally indicated the manner in which the cake was divided. How was the cake divided? It was divided equally.

 

  • We work hard.

The adverb hard in this sentence is an example of an adjective that doesn’t change form when used as an adverb. It answers the question: ‘How do we work?’

 

Other examples of Adverbs of Manner include:

  • Joyfully, Handily, Honestly, Thankfully, Carefully, Earnestly, Resentfully, and thousands more!

 

Adverbs of Degree answer ‘how much?’

Adverbs of degree indicate the level or degree in which an action is performed. Look at the examples below:

 

  • John thoroughly examined the newspaper the next morning.

The adverb thoroughly tells the degree in which John examined the newspaper. ‘How much did he examine it? Thoroughly!

 

  • She’s so excited to go to Disney World next week.

Again, the adverb so answers to what degree she is excited to go to Disney World.

 

Other examples of Adverbs of Degree include:

  • Fully, Completely, Partially, Hardly, Altogether, etc.

 

Adverbs of Place or Direction answer ‘where?’

Adverbs of Place or Direction answer where an action is taking place. Here are some examples:

 

  • We’re going to meet them over there.

The adverb there answers the question ‘where are they going to meet them?’ and specifies a location.

 

  • There were pillow feathers everywhere.

‘Where were the pillow feathers?’ They were everywhere!

 

  • They play in the backyard.

Often, adverbs of place form an adverb phrase. ‘Where do they play?’  In the backyard.

 

Other Adverbs of Place include:

  • Near, Far, Here, In, Out, Anywhere, Somewhere, To, Backward, Through

 

Adverbs of Time and Frequency answer ‘when?’ or ‘how often?’

Adverbs of frequency and time indicate ‘when’ or ‘how often’ an action is being performed. Here are some examples:

 

  • We will get the test results tomorrow.

The adverb tomorrow answers the question: ‘when will we get the test results?’

 

  • She runs frequently for exercise.

The adverb frequently indicates ‘how often’ she runs.

 

Other Adverbs of Frequency and Time include:

  • Daily, Occasionally, Never, Always, Now, Once, Seldom, Forever, etc.

 

Types of Adverbs That Don’t Answer a Question

Adverbs of Comment

Adverbs of comment don’t answer a question like other adverb types. Instead we use them to indicate a viewpoint or opinion regarding the thoughts in the sentence. Therefore, this type of adverb doesn’t just modify a verb, it modifies the whole sentence.

 

  • Obviously, we knew what would happen once the cat got into the yard.

In this context, the adverb obviously adds weight to the whole sentence. Not only did the speaker know what was going to happen, it was also obvious.

 

  • Luckily, she found her keys and was able to leave in time.
  • She could clearly see what was going to happen.
  • We can’t do it, technically.

Notice how all of these adverbs change the context of the entire sentence. We’ll go into the position of adverbs in a sentence in a bit, but also note that adverbs of comment can go anywhere in the sentence and have the same effect.

 

Some other adverbs of comment include:

  • Truthfully, Unfortunately, Wisely, Naturally, Fortunately, Confidently, Kindly, Foolishly, etc.

 

Adverbs of Conjunction or Conjunctive Adverbs

Conjunctive Adverbs connect ideas or clauses and present a relationship between two sentences. You must use a semicolon to connect two independent clauses with an adverb of conjunction.

 

  • She wouldn’t leave the room; however, she didn’t lock the door either.

The adverb however connects the information in these two clauses. In this context, ‘however’ acts like the word ‘yet’ or the phrase ‘on the other hand’. 

 

Other conjunctive adverbs include:

  • Nonetheless, Consequently, Conversely, Accordingly, Moreover, etc.

 

Adverbs of Confirmation and Negation or Adverbs of certainty

Adverbs of confirmation and negation can also double with other adverb types like comment or frequency. But they’re important to note as their own category because they also serve another purpose in a sentence to tell the degree of certainty of an action or description.

 

  • He will definitely mow the law this week.

The adverb definitely gives a comment on the whole sentence, but it also acts to tell the degree of certainty in which he will mow the lawn.

 

  • We will absolutely leave the dogs next time we come over.

Again, the adverb absolutely conveys the level of certainty in which they will leave the dogs. 

 

  • He never talks to me that way.

On the other side, never acts as an adverb of frequency to indicate how often the action happens. But it also acts to negate the action as well. 

 

Other adverbs of confirmation and negation include:

  • Surely, Probably, Undoubtedly, Certainly, No, Hardly, Really, Not Very, etc.

 

Placing Different Types of Adverbs in a Sentence

Adverbs are versatilechangeable, or adaptable—so they have the ability to move around nearly anywhere in a sentence and be grammatically correct. It will be up to you to determine the position that makes them most effective for what you want to say.

Adverbs at the beginning of a sentence or clause

  • Consequently, he never achieved any position higher than a mid-level manager.
  • Yesterday, we left for our vacation at 9a.
  • Naturally, we didn’t think anything of it. 

Adverbs in the middle of a sentence

  • She looked carefully at the text before answering.
  • He was earnestly charming when we first met.
  • They handily won the tournament.

Adverbs at the end of a sentence

  • She answered everything on the test incorrectly.
  • The loud noises caused everyone to leave quickly
  • He answered all of the questions truthfully.

Conclusion

Knowing these types of adverbs can help you to recognize them quickly in a sentence and assess when and where to use them in your own communication. Just don’t overdo it! Sometimes one adverb too many can alter or confuse your message, so keep them to a minimum in your writing.

To master using different types of adverbs in communication, it’s important to speak with other English speakers. With SpeakUp by Magoosh, you have the opportunity to get that speaking practice in and receive feedback from native English speakers. 

Reading these concepts in a blog can only help so much! It’s time to start speaking. With SpeakUp there are no theories or boring lectures; just pure English practice with solid feedback.

Jake Pool

Jake Pool

After working in the restaurant industry for over a decade, Jake left to pursue his career as a writer and ESL teacher. He now creates content that informs, inspires, and educates ESL students on a wide range of topics. Jake also records audio for his articles to help students with pronunciation and comprehension.
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