Grammar: Adverbs

Posted December 13, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Revised as of 17 April 2019

Adverbs are getting dumped on these days. “Everyone” is condemning those adverbs that end in -ly (well, and the rest), 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.

That said, if you’re hurting for space, a more creative choice, ahem, can also get the idea across:

  • Instead of The candles flickered intermittently in the darkened room, consider:
    • The candles fluctuated in the darkened room.
    • The candles guttered in the darkened room.
    • The candles twinkled in the darkened room.

Each word choice provides a greater sense of the atmosphere while using fewer letters.

The Negatives of Using Adverbs

I kept hearing how a “good” writer should avoid using adverbs, and that’s as far as the point would go. Why not use adverbs? If God had intended that we NOT use adverbs, he wouldn’t have created them. Right? So I got curious and went exploring.

One contention is that using adverbs makes you a lazy writer. I can see their point about writers improving themselves and finding more creative ways to convey a concept to your readers, to do more of a show, rather than tell them what’s happening.

Tell versus Show

It seems that adverbs are very good at telling rather than showing. An adverb merely describes a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Sorenson’s example, “Charlotte smiled brightly” is a tell and doesn’t show us. It’s but the start to the show. Instead of using brightly, what if you described her face as she smiled?

With Adverb More Creative Choice
When I told the joke, Charlotte smiled brightly. When I told the joke, Charlotte’s face lit up.
When I told the joke, Charlotte smiled wanly. When I told the joke, only half of Charlotte’s mouth curved up.

Both examples show us more than the original sentence.

Doubling Up

Pay attention when you’re repeating yourself, e.g., everybody tiptoes “quietly”. The quietly is implied. Equally, if someone is stomping across the room, it’s implied that they are moving noisily and or heavily. There’s no need to “repeat” what stomp already “says”. If you do feel that you need to “repeat”, maybe you’re using the wrong word.

The “Valuable Space” Complaint

This negative is primarily about your opening lines for your book or a call-to-action on your webpage. There’s only so far down the page a reader will read, and you have to make every word count. The claim is that “adverbs fill that valuable real estate with often redundant and pointless wording”.

Of course, your alternate word choice can be longer as well. Instead of Mary walked hurriedly, you may decide that Mary sped ahead like a hungry hyena spotting an antelope (How to Use Adverbs).

Go back and look at Charlotte smiling or how those candles create an anticipation in the reader. Now look your own manuscript over. Use that Find/Replace to hunt for the adverbs and consider how you could strengthen them. What would make it more interesting and show the reader what’s going on?

Annnddd, this doesn’t mean you must avoid all adverbs…

Those Confusing Modifiers

There’s another problem with those adverbs; too many writers confusing what adverbs or adjectives are supposed to be modifying. Adverbs modify adjectives, adverbs, verbs, etc. Adjectives modify nouns.

Words Into Type has a useful example:

He feels poorly. He’s coming down with the flu.
He feels poor. Money is a problem.
It tastes deliciously delicious.
Millions of Americans listened, breathless, to the broadcasts. They were so excited.
Millions of breathless Americans listened to the broadcasts. They couldn’t breathe.
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the verb being modified
  2. Orange indicates the noun being modified

Grammar Explanations is…

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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.

Adverb
Definition: A modifier that provides a greater description to a verb, adjective, another adverb, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence (Your Dictionary.com).

Adverbs and adverbials add information to:

  • Describe or modify adjectives, other adverbs, verbs, or whole sentences
  • Tells to what degree the how, when, where, why, and to what extent — how hard, how fast, how late…


POST CONTENTS:

By CategoriesAlphabetical

A.k.a., adverbial modifier

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Rule: There are no hard-and-fast rules which words are adverbs, about how the reader perceives the verb.
Adverbs / Adverbials Adjectives
Adverb – describes/modifies an adjective, adverb, or verb

It will never modify a noun; that’s the adjective’s job.

Adverbial – part of a sentence which performs a certain function, but not necessarily an adverb (Nordquist)

Adjective – describes a noun

An adjective will never modify an adverb.

Examples:
He ran really fast. He ran real fast.
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.

Legend:

  1. Blue indicates the adjective
  2. Green indicates the adverb/adverb phrase
Partial List of Adverbs
Not ending
in -ly
Most end in -ly Words ending in -ly that are NOT adverbs
afterwards
again
all but
almost
already
always
atop of
well
better
best
fast
for sure
hard
how
just
kind of
last month
late
little
less
least
much
more
most
now
often
on
only
quick
quite
seldom
sharp
slow
soon
sometimes
sort of
still
that
then
there
to some extent
twice
very
when
wrong
yesterday
bimonthly
biweekly
frequently
generally
hardly ever
immediately
lately
monthly
nearly
nearly always
never
occasionally
quickly
rarely
really
slowly
softly
usually
weekly
cowardly
friendly
ghastly
homely
leisurely
lonely
lovely
motherly
neighborly
scholarly

Also see the list of conjunctive adverbs.

Cautions: Pay attention to the following problem areas with adverbs (Bruckmyer, 47):

  • Use a “real” adverb, i.e., real is an adjective and not an adverb
  • Is really or very truly needed? I mean, really?
  • Ensure that the adverb is positioned to reflect what you mean

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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.
better
faster
greater
harder
smoother
thicker
best
fastest
greatest
hardest
smoothest
thickest
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
more carefully
less slowly
more boldly
most carefully
least slowly
most boldly
Rule: There are irregular adverbs as well; this is English after all.
Base Adverb Comparative Adverb Superlative Adverb
badly worse worst
early earlier earliest
far farther, further farthest, furthest
little less least
much more most
well better best

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Examples:

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;
best – superlative of well

The engine operates less efficiently with alcohol.

less efficiently – comparative of efficiently

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The engine operates the least efficiently with water.

least efficiently – superlative of efficiently

Expressing Equality or Sameness, a.k.a., the as…as rule Rule: Use the as … as construction to create adverbs that express equality or sameness.

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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.

Positioning Adverbs
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?

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb and affected word/phrase
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…

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb/adverb phrase
  2. Orange indicates the word/phrase being modified
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

It is unusual to use more than two or three adverbs in a row. Consider, instead, if one or two of those adverbs can be moved to the beginning or end of the sentence.

Subject-Predicate Manner Place Frequency Time Purpose
Sherri sews happily in her studio every morning before breakfast to get her quilt done.
Henry bags slowly in the backyard every afternoon after lunch to finish cleaning up the weeds he pulled.
Libby reads in bed every evening before sleeping.
Short Comes Before Long Principle: Shorter adverbial phrases come before longer adverbial phrases, no matter the content (Capital Community College Foundation).

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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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of time
  2. Blue indicates the adverb of frequency
More Specific Comes First Principle: More specific adverbial phrases [in the royal order] come first. (Capital Community College Foundation).

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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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the more specific adverbial phrase
  2. Blue indicates the less specific
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).

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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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the introductory modifier
Adverb Agreement 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.

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Partial List of Adverbs to Use with…
Countable Nouns Uncountable Nouns Degree
a lot
enough
few
fewer
lots
many, more
not enough
too few
too many
a lot
enough
lots
much, more
not enough
too little
too much
a little
a little bit
enough
not very
pretty
quite
rather
so
too
very
Types of Adverbs are:
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.

A.k.a., adjunct

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Rule: Fits neatly into the flow of a sentence.
Partial List of Adjunctive Adverbs
frankly
obviously
politically technically
too
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the grammar

Adverb of Attitude Definition: Expresses the writer’s attitude toward the state or action described in the sentence.

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Rule: Usually refers to the entire clause or sentence and not just a particular word or phrase.

  • Beginning or end of a clause
  • Before the subject of the sentence
  • Immediately before a verb
  • Before a complement

Adverbs of attitude may also function as adverbs of manner.

Partial List of Adverbs of Attitude
clearly
fortunately
frankly
hopefully
luckily
obviously
sadly
unfortunately
unluckily
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of attitude
Adverb of Certainty Definition: Expresses how certain we feel about an action or event.

Credit to: EduFind.com

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Rule: The adverb of certainty goes before the main verb unless…

  • The main verb is to be, in which case, place it after the main verb
  • There is an auxiliary verb, then place it between the auxiliary and the main verb
  • Sometimes placed at the beginning of the sentence
  • Surely is at the beginning of a sentence, it means the speaker thinks something is true, but is looking for confirmation
Partial List of Adverbs of Certainty
certainly
definitely
probably surely
undoubtedly
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of certainty
Conjunctive Adverb Definition: A function word that connects two independent clauses

A.k.a., conjunct, adverbial conjunction, connecting adverb, transitional devices

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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 all
after a while
afterward
again
all in all
also
although
altogether
and then
and yet
as a result
as an illustration
as has been said
as long as
at last
at length
at that time
at the same time
before
before that
besides
briefly
but at the same time
by contrast
certainly
concurrently
consequently
despite that
earlier
equally important
even
even so
even though
eventually
finally
for all that
for example
for instance
formerly
further
furthermore
granted
hence
however*
in a word
in addition
in brief
in conclusion
in contrast
indeed*
in fact
in other words
in particular
in short
in simpler terms
in spite of
instead
in summary
in the first place
in the past
in the same way
it is true
last
lately
later
likewise
meanwhile
momentarily
moreover
namely
naturally
nevertheless
next
nonetheless
notwithstanding
now
nowadays
of course
on the contrary
on the other hand
on the whole
otherwise
presently
previously
really
regardless
shortly
similarly
simultaneously
since
so far
soon
specifically
still
subsequently
that is
then
thereafter
therefore
though
thus
to illustrate
too
to put it differently
to summarize
truly
until
until now
when
yet
Includes:

  • First, second, third, etc.
  • Firstly, secondly, thirdly — lastly, etc.
  • These words may also be interrupters, in which case, they would not be a conjunctive adverb.
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the conjunctive adverb
Adverb of Degree Definition: Tells the strength or weakness of something and is usually placed before the adjective, adverb, or verb that they modify, although there are some exceptions.

There are four types of adverbs of degree:

  1. Amplifier
  2. Downtoner
  3. Emphasizer
  4. Premodifier

A.k.a., adverbial intensifier

Education First

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Partial List of Adverbs of Degree
almost
enough
extremely
just
quite
too
very
Examples:
The water was extremely cold.

The movie is quite interesting.

He was just leaving.

She has almost finished.

She is running very fast.

You are walkingtoo slowly.

You are running fast enough.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb
  2. Orange indicates the adjective being modified
  3. Blue indicates the adverb being modified
  4. Yellow indicates the verb being modified
Enough Rule: When using enough as an adverb, it’s defined as to the necessary degree. Place it after the adjective or adverb that it is modifying, and not before it as other adverbs do. It can be used both in positive and negative sentences.

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Is your coffee hot enough?

This box isn’t big enough.

He didn’t work hard enough.

I got here early enough.

Rule: Enough is often followed by to + the infinitive.
He didn’t work hard enough to pass the exam.

Is your coffee hot enough to drink?

She’s not old enough to get married.

I got here early enough to sign up.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates enough plus to + infinitive
Rule: Enough can also be followed by for someone or for something.
The dress was big enough for me.

She’s not experienced enough for this job.

Is the coffee hot enough for you?

He didn’t work hard enough for a promotion.

Rule: Enough as a determiner meaning as much/many as necessary goes before the noun it modifies. It is used with countable nouns in the plural and with uncountable nouns.
We have enough bread.

You have enough children.

They don’t have enough food.

I don’t have enough apples.

Too Rule: Too has two distinct meanings, each with its own usage patterns:

  1. also
  2. excessively

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Rule: When too is used to mean also, it always goes to the end of the phrase it modifies.
I would like to go swimming too, if you will let me come.

Can I go to the zoo too?

Is this gift for me too?

I’m not going to clean your room too!

Rule: When too is used to mean excessively, it goes before the adjective or adverb it modifies. It can be used in both affirmative and negative sentences.
This coffee is too hot.

He works too hard.

Isn’t she too young?

I am not too short!

Rule: Too is often followed by to + the infinitive.
The coffee was too hot to drink.

You’re too young to have grandchildren!

I am not too tired to go out tonight.

Don’t you work too hard to have any free time?

Rule: Too can also be followed by for someone or for something.
The coffee was too hot for me.

The dress was too small for her.

He’s not too old for this job.

Sally’s not too slow for our team.

Very Rule: When very goes in front of an adverb or adjective, it makes it stronger.

CAUTION: It’s also one of those adverbs that editors hate!

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The girl was very beautiful.

The house is very expensive.

He worked very quickly.

She runs very fast.

Rule: Make an adjective or adverb negative by:

  • Adding not to the verb
  • Using an adjective or adverb of opposite meaning
  • Using not very with the original adjective or adverb (less direct and more polite than the others)
Original Sentence Reversing Meaning With Not Very Using an Opposite Word
The girl was beautiful. The girl was not beautiful. The girl was not very beautiful. The girl was ugly.
He worked quickly. He did not work quickly. He did not work very quickly. He worked slowly.
Other Adverbs Used Like Very
Expresses Very Strong Feelings Expresses Strong Feelings Expresses Somewhat Doubtful Feelings
amazingly
extremely
insanely
terribly
wonderfully
especially
remarkably
particularly
quite
uncommonly
unusually
fairly
not especially
not particularly
pretty
rather
Examples:
The movie was amazingly interesting. The movie was particularly interesting. The movie was fairly interesting.
She sang wonderfully well. She sang unusually well. She sang pretty well.
The lecture was terribly boring. The lecture was quite boring. The lecture was rather boring.
Too versus Very Rule: There is a big difference in meaning between too and very.

  • Too suggests there is a problem
  • Very expresses a fact

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He speaks very quickly.

He speaks too quickly for me to understand.


It is very hot outside.

It is too hot outside to go for a walk.

Amplifier Definition: Words that enlarge the meaning of the word

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Partial List of Amplifier Adverbs
absolutely
completely
heartily
so
totally
undoubtedly
well
Examples:
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.

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Partial List of Downtoner Adverbs
all but
kind of
mildly
not so much
simply
sort of
to some extent
Examples:
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.

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Partial List of Emphasizer Adverbs
certainly
for sure
literally
obviously
really
simply
Examples:
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.

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Partial List of Premodifier Adverbs
all the
quite
rather very
Examples:
The hypnotherapy session went quite well, I thought.

The wheel turned very slowly at first.

The Ferrari moved rather quickly.

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

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Rule: Modifies the verb or the entire clause.

Partial List of Disjunctive Adverbs
frankly seriously surprisingly
Examples:
Frankly, Martha, I don’t give a hoot.

Fortunately, no one was hurt.

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.

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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
especially
even
particularly
just
merely
only
also
either…or
too
Examples:
She received an A just for coming to class

She won a blue ribbon in addition to taking the Best of Show award.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of focus
Adverb 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.

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Rule: An adverb of frequency goes:

  • After the subject and before a main verb
  • After a to be main verb
  • Between an auxiliary verb and the main verb OR the to be verb
  • a lot means often or frequently and comes at the end of the clause, unless
    • a lot comes before another time adverbial
  • ever:
    • Asks questions about frequency
    • Comes before the main verb
  • how often asks questions about frequency and comes at the beginning of the clause
  • much + a negative means not often
  • Indicate routine or repeat activities, use with present simple tense
  • Used in the negative or as a question, use it before the main verb
  • Longer frequency phrases usually come at the end of the clause
Partial List of Adverbs of Frequency
again
almost
always
bimonthly
biweekly
ever
frequently
generally
hardly ever
monthly
nearly
nearly always
never
normally
now and again
occasionally
often
rarely
seldom
sometimes
twice
usually
weekly
Examples:
He never takes out the garbage.

We are never late for work.
She often goes by herself.

She’s always nagging the poor guy.

He was always tired in the evening.

We go to the cinema a lot.

We go to the cinema a lot at the weekend.

Have you ever been there?

How often do you go to the cinema?

We don’t go out much.

I have an English lesson twice a week.

She goes to see her mother every day.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of frequency
  2. Orange indicates the verb being modified
  3. Blue indicates to be
  4. Purple indicates the negative

Part of Speech

Adverb of Indefinite Frequency Definition: Doesn’t specify an exact time frame.

Rule: Primarily use in the:

  • Mid-position of a sentence and before the main verb — but after a to be verb
  • * can go at the beginning or end of a sentence
  • ** can go to the end of a sentence and often with a very

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List of Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency
hardly ever
infrequently
occasionally *
rarely **
seldom **
sometimes *
Examples:
Sometimes he takes the bus.

Our family seldom eats together.

She rarely goes out to eat, as she prefers to cook at home.

Interrogative Adverb Definition: Adverb that asks the questions: how, when, where, why

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Why are you so late?

How are you doing?

When will you get here?

Adverb of Manner Definition: How something is done or happens

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Rule: When the adverb modifies a(n):

  • Adjective, it modifies the quality or character of the adjective and is placed before the adjective
  • Verb, it tells how the action or activity is performed and is usually placed after the verb
  • Clause, it expresses the attitude of the speaker on the content of the clause and is placed before the clause

Part of Speech

Partial List of Adverbs of Manner
badly
cautiously
closely
extraordinarily
fast
fortunately
happily
hard
illegally
properly
purposely
quickly
regretfully
sadly
silently
slowly
Examples:
He ran as quickly as possible.

She can speak French like a native.

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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of manner
  2. Orange indicates the word/clause being modified
Adverbial (Phrase) of Manner Definition: An adverb phrase that says how something happens or how something is done.

Part of Speech

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He was driving as fast as possible.

He would always talk with a nationalistic tone.

He sings in a low register.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial of manner
Rule: Using like with a link verb makes it an adverbial.
Her hands felt like ice.

It smells like fresh bread.

She slept like a baby.

He ran like a rabbit.

“People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one.” – Leo J. Burke

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial created with like
Negative Adverb Definition: Creates a negative meaning in a sentence without the use of the usual no, not, neither, nor, or never constructions.

A.k.a., negator

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CAUTION: Be careful that a double negative is not created when using negative adverbs.
Partial List of Negatives
Negative Adverb Negative Verb
barely
ever
hardly
little
neither
never
no
nor
not
not only
nowhere
rarely
scarcely
seldom
can’t
couldn’t
doesn’t
don’t
isn’t
shouldn’t
wasn’t
won’t
wouldn’t
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the negative adverb
Inverted Negative Adverb Definition: In a sentence, the subject usually comes before the verb, AND
some negative adverbs can cause an inversion when placed at the beginning of the clause, reversing the order with the verb going in front of the subject.

CAUTION: This inversion is only used in writing, not in speaking.

Education First

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Normal Word Order Inverted Word Order
I have never seen such courage. Never have I seen such courage.
She rarely left the house. Rarely did she leave the house.
She did not only the cooking but the cleaning as well. Not only did she do the cooking, but the cleaning as well.
I scarcely closed the door before he started talking. Scarcely did I close the door before he started talking.
We seldom cross the river after sunset. Seldom do we cross the river after sunset.
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the negative adverb
  2. Orange indicates the grammar
Adverb 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.

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Partial List of Adverbs of Place
* Adverbs, that may be prepositions as well, always modify a verb.
above *
abroad
anywhere
around *
backward(s)
behind *
below *
down *
downhill
downstairs
everywhere
here
homeward(s)
in *
indoors
nowhere
off *
on *
outside *
over *
over there
sideways
somewhere
there
under *
uphill
upstairs
upward(s)
upwardly
westward(s)
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of place
  2. Orange indicates the word/phrase being modified
Adverbial (Phrase) of Place Definition: An adverb phrase that says where something happens.

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I saw him there.

We met in London.

“I used to work in a fire-hydrant factory. You couldn’t park anywhere near the place.” – Steven Wright

“Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back, and instead of bleeding, he sings.” – Ed Gardner

The cat was under the table.

I met him at the railway station.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial of place
Adverb of Direction Definition: An adverb that talks about the direction, where someone or something is moving.

Learn English

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Partial List of Adverbs of Direction
abroad
away
anywhere
downstairs
downwards
everywhere
here
indoors
inside
nowhere
outdoors
outside
somewhere
there
underneath
upstairs
Examples:
The car door is very small so it’s difficult to get into.

I would love to see Paris. I’ve never been there.
The bedroom is upstairs.

It was so cold that we stayed indoors.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the direction adverb
Adverbial (Phrase) of Direction Definition: An adverb phrase that talks about the direction, where someone or something is moving.

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Partial List of Adverbials of Direction
back to out of
Examples:
Walk past the bank and keep going to the end of the street.

She ran out of the house.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial of direction
Adverb of Distance Definition: An adverb that shows how far things are.

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Chicago is 408 miles from Minneapolis.

We were in Chicago. Minneapolis was 408 miles away.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the distance adverb
Adverbial (Phrase) of Distance Definition: An adverb phrase that shows how far things are.

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Birmingham is 250 kilometres away from London.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial of distance

Part of Speech

Adverb of Location Definition: Tells where someone or something is.

Adverbials of Location

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Partial List of Adverbs of Location
abroad
around
away
downstairs
here
home
indoors
nearby
outdoors
overseas
round
there
upstairs
Examples:
Did you see anybody there?

We have one bedroom downstairs.

Don’t leave things lying around.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the location adverb
Adverbial (Phrase) of Location Definition: An adverb phrase that where someone or something is.

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List of Adverbial Phrases for Location
at the back of
at the bottom of
at the end of
at the front of
in the middle of
next door
on top of
out of doors
Examples:
Children love to play out of doors.

My cousin’s house is right at the bottom of the hill. It’s got a wonderful view of the city.

To get to the station, you need to turn left at the end of this street.

You see the white line in the middle of the road? That means you can’t overtake here.

We arrived really early so we could be right at the front of the queue for tickets.

The ship lay at the bottom of the sea for more than 200 years.

“Where are the changing rooms?” “They’re at the back of the shop.”

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial of location
Adverb of Probability Definition: Shows how certain we are about something and are usually placed in front of the main verb, but come after the verb to be.

A.k.a., adverb of possibility

Rule: Maybe and perhaps usually come at the beginning of the clause.

English Language Centres

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Partial List of Adverbs of Probability
* Usually comes at the beginning of the clause.
certainly
clearly
definitely
maybe *
obviously
perhaps *
possibly
probably
Examples:
Will they definitely be there?

We will possibly come to England next year.

Perhaps the weather will be fine.

Maybe it won’t rain.

Maybe she’ll get here sooner.

Rule: Use certainly, clearly, definitely, or obviously to show that we are almost sure that something will happen.
We will definitely be there tomorrow.

She is certainly coming to the party.

It is clearly going to be wonderful weather tomorrow.

They are obviously late.

They are definitely at home.

She was obviously very surprised.

Rule: Use maybe, perhaps, possibly, or probably to show that we are less sure about something.
That is possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen.

I’ll probably go out tonight.

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

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Rule: Should is the only auxiliary verb that can go after lest. Use modal auxiliary verbscan or may — after so that and in order that. Be careful NOT to use rather with absolute words.
Partial List of Adverbs of Purpose
accidentally
almost
because
enough
consequently
excessively
extremely
hence
in case
in order that
in order to
intentionally
just
lest
much
nearly
on account of
purposely
quite
rather *
really
since
so
so as not to
so as to
so that
that
therefore
thus
to
too
very
Examples:
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of purpose
  2. Orange indicates the word being modified

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.

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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.

Partial List of Adverbs of Quantity
Used with Negative Sentences Used with Positive Sentences Used with Both
much a bit
a little
a lot
all
any
both
each
enough
every
few
fewer
little
lesser
lots of
many
more
most
numerous
several
some
Examples:
Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of quantity

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.

Adverb 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.

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Partial List of Adverbs of Time
afterwards
already
always
before
continually
currently
early
immediately
just
last [month/day/week]next [month/day/week]now
presently
recently
since
soon
that [month/day/week]then
tomorrow
yesterday
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of time
  2. Orange indicates the word/phrase being modified.
Adverbial (Phrase) of Time Definition: An adverb phrase that says when or how often something happens.

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They start work at six thirty.

They have been living in this house for over twenty years.

I’ll do it in a minute.

After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box.

“Do not wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day.” – Albert Camus

She was born in 1978.

There was a storm during the night.

We waited all day.

They have lived here since 2004.

We will be on holiday from July 1st until August 3rd.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial of time

Part of Speech

Noun Phrases as Time Adverbials Definition: Holds a position normally occupied by the verb’s direct object, yet they act as an adverb to modify the verb with an aspect of time, distance, weight, age, or monetary value. They also modify certain adjectives.

A.k.a., adverbial objective

The Free Dictionary

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List of Noun Phrases for Time Adverbials
last Saturday
last week/month/year
next Friday
next week/month/year
one day/week/month
the day after tomorrow
the other day/week/month
today
tomorrow
the day before yesterday
this week/month/year
yesterday
Examples:
Time He arrived this morning.

I am leaving the day after tomorrow.

He travels a great deal.
He came home last Friday.

We walked an hour out of town.

I’ll see you next year.

Distance I run five miles every day.

I can barely see a foot in front of me in this fog.

Weight They are displaying a block of cheese that weighs a ton!

I’m trying to lose a few pounds before the wedding.

Age She is 35 years old.

Modifies the adjective old

This wine is aged 25 years.

Monetary value This car only costs $2,000.

That speeding ticket set me back 300 bucks.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial noun phrase
Rule: Certain adjectives, such as worth and due, are able to take nouns or noun phrases as complements when they are in a predicative position.
This coat is only worth a dollar.

I think Mary is due an apology.

Prepositions as Time Adverbials Rule: Prepositions are frequently used with phrases, creating time adverbials:

Already Rule: Used by:

  • Placing in front of the main verb to show that something has happened sooner than it was expected to happen
  • Placing after the present simple or the past simple of be

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The car is OK. I’ve already fixed it.

It was early but they were already sleeping.

We are already late.

It was early but we were already tired.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the main verb
  2. Orange indicates the present simple of be
  3. Blue indicates the past simple of be
How Long Rule: How long something takes can be said using:

  • for says how long
  • since with the present perfect or the past perfect to say when something started
  • from…to to say when something starts and finishes
  • from…until to say when something starts and finishes

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We have been waiting for twenty minutes.

They lived in Manchester for fifteen years.

I have worked here since December.

They had been watching since seven o’clock in the morning.

They stayed with us from Monday to Friday.

We will be on holiday from the sixteenth until the twentieth.

How Often See Adverbs of Frequency
Still Rule: Used by:

  • Placing in front of the main verb to show that something continues up to a time in the past present or future
  • Placing after the present simple or the past simple of be

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The children still enjoyed playing games.

They are still living next door.

We will still be on holiday.

Her grandfather is still alive.

They were still unhappy.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the main verb
  2. Orange indicates the present simple of be
  3. Blue indicates the past simple of be
Time and Date Rule:

  • ago with the past simple to say how long before the time of speaking something happened
  • at with:
    1. clock times
    2. mealtimes
    3. in phrases such as at night, at the weekend, at [holiday]
  • in with:
    1. months
    2. seasons of the year
    3. years and centuries
  • in the with:
    1. parts of the day
    2. seasons of the year
  • at night when talking about all of the night
  • in the night when talking about a short time during the night
  • on with:
    1. dates
    2. days
  • Put time phrases together

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I saw Jim about three weeks ago.

We arrived a few minutes ago.

We usually eat at seven o’clock.

The movie starts at fifteen hundred hours.

We were at breakfast then.

Let’s meet at teatime.

Paul and George are planning to tackle it at the weekend.

It was at Christmas when the house blew up.

Helen plans to start cleaning the garden in the spring.

Pollution only increased in the twentieth century.

Valentine’s Day is in February.

Can we start this in the morning?

Mikey gets to choose what we eat for dinner on his birthday.

The family always gets together for a picnic on the Fourth of July.

When there is no moon it is very dark at night.

He woke up twice in the night.

We will meet next week at six o’clock on Monday.

I heard a funny noise at about eleven o’clock last night.

It happened last week at seven o’clock on Monday night.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the phrase with preposition
Yet Rule: Coming at the end of a sentence, yet is used in a negative or interrogative clause, usually with perfective aspect (especially in British English), to show that something has not happened by a particular time.

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It was late, but they hadn’t arrived yet.

Have you fixed the car yet?

She won’t have sent the email yet.

Adverb 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.

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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

You may also want to explore sentence adverbs below.

Partial List of Adverbs of Viewpoint
bravely
carelessly
certainly
clearly
cleverly
confidentially
definitely
disappointingly
foolishly
fortunately
generously
kindly
luckily
naturally
obviously
personally
presumably
seriously
simply
stupidly
surely
technically
theoretically
thoughtfully
truthfully
unbelievably
undoubtedly
unfortunately
wisely
Examples:
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.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb of viewpoint
Relative Adverb Definition: Introduces a relative clause, a.k.a., an adverbial clause, that starts with an adverb.

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List of Relative Adverbs &
How They’re Used
Formal Structure of Preposition + which Informal Adverb Used… Informal Example
in
on which
when
whenever
Refers to an expression of time: day, month, hour, minutes …the night on which when we went out.
in
at which
where
wherever
Refers to a place …the place at which where we met Rufus.
for which why Refers to a reason, the purpose …the reason for which why we arrested him.
Adverbials Definition: A single-word adverb or a multi-word adverb) that is an adverbial phrase or an adverbial clause) that performs the function of adverbs, typically expressing place, time, or manner.

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Adverbials add information to:

  • Describe or modify adjectives, other adverbs, verbs, or whole sentences
  • Tells to what degree the how, when, where, why, and to what extent — how hard, how fast, how late…

Adverbials are a pain in that they are single words as well as phrases and clauses. Some adverbials are noted below while adverbials that are an extension of single-word adverbs are noted above as adverbials of direction, distance, location, manner, place, and time.

Examples:
Single-word adverbial: I will sit quietly.

He spoke angrily.

Adverbial phrase: I will sit in silence.

I will sit like a monk meditates.

…with a quantifier: He spoke really angrily.

They live just here.

We will go quite soon.

We will go as soon as possible.

…with a preposition: He spoke in an angry voice.

They live in London.

We will go in a few minutes.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the single-word adverbial, a.k.a., adverb
  2. Orange indicates the adverbial phrase
  3. Blue indicates the adverbial clause
Adverbial Genitive Definition: A noun that functions as an adverb, i.e., a noun used to express some relationship such as possession or origin and changed or altered in form in order to achieve a new, specific meaning related in some way to other words in a sentence.

It corresponds roughly to the English preposition of and the suffix -st.

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Current Adverbial Genitives
(Adds an -st)
Former Adv. Gen. are Now Ordinary Adverbs Originally Formed From
Very few adverbial genitives are left, as it has mostly gone out of fashion with a few holdovers from Old and Middle English .
always all way
afterwards
towards
From their counterparts in -ward, which historically were adjectives
once
twice
thrice
The roots of one, two, and three
hence
thence
whence
Related to the roots of here, there, and where
alongst along
amidst amid
amongst among
midst mid
whilst while
Examples:
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.
I work days and sleep nights.

Of an afternoon I go for a walk.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverbial genitive
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.

Nordquist

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Essential Nonessential
as as
since since
while while
although
though
because because
if
unless unless
except except
so that so that
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).
Essential Adverb Clause Rule: Because the information in the clause is necessary to identify the noun, DON’T use a comma.

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This part of the park is beautiful in the spring when the tulips are blooming.
Rule: Without a comma, as, since, or while merely express time.
As we flew over the lake we could see the cottages bordering it.

As we listened to the stories Helen had recorded we remembered the good times we had with our grandparents.

The Indians became more and more alarmed as the white settlements appeared farther and farther westward.

Nonessential Adverb Clause Rule: Because the information in the clause is NOT necessary to identify the noun, it’s considered parenthetical. USE a comma.

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Because John had left the building, we could get on with our project.
Rule: Use a comma after the adverbial clause that precedes its principal clause.
When we finish the dishes, we can go to the movies.

After some years had passed, the family forgave him.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the adverb clause
Rule: Use a comma when the clause begins with through or although.
Helen was drinking cup after cup of coffee, although she didn’t normally like the stuff.

Rule: ALWAYS use a comma after any adverbial clause that begins with as, since, or while, IF it expresses cause or condition.
As the glaze wears off, the piece will have more of a vintage look.

As the bus moved slowly through the countryside, we had ample opportunity to exclaim over its quaintness.

Since you won’t respect Mom’s wishes, you can’t see her anymore.

Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans still hasn’t recovered.

While the cause behind the virus has been discovered, we still have a lot to learn.

While you’ve been napping, Paul, the rest of us have been cleaning out the garage.

Rule: If the adverbial clause is so short that no misreading will result from the lack of comma, you can skip the comma.
Were there space enough and time we could conquer the world.
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:

  1. Infinitive Phrase
  2. Prepositional Phrase

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Rule: Do not use a comma after an adverbial phrase that begins a sentence if the verb it modifies immediately follows (Words Into Type, 195).
On our way home we met the returning players.

In many parts of the world the wind has an important part in soil-making.

In the year 2016 Trump was elected president.

Rule: Use a comma when the adverbial phrase ends with a verb or preposition.
At the parties at which the dances were performed, the parents were invited guests.

On the sandy shores beneath, fishermen spread their nets to dry.

Soon after, their first book was published.

Infinitive Adverb Phrase Definition: Acts as an adverb telling why

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Examples:
Paul Revere rode that night to warn the patriots.

He hurried to the airport to pick up his girlfriend.

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the infinitive phrase that answers why
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).

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Examples:
The boy hopped over the fence.

Describes “hopped”


The dark lake was beautiful in a sinister way.

Describes “beautiful”


The thief ran around the corner and vanished.

Tells where he “ran”


I go to McDonald’s for breakfast when I’m feeling glum.

Describes why

Legend:

  1. Green indicates the prepositional adverb phrase
Sentence Adverb
Definition: An adverb (or adverbial phrase) that expresses a writer’s or speaker’s attitude (the author in nonfiction or the viewpoint character in fiction) toward, opinion of, or judgment of the content of the sentence in which it occurs or places the sentence in a particular context.

Think of the sentence adverb as a single-word commentary, with the writer, speaker, thinker revealing themselves through a word choice.

A Tale of Adverbs and the Comma

Rule: Sentence adverbs usually require a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence:

  • Starting a sentence with a sentence adverb
  • In the middle of the sentence, separating the sentence adverb from the rest of the sentence,
    • Gives the impression of an asides murmured quietly or delivered with attitude
  • Ending the sentence with the sentence adverb,

You may also want to explore adverbs of viewpoint above.

Partial List of Sentence Adverbs
actually
apparently
assumedly
basically
briefly
certainly
clearly
conceivably
confidentially
curiously
evidently
frankly
hopefully
ideally
incidentally
interestingly
ironically
naturally
obviously
politically
presumably
regrettably
seriously
surprisingly
technically
thankfully
truthfully
Examples
The theorems in question are formally true.

Lawyers use formally complex types of text.


Sadly, he is rather overbearing.


However, there is overwhelming evidence that such usages are well established and widely accepted in everyday speech and writing.


Janet ate the entire cake and, unfortunately, suffered a stomach ache for two days.

Unfortunately, Janet ate the entire cake and suffered a stomach ache for two days.


Presumably, the car was stolen.

The car, presumably, was stolen.

The car was stolen, presumably.


Susan carefully prepared her presentation for her meeting the next day with a potential new client.

Susan, very carefully, prepared her presentation for her meeting the next day with a potential new client.

Susan — very carefully — prepared her presentation for her meeting the next day with a potential new client.

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Resources

Adverbial.” Part of Speech. Web. n.d. Accessed 17 April 2019. <https://aderikardo1.blogspot.com/p/adverbial.html>.

Adverbial Nouns. The Free Dictionary. Web. n.d. 17 April 2019. <https://www.thefreedictionary.com/Adverbial-Nouns.htm>.

Bruckmyer, 44.

Difference Between Adverb and Adverbial.” Pediaa. Web. 21 January 2016. Accessed 12 April 2019. <https://pediaa.com/difference-between-adverb-and-adverbial/>.

Hill, Beth. “A Tale of Adverbs and the Comma”. The Editor’s Blog. Web. 21 February 2016 <https://theeditorsblog.net/2016/02/21/a-tale-of-adverbs-and-the-comma/>

Maddox, Maeve. “Sentence Adverbs”. Daily Writing Tips. Web. n.d. <https://www.dailywritingtips.com/sentence-adverbs/>

Nordquist, Richard. “Adverbial Term.” About.com. Web. n.d. <http://grammar.about.com/od/ab/g/adverbialterm.html>

Purdue OWL. Web. n.d.

Sorenson, Britainy. “4 Ways Adverbs Weaken Writing.” BKA Content. Web. 12 October 2016. <https://www.bkacontent.com/adverbs-weaken-writing/>

Steinemann, Kathy. “Adverb Abuse.” Kathy Steinemann. Web. n.d. <https://kathysteinemann.com/Musings/adverb-abuse/> has some great word choices that will inspire you.

What Are Adverbial Phrases? (with Examples).” Grammar Monster. Web. n.d. Accessed 14 April 2019. <https://www.grammar-monster.com/glossary/adverbial_phrases.htm>.

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