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Adverbs – definition
Adverbs usually modify a verb.
Adverbs describe how, where, why, or when an action was done.
Adverbs can also modify an adjective, or another adverb.
It can either precede or follow the word it qualifies.
Many adverbs end in —ly.
gently – slowly – greatly
The adverb may follow the verb, as in
He broke the news as gently as possible.
Or it may precede the verb, as in
She slowly handed him the important document.
NB! Adverbs can sometimes change the meaning of the word they modify.
There are three main classes of adverb. Those which describe, those which indicate, and those which show number or amount.
describe – well, greatly, usefully, prettily
indicate – there, here, then
number – once, secondly, very much
The following examples show adverbs in context:
describe – He has greatly improved his recent coursework grades.
indicate – Here they noticed a small red spot on the ceiling.
number – Once he started he couldn’t stop.
It is interesting to observe that in English the majority of adverbs end with the suffix -ly, whereas in French they end with the suffix -ment. For example: doucement, lentement, heureusement.
The ending -ly derives from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘lich’ meaning ‘body’. For instance, a lych gate in a churchyard is one through which the body is brought for burial.
The French suffix -ment derives from ‘mind’, and it is arguable that the French traditionally have seen themselves as philosophers, where the English have been more practical. Is there a link here?
Adverbs can occasionally modify a preposition or a conjunction.
Self-assessment quiz follows …
© Roy Johnson 2003