10.6 - Adverbs

1. What do adverbs describe?
2. What other parts of speech can adverbs modify?


Adverbs are words or phrases that tell you about the circumstances of an action, such as how, where or when it happens (e.g. slowly, unfortunately, here). Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs but they cannot modify nouns.

Read the following descriptions of four activities about adverbs. What type of adverbs do they focus on? Have you ever done/ used a similar activity in class?

Use the dots to scroll through the four activities.

a) Can you find the mistakes in these sentences?
b) Why do you think these mistakes were made?

1. He worked really hardly
2. She made quickly the lunch
3. He smiled at her very friendly
4. He’s a carefully driver
5. He drives good

Answer key

1. He worked really hardly →  Learners may want to overgeneralise the rule of –ly for adverbs. However, there are certain exceptions (e.g ‘hard’, ‘fast’, ‘wrong’, etc). Learners need to be made aware of these exceptions.

2. She made the lunch quickly → position of adverbs: We generally avoid placing adverbs of manner between a verb and its object.

3. He smiled at her in a very friendly manner →  Although many adverbs end in –ly, not all words ending in –ly are adverbs. The following are adjectives: friendly, manly, leisurely, likely.

4. He’s a careful driver → Some students tend to write an adverb before a noun, when this is not possible. Adverbs can be followed by adjectives, verbs and other adverbs.

5. He drives well → When describing how somebody does something, an adverb is needed. 

To know more about the different types of adverbs, you can check the grammar section of the Cambridge Dictionary here.