Adverbs are getting dumped on these days. “Everyone” is condemning those adverbs that end in -ly, saying writers should be more creative in their writing. That they shouldn’t need to write slowly or quietly or, ahem, quickly, lol…you get the picture.
Admittedly there are a few adverbs that are abused to hell and gone. Really. There truly are very many adverbs that are really, really overused.
Grammar Explanations is…
…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken.
If you’d like to track it, bookmark this page. Consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it. And if you have any suggestions or questions about interrupters or other grammar bombs, talk to me.
|Credit to: Purdue OWL; Bruckmyer, 44; Richard Nordquist; Wilson, 26|
|Definition: A part of speech that provides a greater description to a verb, adjective, another adverb, a phrase, a clause or a sentence (Your Dictionary.com). Words that add information to:
|Rule: There are no hard-and-fast rules about which words are adverbs; it depends on if it affects the word. How the reader perceives the verb.|
|Adverbs / Adverbials||Adjectives|
|Adverb – describes an adjective, adverb, or verb
Adverbial – part of a sentence which performs a certain function, but not necessarily an adverb (Richard Nordquist)
|Adjective – describes a noun
An adjective will never modify an adverb.
|He ran really fast.||He ran
|The 8:45 a.m. train arrived early.
“Early” describes when the train arrived, modifying the verb.
|The early train arrives at 8:45 a.m.
“Early” describes the noun, the train.
|The quarterback threw the football hard.
How did he throw the football? Hard, modifying “throw”.
|The quarterback threw a hard pass to the receiver.
What kind of pass was it? Hard, modifying the noun.
|She played extremely well.
The verb is “played” and how did she play? “Extremely well”, an emphasizer adverb modifying another adverb: “extremely” and “well”.
|That woman is extremely nice.
How nice is she? “Extremely” is an adverb modifying “nice”, which is an adjective modifying “woman”, the noun.
|Partial List of Adverbs|
Also see the list of conjunctive adverbs.
|Cautions: Pay attention to the following problem areas with adverbs (Bruckmyer, 47):
|Huh, What?||How About…|
|These flowers only bloom for a day.
Makes it sound like the flowers just bloom. They don’t do anything else.
|These flowers bloom only for a day.
These flowers bloom for one day only.
|She was only a woman with one goal in mind: med school.
Excuse me? Only a woman?
|She was a woman with only one goal in mind: med school.
She has one thing she intends to do in her life.
|Marie offered only to pick him up on Fridays.
She’s only offering chauffeur service. She’s not going to bring his lunch or do any errands.
|Marie offered to pick him up on Fridays only.
She’s only offering to get him on Fridays.
|I almost swam 15 miles when I was training for the Iron Man.
Poor guy just didn’t feel like swimming that day.
|I swam almost 15 miles…
He didn’t quite swim 15 miles, only *eye roll* 14+.
|What are you still doing here?
Well, if you want to be offensive…
|Why are you still here?
Aren’t you ever going home?
|Positioning Provides Finer Shades of Meaning|
|The Sentence||What It’s Saying|
|I just want you to eat the crackers in the opened box.||That’s all I want you to do, just eat the damned crackers.|
|I want just you to eat the crackers in the opened box.||Don’t offer any to anyone else.|
|I want you to eat just the crackers in the opened box.||Don’t eat crackers from unopened boxes.|
|I learned that rock superstar Kurt Cobain had died on CBS.||Yup, right there on TV. They musta’ been interviewing him or somethin’.|
|I learned on CBS that rock superstar Kurt Cobain had died.||Makes a difference, doesn’t it?|
|They economically competed with each other.||They were careful in how they spent the money.|
|They competed economically with each other.
Credit to: Michael Brady
|They were business rivals.|
|There was no water I could safely drink.||Ick, must have been some nasty water around.|
|There was no water I could drink safely.
Credit to: Michael Brady
|Maybe the person was driving…
|Royal Order of Adverbs|
|The Capital Community College Foundation (CCC) refers to a “royal order”, a basic order, in which “adverbs will appear when there is more than one adverb”:
Subject-Predicate + Manner + Place + Frequency + Time + Purpose
CCC goes on to note that it’s “highly unusual to have a string of [such] adverbial modifiers beyond two or three (at the most). [That] … the placement of adverbs is so flexible, one or tow of the modifiers would probably move to the beginning of the sentence … [and such an] introductory adverbial modifier … [would be] set off with a comma.”
|Short Comes Before Long||Principle: Shorter adverbial phrases come before longer adverbial phrases, no matter the content (Capital Community College Foundation).|
|Marie takes a quick swim before breakfast every morning in the summer.
In the usual “royal order”, frequency would come before time, but the frequency adverbial phrase is longer.
|More Specific Comes First||Principle: More specific adverbial phrases [in the royal order] come first. (Capital Community College Foundation).|
|My grandmother was born in a sod house on the plains of northern Nebraska.
“In a sod house” is more location-specific than “on the plains”.
Helen said yes to a date for next Friday.
Helen is quite specific about going out with this person, at some time next Friday.
|Moving Modifier to the Front||Principle: Moving an adverbial modifier to the start of the sentence places a particular emphasis on that modifier. An especially useful technique with adverbs of manner (Capital Community College Foundation).|
|Slowly, ever so carefully, Jesse filled the coffee cup to the brim.
Occasionally, but only occasionally, the paper boy gets the paper up on the porch.
|Rule: Pay attention to whether your nouns are singular or plural, as the adverb must also be singular or plural.
For more complete information on words and phrases used with countable and uncountable nouns, see Quantifier.
|Partial List of Adverbs to Use with…|
|Countable Nouns||Uncountable Nouns||Degree|
a little bit
|Types of Adverbs are:|
|Adverb of Attitude||Definition: Expresses the writer’s attitude toward the state or action described in the sentence.|
|Rule: Usually refers to the entire clause or sentence and not just a particular word or phrase.
Adverbs of attitude may also function as adverbs of manner.
|Partial List of Adverbs of Attitude|
|Frankly, I don’t think we’ll win.
I don’t think we’ll win, frankly.
He obviously doesn’t want to come.
She’s clearly the best person for the job.
Clearly, it’s a question of choice.
|Adverb of Certainty||Definition: Expresses how certain we feel about an action or event.
Credit to: EduFind.com
|Rule: The adverb of certainty goes before the main verb unless…
|Partial List of Adverbs of Certainty|
|Mark definitely left his lunch behind again.
Surely he won’t talk about this?
He probably won’t get to it.
She certainly doesn’t understand the first thing about this!
It surely is time to go.
|Adverb of Focus||Definition: Concentrates the attention on what is being said or highlights specific information. It tends to limit the sense of the sentence or act as an additive.|
|CAUTION: The meaning of these adverbs will depend upon the context in which they’re used as each has their own special features and grammatical requirements.|
|Partial List of Adverbs of Focus|
|Highlights Specific Information||Restricts||Refers to Other parts of the Text|
|She received an A just for coming to class
She won a blue ribbon in addition to taking the Best of Show award.
|Adverbs of Frequency||Definition: How often something is done or happens: indicates routine or repeat activities.
When used as an adverb of definite frequency, it describes daily, weekly, or yearly activities.
|Rule: An adverb of frequency goes:
|Partial List of Adverbs of Frequency|
now and again
|He never takes out the garbage.
She often goes by herself.
She’s always nagging the poor guy.
|Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency||Definition: Doesn’t specify an exact time frame.
Rule: Primarily use in the:
|List of Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency|
|Sometimes he takes the bus.
Our family seldom eats together.
She rarely goes out to eat, as she prefers to cook at home.
|Adverbs of Manner||Definition: How something is done or happens|
|Rule: When the adverb modifies a(n):
|Partial List of Adverbs of Manner|
|She spoke easily and moved smoothly.
He drove quickly.
She worked purposefully.
She was happily engaged in unwrapping her presents.
Fortunately, he was only pretending to be mad.I can see him quite clearly.
I would like to speak to you frankly.
|Negative Adverbs||Definition: Creates a negative meaning in a sentence without the use of the usual no, not, neither, nor, or never constructions.
|CAUTION: Be careful that a double negative is not created when using negative adverbs.|
|Partial List of Negatives|
|Negative Adverbs||Negative Verbs|
|He comes over so seldom these days.
I’m worried about Dana. She hardly eats anything since she got to high school.
Rarely can anyone stay awake through Empire.
|Adverbs of Place||Definition: Where something is done or happens or expresses movement in a particular direction
Rule: Use it after the verb, after the object, or at the end of a sentence.
|Rule: * Adverbs, that may be prepositions as well, always modify a verb.|
|Partial List of Adverbs of Place|
|They have lived on a houseboat for the past six years.
I don’t agree with you there.
Nope, been there, done that.
Let’s stop here and look at the antiques.
The sailor went below deck.
She went back to the jewelry counter.
|Adverb of Purpose||Definition: Expresses the reason for an action or its purpose or the level or extent that something is done or happens: the action’s intensity, how much it is, or modifies the quality or character of the adjective.
To put it simpler, it answers the question why.
A.k.a., adverbs of reasons
|Rule: Should is the only auxiliary verb that can go after lest. Use modal auxiliary verbs — can or may — after so that and in order that. Be careful NOT to use rather with absolute words.|
|Partial List of Adverbs of Purpose|
in order that
in order to
on account of
so as not to
so as to
He talks too much.
He talks really well.
He is very chatty.
It was raining too hard to go out.
Watch it! You nearly hit that dog!
She drives her car slowly, so she’s always late.
He’s still feeling very tired after running that 25k.
|Adverb of Quantity||Definition: Expresses how much or how many of something you have.|
|Rule: Used with countable or noncountable nouns.
In addition, some adverbs are best used with negative sentences, others are best with positive sentences, and some can be used in both.
I don’t get a lot of action these days.
I got a lot of presents this year.
Helen knows a little about gardening.
I haven’t been getting much done lately.
|Adverbs of Time||Definition: Tells when something is done or happens.
Rule: Use it at the beginning or end of a sentence; if used at the beginning, it acts as an emphasis.
|Partial List of Adverbs of Time|
last [month]next [week]now
I hope she gets here before the party starts.
Mary Louise, get in here right now.
Henry left early to catch his train.
Georgie ate all his Halloween candy first.
|Adverbs of Viewpoint||Definition: Does NOT tell how an action occurs. What viewpoint adverbs do is tells us about a speaker’s viewpoint, their opinion about an action, or make a comment on the action.|
|Commenting and viewpoint adverbs modify entire clauses rather than single verbs, adverbs, or adjectives with no real distinction between commenting adverbs and viewpoint adverbs, except in their sentence placement (EduFind.com).
Rule: Viewpoint or commenting adverbs are mostly placed at the beginning of a sentence, before the main verb, and rarely at the end of a sentence.
Viewpoint adverbs are usually separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.
Commenting adverbs are placed before the main verb and are also, sometimes, separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.
|Partial List of Adverbs of Viewpoint|
|Foolishly, they set out to see the Wizard.
They foolishly set out to see the Wizard.
They set out to see the Wizard, foolishly.
Obviously, I am reading.
I am obviously reading.
I am reading, obviously.
Kindly, she gave the homeless man shelter.
She kindly gave the homeless man shelter.
She gave the homeless man shelter, kindly.
|Comparative||Superlative||Definition: Shows a degree of comparison between two people, places, or things.||Definition:
Compares three or more people, places, or things. It indicates that the action performed is to the greatest or least degree within a group or of its kind. They are sometimes preceded by the word the but not always.
|Rule: Add -er to create a one syllable comparative adverb.||Rule: Add -est to create a one syllable superlative adverb.|
|Rule: More than one syllable adverbs use less or more to create a comparative adverb||Rule: More than one syllable adverbs use least or most to create a superlative adverb|
|Rule: There are irregular adverbs as well; this is English after all.|
|Base Adverb||Comparative Adverb||Superlative Adverb|
|far||farther, further||farthest, furthest|
|The goat can see better than you think.
better – comparative of well
|The goat can see the best of the three.
best – superlative of well
|Try to paint the edges more carefully; it will save time later.
more carefully – comparative of carefully
|Jeez, Tom painted the edges the least carefully.
least carefully – superlative of carefully
|He tries harder than most, but he has no aptitude for languages.
harder – comparative of hard
|Because he tries the hardest of them all, he does the best.
hardest – superlative of hard;
|The engine operates less efficiently with alcohol.
less efficiently – comparative of efficiently
|The engine operates the least efficiently with water.
least efficiently – superlative of efficiently
|Expressing Equality or Sameness|
|Rule: Use the as … as construction to create adverbs that express equality or sameness.|
|He runs as slow as his cousin.
She paints as well as her mother.
One company’s customer service is as bad as the other’s.
|Interrogative Adverb||Definition: Adverb that asks the questions: how, when, where, why|
|Why are you so late?
How are you doing?
When will you get here?
|Relative Adverb||Definition: Introduces a relative clause, a.k.a., an adverbial clause, that starts with an adverb.|
|Adjunctive Adverb||Definition: Adverb or adverbial phrase that expresses a writer’s or speaker’s attitude to the content of the sentence in which it occurs or places the sentence in a particular context.
|Rule: Fits neatly into the flow of a sentence.|
|Partial List of Adjunctive Adverbs|
|Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.
Politically speaking, he’s too hot to handle.
Well, technically, you’re not supposed to work on those computers.
|Conjunctive Adverb||Definition: A function word that connects two independent clauses
A.k.a., conjunct, adverbial conjunction, connecting adverb, transitional devices
|Rule: The ideas need not exist in the same sentence. See the rules on how and when to punctuate a sentence using adverbs.|
|Partial List of Conjunctive Adverbs|
after a while
all in all
as a result
as an illustration
as has been said
as long as
at that time
at the same time
but at the same time
for all that
in a word
in other words
in simpler terms
in spite of
in the first place
in the past
in the same way
it is true
on the contrary
on the other hand
on the whole
to put it differently
|If they start smoking those awful cigars, then I’m not staying.
We’ve told the landlord about this ceiling again and again, and yet he’s done nothing to fix it.
Jose has spent years preparing for this event; nevertheless, he’s the most nervous person here.
I love this school; however, I don’t think I can afford the tuition.
|Disjunctive Adverb||Definition: Makes a comment on the meaning of the rest of the sentence.
CAUTION: Does not fit into the flow of the clause and is often set off by a comma or set off with commas.
A.k.a., disjunct, sentence adverb, sentence modifier, adverbial disjunct
|Rule: Modifies the verb or the entire clause.|
|Partial List of Disjunctive Adverbs|
|Frankly, Martha, I don’t give a hoot.
Fortunately, no one was hurt.
|Adverbial Genitive||Definition: Very few adverbial genitives are left, as it has mostly gone out of fashion with a few holdovers from Old and Middle English.|
|Current Adverbial Genitives
(Adds a -t)
|Former Adv. Gen. are Now Ordinary Adverbs||Originally Formed From|
|From their counterparts in -ward, which historically were adjectives|
|The roots of one, two, and three|
|Related to the roots of here, there, and where|
|The adverbial genitive still exists in some stock phrases that have a literary feel or exist in isolated and mountainous regions of the southern United States.
The modern British expression “Of an afternoon I go for a walk”
|Adverbial Intensifier, a.k.a., Adverb of Degree||Definition: Describes the quality of the action: its strength or weakness.
There are four types of intensifiers:
|Amplifier||Definition: Words that enlarge the meaning of the word|
|Partial List of Amplifier Adverbs|
|That dress is absolutely amazing on you.
That movie completely scared the pants off me.
The New England Patriots played so well at the Superbowl.
|Downtoner||Definition: Words that play down, tone down, or downtone the actions of verbs.|
|Partial List of Downtoner Adverbs|
|not so much
to some extent
|She all but swallowed that sundae in one bite.
The weather was mildly warm.
It was, you know, kind of okay.
|Emphasizer||Definition: Words that make the verb stronger. Emphasizers would include such words as certainly, obviously, really, simply, literally, for sure.|
|Partial List of Emphasizer Adverbs|
|I didn’t mean you should literally crack the case.
I would really like a chocolate milkshake.
Tackling Mt. Everest would certainly be a challenging climb.
|Premodifier||Definition: Words that appear before a verb and changes its emphasis. They may also modify or change the meaning of an adverb.|
|Partial List of Premodifier Adverbs|
|The hypnotherapy session went quite well, I thought.
The wheel turned very slowly at first.
The Ferrari moved rather quickly.
|Clause and/or Phrase|
|Adverbial Clause||Definition: A dependent clause with a subject and a verb used as an adverb within a sentence to indicate time, place, condition, contrast, concession, reason, purpose, or result (Richard Nordquist).|
|Rule: An adverb clause can be defining, a.k.a., restrictive or essential, (and required to identify the noun it’s attached to) or it can be non-defining, a.k.a., nonrestrictive or nonessential, (just provides extra information).|
|This part of the park is beautiful in the spring when the tulips are blooming.
When we finish the dishes, we can go to the movies.
|Adverbial Phrase||Definition: When a group of words not containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb.
There are two types of adverbial phrases:
|Infinitive Adverb Phrase||Definition: Acts as an adverb telling why|
|Paul Revere rode that night to warn the patriots.
He hurried to the airport to pick up his girlfriend.
|Prepositional Adverb Phrase||Definition: A prepositional phrase which provides information on the “how”, “when”, “where”, or “why” of an adjective, another adverb, or a verb (Bruckmyer, 44).|
|The boy hopped over the fence.
The dark lake was beautiful in a sinister way.
The thief ran around the corner and vanished.
Tells where he “ran”
I go to McDonald’s for breakfast when I’m feeling glum.