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Adverbs: An Introduction to Uniquely Special Words

So, you want to learn “what is an adverb” and understand why this part of speech is so important. Well, this group of words in the English language gives your audience some exciting and important information. On top of that, these words vastly improve your vocabulary, while allowing you to describe what’s happening around you.

Sure, this may sound like what an adjective does, and although these words are similar, they’re also different. Are you ready to expand your language skills? Let’s dive right in starting with an adverb definition.

Introducing the Words that Modify Verbs

What is an adverb? Fundamentally, an adverb modifies verbs in a sentence. What this means is that you use an adverb to give more information about an action or state of being.

There are many ways that adverbs give an audience more information. First, you can describe how someone performs a certain action.

  • Mr. Flintstone hurriedly completed his work.

We can tell in this example that Mr. Flintstone did his work at a quicker pace than usual.

Second, these words detail where an action takes place.

  • I danced here last night.

The word here excludes all the other locations, while sharing where the action happened.

Third, you can use adverbs to tell others when an action did or will take place.

  • Are you coming to the basketball game tomorrow?

Thus, you know exactly which basketball game is being referred to, as it’s the one that happens tomorrow.

Fourth, these words explain frequency, or how often an action happens.

  • Mr. Robuchon always cooks the world’s best food.

In this example, you know how often the world’s best food is made by Mr. Robuchon.

Finally, these words describe certainty and uncertainty.

  • Santa probably stuffed your stocking with coals this year.

There’s a chance that Santa gave you coal, but it’s also possible that Santa brought you some great gifts too.

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What is an Adverb? The Many Other Uses

As you can tell, an adverb can give you a lot of different information. But those uses aren’t the only way that you can define adverb. These words also modify adjectives by telling you how an adjective modifies a noun. What is an example of an adverb? Here are a few.

  • Your golden hair is exceptionally wind-resistant.

The word exceptionally tells us the degree to which this person’s hair is wind-resistant. Fun fact, you call adverbs that modify adjectives intensifiers.

Next, two words in this category can also modify each other.

  • Messi scored the goal quite easily.

It wasn’t just easy for him to score the goal, it was done quite easily.

Finally, this category of words can also modify phrases, clauses, and whole sentences.

For instance, what kind of mental picture do you have when reading this sentence?

  • He returned to his classroom, regrettably.

That final word changes the whole meaning of the rest of the sentence.

In addition to modifying clauses, you can also use these words to form a clause as well. What’s an adverb clause? It’s when you use multiple words to modify verbs and adjectives. There are three parts that help you identify a clause:

  1. A subordinating conjunction. Words like as, if, when, where, and because are the cornerstones of a complex sentence. You need one to form a clause.

  2. A subject. That’s the noun in a sentence doing a certain action.

  3. A predicate. This is the section of a sentence where you’ll find a verb and the effect that the action has on the subject.

Is the adverbs definition about clauses a bit complex? Here are some examples to pull everything together.

  • If you eat your vegetables, you’ll grow up to be a strong boy.
  • Now that I’ve had a nap, everyone wants to go to bed.

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Plus, Different Characteristics

What is an adverb? These words take on different characteristics. The most common form takes an adjective and adds the suffix -ly. This is a popular formation with words that describe the manner in which an action is taken.

There are also words that don’t connect with adjectives. This is especially the case with words that explain place and time. Behind, down, in, and off are a few examples of words dealing with place. All day, tomorrow, often, and later are some examples of timely words.

Additionally, each adverb has its own comparative and superlative form. The comparative form takes two verbs and compares each. The superlative compares three verbs and shows which one is best. Click here to learn more about each form.

To make these forms using a word that ends in -ly, add more and most.

  • The star shone brightly.
  • The star shone more brightly.
  • The star shown most brightly.

Not all words end in -ly. Most will form the superlative and comparative the same way that adjectives do by ending in -er and -est. Other words will take on their own irregular form. Here’s an example for short words without -ly.

  • Steve arrived late.
  • Steve arrived later.
  • Steve arrived latest.

And here is the irregular form.

  • Stephanie did well.
  • Stephanie did better.
  • Stephanie did best.

Yes, these words do a lot. But you’re still not done learning everything they can do in a sentence. Here’s another quick adverb definition:

Words Can Express Degree

Some modifiers tell us the degree to which something happens. These words add meaning to both adjectives and adverbs. Some examples include totally, slightly, barely, and entirely.

  • He was totally lost in the woods for three days.
  • She was slightly confused by the math problem.

Now, you have a much better understanding about these words. But, you may still be wondering “what is an adverb and how is it different from an adjective?” Whereas an adjective modifies the people, places, and things in sentences, adverbs do not.

With that said, these two parts of speech are also similar in a few ways. Some words even fall into either category, depending on their use in a sentence. Examples include clean, fast, straight, and low. See if you can come up with some sentences that use each word differently.

Once you’re done, share your sentences with a friend and see if you can explain a basic adverb definition to them. If you need any help, check this out and it’ll clarify any questions you have.