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Adverbs for English Grammar

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Aug 12, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Adverbs Practice Exercises for English Grammar

Recognizing Adverbs

Adverbs Ending in -ly

The easiest adverbs to recognize are those that end in -ly. The only pitfall to avoid is confusing -ly adverbs with -ly adjectives. Remember that adjectives modify only nouns and pronouns. Adverbs modify everything else.

The following words are some of the adjectives that end in -ly: comely, costly, early, lively, lovely, surly. See how they are used in these sentences:

      A comely appearance is always admired.
      Costly jewelry is beyond the reach of most students.
      The early bird catches the worm.
      The fiddler played a lively tune.
      The lovely sunset provided a fitting climax to our day.
      The trainer was a surly one, all right.

In the first five sentences, the italicized adjectives modify nouns: appearance, jewelry, bird, tune, sunset. The last italicized adjective, surly, modifies one, a pronoun.

Adverbs that end in -ly are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, a present participle, or a past participle.

When an adjective ends in -able or -ible, the adverb is formed by changing the final e to y: peaceable, peaceably; horrible, horribly; terrible, terribly.

Consider the following sentences:

      He regarded her hatefully.
      Surely they will reconcile their differences.
      Rose will finally receive her permanent appointment.
      They were terribly mangled in the accident.

All the italicized words in these sentences perform adverbial functions. Surely modifies the entire sentence it appears in. The others modify the verbs in their sentences. They must not be confused with adjectives.

Recognizing Adverbs by Their Functions

Adverbs answer the following questions: how? how much? when? where? why? true or false? We thus can classify adverbs as adverbs of manner, degree, time, place, cause or purpose, or assertion.

Adverbs of manner answer the question how?

      He works carefully.
      Ruth cooks well.

Adverbs of degree answer the question how much?

      You are inadequately prepared for graduate studies.
      He has completely exhausted his inheritance.

Adverbs of time answer the question when?

      They arrive late for most appointments.
      She has not played tennis recently.

Adverbs of place answer the question where?

      He walked downstairs.
      They went south for the winter.

Adverbs of cause or purpose answer the question why?

      I will therefore quit the team.
      She will consequently be dismissed.

Adverbs of assertion answer the question true or false?

      She will surely be hired for the job.
      She is not acceptable in my home.
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