Adverbs - English Grammar Notes

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  • An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.
  • Adverbs tell how, when, or where, or to what extent an action happens.

    HOW: The man walked quickly.
    WHEN: It will rain soon.
    WHERE: We shall meet here at 2 p.m.
    TO WHAT EXTENT: He is extremely rude.

    Other examples:


Adverbs Used to Describe Verbs

  • Adverbs that describe verbs tell how, when, where and to what extent an action happened.


    HOW: John waited patiently for his turn.
    WHEN: He is now walking into the office.
    WHERE: He will eat his lunch there.
    TO WHAT EXTENT: He is very pleased with himself.
  • Adverbs make the meaning of the verb clearer.

    He will eat his lunch. (without adverb)
    He will eat his lunch there. (The adverb makes it clear where the action of eating will take place.)

Exercise 1

Write the adverbs in the following sentences and then indicate whether the adverb tells how, when, where, or to what extent.

  1. The tourist travelled far.
  2. They cheerfully greeted their grandmother.
  3. Tina hurried downstairs when she heard the knock.
  4. He worked carefully and skilfully.
  5. She was extremely agitated.
  6. The scientist looked curiously at the creature.
  7. Soon the bell was rung.
  8. The hall was fully occupied.
  9. They hugged their grandmother adorably.
  10. He brought the cake down.

Adverbs Used to Describe Adjectives

  • Adverbs that tell to what extent can be used to describe adjectives.

    The cave was very dark.
                         adv   adj

    The tea was extremely hot.
                           Adv       adj

Other Adverbs Used with Adjectives

Examples: just, nearly, somewhat, most

  • These adverbs make the adjectives they are describing more understandable and precise.

    The tomb was dark. (without adverb)
    The tomb was fully dark. (The adverb fully describes the extent of the darkness).

Exercise 2

Identify the adverb in each of the following sentences and then indicate the adjective it describes.

  1. He is a highly successful businessman.
  2. The extremely cold weather made me shiver.
  3. They are quite difficult to deal with.
  4. The house is barely visible from here.
  5. He is a very old man by now.
  6. She is mysteriously secretive about her activities.
  7. Jackline is horribly mean with her money.
  8. The book was totally exciting.
  9. The secretary was completely mad when the money was stolen.
  10. The boss is never punctual for meetings.

Adverbs Used to Describe Other Adverbs

  • Some adverbs that tell to what extent are used to describe other adverbs.

    The student spoke very softly.
                                adv  adv

    The cold subsided very gradually.
                               adv     adv
  • These adverbs make the adverbs they are describing more understandable and clear.

    She spoke rudely. (without adjective modifier)
    She spoke extremely rudely. (extremely describes the extent of her rudeness).

Exercise 3

Identify the adverbs modifying other adverbs in the following sentences.

  1. The mourners covered the casket with earth very gradually.
  2. He appeared on her surprisingly quickly.
  3. The sun appeared somewhat closer that day.
  4. He drinks extremely irresponsibly.
  5. The driver sped the car totally carelessly.

Specific Categories of Adverbs

  1. Adverbs of time – These answer the question when?

    He joined the class yesterday.
    Today, I will go to the cinema.
  2. Adverbs of place- These answer, the question where?

    Mrs. Kilome has gone out.
    The bus stop is near the post office.
  3. Adverbs of frequency: These answer the question how often?

    She often leaves without permission.
    He always works hard.
  4. Adverbs of manner: These answer the question how?

    Many ran fast to catch the bus
    He painted the house badly.
  5. Adverbs of degree. These answer the question how much?

    Luka is extremely intelligent.
    She is very ill.

Formation of Adverbs

  • Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective.

    Slow + -ly = slowly quiet + -ly = quietly
  • Sometimes the addition of -ly to an adjective may require changing the spelling in the adjective.

    Easy + -ly = easily (y changes to i)
    Full + -ly = fully (ll changes to l)
  • Other adverbs are complete words on their own. That is, they are not formed from other words.


    fast     tomorrow      soon              first    later
    next    inside            somewhere   quite


  1. Soon and quite can be used only as adverbs.

    The school will soon open.
    The holiday was quite well spent.
  2. Some other modifiers, like late or first, can either be used as adverbs or adjectives.

    The visitors arrived late. (adverb)
    The late arrivals delayed the meeting (adjective)
    The robbers had gotten there first. (adverb)
    The first house was already broken into. (adjective)
  3. When you are not sure whether an adjective or an adverb has been used in a sentence, ask yourself these questions.
    1. Which word does the modifier go with?
      - If it goes with an action verb, an adjective or another adverb, it is an adverb.


      The story teller spoke quietly. – used with an action verb.
      The story teller was very interesting. – used with an adjective.
      The story letter spoke extremely slowly. –used with another adverb.
      But if it goes with a noun or a pronoun, it is an adjective.


      The quiet story teller spoke. – used with a noun.
      He was quiet. – with a pronoun.
    2. What does the modifier tell about the word it goes with?
      - If the modifier tells when, where, how, or to what extent, it is an adverb.


      He will come tomorrow. – when
      He will come here. – where
      He will come secretly. – how
      He will be very cautious. – to what extent
      But if it tells which one, what kind, or how many, it is an adjective.
      He will steal this cow. – which one
      He will carry a sharp spear. – what kind
      He will be joined for ten years. – how many
  4. Adverbs and predicate adjectives
    - You will recall that we said that an adjective appears after a linking verb and modifies the subject


    He became successful. (successful modifies he)
    You seem tired. (tired modifies you)
    You appears sick. (sick modifies she)
    You look great! (great modifies you)
    They sound bored. (bored modifies they)
    It feels wet. (wet modifies it)
    The oranges taste sweet. (sweet modifies oranges)
    The baby grows big. (big modifies baby)
    She smells nice. (nice modifies she).

    - Sometimes the verbs in the sentences above are used as action verbs. In this case, they are followed by adverbs, not adjectives. They modify the verbs and tell how, when, where, or to what extent.


    The singer looked up.
                       v     adv

    We tasted the chocolate eagerly.
             v                            adv

    The principal appeared suddenly.
                          v             adv
  5. Good and well

    - Good and well have similar meanings, but differ in their use in a sentence.

    Incorrect: He narrates the story good.
    Correct: He narrates the story well.

    - Good is always an adjective and modifies nouns or pronouns. It is never used to modify a verb.

    He is a good narrator. (adjective modifying the noun narrator)

    - Well can be used as either an adjective or an adverb.

    I feel well. (as an adjective)
    He drives well. (as an adverb)

Exercise 4

Choose the correct form of the words in brackets in the following sentences.

  1. Luos tell you (quick, quickly) that they are not Bantus.
  2. Over the months, the snow (gradual, gradually) melted.
  3. Rice tastes especially (good, well) with avocado.
  4. The popularity of video games has grown. (rapid, rapidly)
  5. The name of the town may sound (strange, strangely) to some people.
  6. These puppies look a little (odd, oddly).
  7. The idea of breaking the door does not sound (reasonable, reasonably).
  8. Visitors eat Nyama Choma very (rapid, rapidly).
  9. If Nyama Choma has been prepared (good, well), it tastes even better than chicken.
  10. Since fish is high in proten and low in fat, it is bound to keep you (good, well).

Comparing with Adverbs

  • We have seen that we can use adjectives to compare people, things or places.
  • Adverbs can also be used to compare actions. And like adjectives, we use the comparative form of an adverb to compare two actions and the superlative form of an adverb to compare more than two actions.

    ONE ACTION: Maree swims fast.
    TWO ACTIONS: Maree swims faster than Ciku.
    THREE OR MORE: Maree swims fastest of all.
  • Just like adjectives, adverbs have special forms or spelling for making comparisons.

The Comparative Form

  • The comparative form of the adverb is used to compare one action with another. It is formed in two ways:
    1. For short adverbs, add -er.

      The bird flew higher than the helicopter.
      The president arrived sooner than we expected.
    2. For most adverbs ending in -ly, use more to make the comparative.

      She visited him more frequently than Martin.
      The tractor towed the lorry more powerfully than the bull-cart.

The Superlative Form

  • The superlative form is used to compare one action with two or more others of the same kind.

    Of the three athletes, Kipruto runs the fastest.
    The lion roars the loudest of all the big cats.
  • Adverbs that form the comparative with -er form their superlative with -est. Those that use more to form comparative use most to form superlative.


    Adverbs Comparative Superlative
    more softly 
    more politely
    most softly
    most polite

Points to Remember

  1. Use the comparative to compare two actions and the superlative to compare more than two.

    Comparative: He sat nearer to the window than him
    Superlatives: He sat nearest to the window than all the others.
  2. Do not leave out the word other when comparing one action with every other action of the same kind.

    Incorrect: The lion roared louder than any lion.
    Correct: The lion roared louder than any other lion.
  3. Do not use both -er and more or -est and most.
    Incorrect: The dancer moved more faster than before.
    Correct: The dancer moved faster than before.

Summary of Rules for Comparing with Adverbs

1. For most adverbs
Add -er or -est to the adverb
hard            late       deep
harder         later      deeper
hardest        latest              deepest
2. For most adverbs comprising of two or
more syllables: Use more or most with
the adverb
skilfully             firmly rudely
more skilfully    more firmly most rudely
most skilfully     most firmly most rudely

Exercise 5

Write each of the following sentences using the correct form of the adverb.

  1. Does she cry ______________ (often) than the baby does?
  2.  She crosses the river _____________ (slowly) than her son does.
  3. James jumps into the swimming pool _____________ (quickly).
  4. Charles swims _____________ (skilfully) than all of us.
  5.  Of all the athletes, Tecla Lorupe is ____________ (fast).
  6. The antelope disappeared _____________ (swiftly) than the gazelle.
  7. Chicharito scored the goal _____________ (accurately) of all.
  8. Mange and Marto stayed in the hall ______________ (long) of all.
  9. Sarah walks _____________ (gracefully).
  10. Ng’ang’orito sang ____________ (sweetly) of all participants.


Exercise 1

Adverb                         What it indicates

  1. far                            where
  2. cheerful                     how
  3. downstairs                 where
  4. carefully, skilfully        how
  5. extremely                  how
  6. curiously                    how
  7. soon                         when
  8. fully                          to what extent
  9. adorably                    how
  10. down                         where

Exercise 2

Adverb                           Adjective

  1. highly                         successful
  2. extremely                   cold
  3. quite                          difficult
  4. barely                        visible
  5. very                           old
  6. mysteriously               secretive
  7. horribly                      mean
  8. totally                        exciting
  9. completely                 mad
  10. never                         punctual



Exercise 3

Adverb                           adverb

  1. very                            gradually
  2. surprisingly                quickly
  3. somewhat                  closer
  4. extremely                  irresponsibly
  5. totally                       carelessly

Exercise 4

  1. quickly 
  2. gradually 
  3. good 
  4. rapidly 
  5. strange
  6. odd
  7. reasonable
  8. rapidly
  9. well
  10. well

Exercise 5

  1. more often 
  2. more slowly 
  3. quickly 
  4. more skilfully 
  5. the fastest 
  6. more swiftly
  7. most accurately
  8. the longest
  9. gracefully
  10. the most sweetly
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