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Adverbs: What are they and how to use them

Adverbs: What are they and how to use them

Adverbs, often confused with adjectives, are the secret agents of the language world. Modifying verbs, adjectives, and even other adverbs, wherever they go.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the basic rules of adverbs and how you can use them to spruce up your writing. Seamlessly.

What’s an Adverb?

An adverb is a word that modifies verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or even whole sentences. Adverbs are often used to show how, when, where, or to what extent something occurs. In most cases, you’ll find that adverbs end in ‘-ly’, making them extremely easy to spot.

Eg. She sings beautifully (describes how)
Eg. He ran quickly (describes manner)
Eg. She’s extremely tired (describes to what extent)

While adverbs are typically formed by adding ‘-ly’ to the end of an adjective (eg. ‘swift’ becomes ‘swiftly’), some don’t.

Eg. They arrived yesterday (describes when)
Eg. They live nearby (describes where)

Modifying Verbs

When it comes to verbs, adverbs are commonly used to describe the way an action is happening. They provide additional information about how an action was performed, adding depth and clarity to the sentence.

Eg. She danced gracefully.

The adverb ‘gracefully’ modifies the verb ‘danced,’ indicating that the subject (she) performed the action of dancing with elegance and smoothness.

Eg. He spoke loudly during the concert.

The adverb ‘loudly’ modifies the verb ‘spoke,’ showing that the subject (he) used a strong and audible voice while talking, especially in the context of the concert.

Eg. They completed the puzzle together.

Here, the adverb ‘together’ modifies the verb ‘completed,’ suggesting that the action of finishing the puzzle was done collectively by the group mentioned (they).

Watch out for Linking Verbs

However, there’s a type of verb that doesn’t mix well with adverbs, and often create a mixup wherever they go. Linking Verbs, such as seem, smell, sound, feel, and appear, often precede adjectives instead of adverbs. 

Eg. Susan(noun) feels badly(adverb) about her meltdown.

In this instance, because ‘feel’ is a verb, it can lead us to conclude that it calls for an adverb instead of an adjective. However, due to ‘feel’ being a linking verb, it links the subject to the modifier that follows it. And since a subject is, by definition, a noun (or pronoun), it should be modified by an adjective. 

Eg. Susan(noun) feels bad(adjective) about her meltdown.

Therefore, the right answer modifier should be ‘bad’ instead of ‘badly’.

Modifying Adjectives

When it comes to adjectives, an adverb is generally used to add a degree of intensity or other kinds of qualifications. By modifying the adjectives, they enhance the description of the qualities expressed by the adjectives, providing a clearer and more vivid picture.

Eg. The movie was extremely captivating.

In this sentence, the adverb ‘extremely’ modifies the adjective ‘captivating,’ intensifying the degree to which the movie held the viewer's interest.

Eg. She was quite surprised by the unexpected gift.

The adverb ‘quite’ modifies the adjective ‘surprised,’ indicating a notable level of astonishment in response to the unexpected gift.

Eg. The mountain peak was unbelievably beautiful.

Here, the adverb ‘unbelievably’ modifies the adjective ‘beautiful,’ emphasizing the level of beauty attributed to the mountain peak, possibly beyond what one might expect.

Modifying other Adverbs

Adverbs can be used to modify and describe other adverbs.

Eg. She ran extremely quickly.

In this sentence, the adverb 'extremely' modifies the adverb 'quickly,' emphasizing the high degree of speed at which she ran.

Eg. He speaks surprisingly softly.

The adverb "surprisingly" modifies the adverb 'softly,' indicating that his speaking volume is unexpectedly gentle or quiet.

Eg. They completed the task quite efficiently.

Here, the adverb 'quite' modifies the adverb 'efficiently,' suggesting a notable level of effectiveness in how they carried out the task.

*Bonus tip
If you like, you could even use several adverbs to modify a particular adverb. However, do so with caution. Using more than one adverb can risk making your sentence soft and clunky.

Eg. Susan sings rather surprisingly too softly.

Modifying Sentences

Words aside, some adverbs have the power to modify entire sentences (Sentence adverbs). Such as generally, interestingly, fortunately, surprisingly, and accordingly to name a few. They don’t modify one particular thing in the sentence. Rather, they describe a general feeling about the sentence as a whole.

Eg. Interestingly, the ancient artifact was discovered in a hidden chamber.

The adverb 'Interestingly' sets the tone for the sentence, indicating that the fact being presented is intriguing or noteworthy. It captures the reader's attention by suggesting there's something unique about the discovery.

Eg. Surprisingly, they managed to complete the project ahead of schedule.

The adverb 'Surprisingly' conveys an unexpected outcome. It adds an element of astonishment to the sentence, as the reader might not have anticipated that they would finish the project earlier than expected.

Eg. Unfortunately, the concert was cancelled due to bad weather.

The adverb 'Unfortunately' introduces a negative aspect to the sentence. It conveys a sense of disappointment or regret, indicating that the concert's cancellation is an undesirable event.

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