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What is an adverb?

Updated: May 5, 2023

When it comes to word classes, I think that adverbs are definelty the hardest to get your head around. That isn't because they're complicated (although they might seem that way in the beginning), it's because at school it was drilled into my head that an adverb is a word that ends in 'ly'. Which to an extent is true, there are plenty of adverbs that end in an 'ly' but that's not what an adverb is...

So, what is an adverb?

An adverb is a word that describes a verb.

And I think this is where the whole 'ly' thing came from.

She ran quickly

He loudly sang across the room

She spoke clearly

Simple right?

Yes, but I'm not finished... There is so much more to adverbs that just 'ly' words. Adverbs not only describe a verb, they can tell us how, where, when a verb is done and can also be used to modify adjectives and other adverbs too.

I think it's important to remember that, an adverbs job is to provide information to other words. So keep that in mind while you're trying to navigate through the complicated world of adverbs.

Here are the most common types of adverbs: (unfortunately there's a few more less common ones...)

Adverbs of Time


Today, next week, yesterday, tomorrow, last week, next year, everyday, recently, lately

Tomorrow I am going to the shops

I go to the market everyday

Adverbs of Place


Over there, under, over, outside, inside, in the house...

I left my phone at home

I saw the dog's ball under the table

Adverbs of Manner


(This is where the 'ly' comes in) Most of them end it 'ly' BUT not all of them.

Quickly, strongly, cheaply, fast

Adverbs of Frequency

How much?

Always, never, rarely, sometimes, normally, usually, again

Adverbs of Degree

What level?

Almost, just, quite, nearly, too, enough, hardly, simply, so

I'm so tired, I almost fell asleep

I'm just going to have a look

Adverbial Phrases

It's important to note that sometimes an adverb isn't just one word.

Just in time

Please can you get here as quick as possible

In the mean time, you should stay here with me

As you can see, when it comes to adverbs there is a lot to remember. It's definelty a lot to know but it's not essential. If you don't fully understand adverbs, it's not going to ruin your chances at being a great writer. However, I think it's important to know that adverbs are more than just an 'ly' word.


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