The adverbs in English

The adverbs and the adjectives in English

Adverbs tell us in what way someone does something. Adverbs can modify verbs (here: drive), adjectives or other adverbs.

Adjectives tell us something about a person or a thing. Adjectives can modify nouns (here: girl)or pronouns (here: she).

adjective adverb
Mandy is a careful girl. Mandy drives carefully.
She is very careful.

Mandy is a careful driver. This sentence is about Mandy, the driver, so use the adjective.

Mandy drives carefully. This sentence is about her way of driving, so use the adverb.


Adjective + -ly

adjective adverb
dangerous dangerously
careful carefully
nice nicely
horrible horribly
easy easily
electronic electronically
irregular forms
good well
fast fast
hard hard

If the adjective ends in -y, change -y to -i. Then add -ly.
happy – happily
but: shy – shyly

If the adjective ends in -le, the adverb ends in -ly.
Example: terrible – terribly

If the adjective ends in -e, then add -ly.
Example: safe – safely


Tip: Not all words ending in -ly are adverbs.

adjectives ending in -ly: friendly, silly, lonely, ugly
nouns, ending in -ly: ally, bully, Italy, melancholy
verbs, ending in -ly: apply, rely, supply

There is no adverb for an adjective ending in -ly.

Use of adverbs

to modify verbs:
The soccer team played badly last Saturday.

to modify adjectives:
It was an extemely bad match.

to modify adverbs:
The soccer team played extremely badly last Wednesday.

to modify quantities:
There are quite a lot of people here.

to modify sentences:
Unfortunately, the flight to Dallas had been cancelled.

Types of adverbs

1) Adverbs of manner

2) Adverbs of degree

3) Adverbs of frequency

4) Adverbs of time

5) Adverbs of place

How do know whether to use an adjective or an adverb?

John is a careful driver. -> In this sentences we say how John is – careful.

If we want to say that the careful John did not drive the usual way yesterday – we have to use theadverb: John did not drive carefully yesterday.

Here is another example:

I am a slow walker. (How am I? -> slow -> adjective)
I walk slowly. (Ho do I walk? -> slowly -> adverb)

Adjective or Adverb after special verbs

Both adjectives and adverbs may be used after look, smell and taste. Mind the change in meaning.

Here are two examples:

adjective adverb
The pizza tastes good.
(How is the pizza?)
Jamie Oliver can taste well.
(How can Jamie Oliver taste?)
Peter’s feet smell bad.
(How are his feet?)
Peter can smell badly.
(How can Peter smell?)

Do not get confused with good/well.

Linda looks good.
(What type of person is she?)

Linda looks well.
(How is Linda? -> She may have been ill, but now she is fit again.)

How are you? – I’m well, thank you.

One can assume that in the second/third sentence the adverb well is used, but this is wrong.
well can be an adjective (meaning fit/healthy), or an adverb of the adjective good.

Use the adjective when you say something about the person itself.
Use the adverb, when you want to say about the action.

Adverbs – Summary
The comparison of adverbs
The position of adverbs in sentences
Adverbs of frequency
Adverbs and adjectives have the same form
Adverbs, where the basis is not the adjective
Adverbs – two forms
Exercises: Adjectives and adverbs

2 thoughts on “The adverbs in English

  1. Pingback: ~~WORD OF THE DAY~~ | YouthVoicesTT

  2. Pingback: “Quick Writing Exercise – Revisiting Adjectives” by Debra L Hartmann | Authors Helping Authors Resource Site

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