Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. E.g wonderfully, very, so, gradually etc. a. The lady writes beautifully. (modifies the verb ‘writes’) b. The lady writes beautifully legible. (modifies the adjective ‘legible’) c. The lady writes beautifully well. (modifies the adverb ‘well’)
It is important to note that an adverb can occur at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence. It is also possible to drop certain adverbs in a sentence without destroying the grammaticality (meaning) of the sentence. To summarise, two prominent features of adverbs are; I. Adverbs are movable (mobile) in a sentence. Examples; a. Messi scored the goal wonderfully. b. Wonderfully, Messina scored the goal. c. Messi wonderfully scored the goal. II. Adverbs are droppable (adjuncts) in a sentence. Examples; a. Messi scored the goal wonderfully. b. Messi scored the goal.
An adverb can indicate; where an action takes place, when the action occurs, how an action takes place, how often an action occurs, to what extent an action occurs, why an action occurs among others. For this reason, we shall look at the types of adverbs.
Types of Adverbs
1. Adverbs of manner; These are adverbs that indicate how an action takes place. This type of adverbs answer the question ‘HOW?’ Examples; i. The Queen walks majestically. (how does the Queen walk?) –majestically ii. The student reads slowly. (how does the student read?) –slowly
It is important to note that adverbs have three grammatical functions; A. Adverbs modify verbs Example; The athlete ran the race quickly. Grammatical Name; Adverb Function; modifies the verb, ‘ran’ B. Adverbs modify adjectives Example; The athlete ran the race quickly wonderful. Grammatical Name; adverb Function; modifies the adjective ‘wonderful’ C. Adverbs modify other adverbs Example; The athlete ran the race quickly well. Grammatical Name; adverb Function; modifies the adverb ‘well’ Note; Most adverbs of manner end in ‘ly’.
How to form adverbs of manner
Most adverbs of manner are formed by adding ‘ly’ to descriptive adjectives. Examples; Quick + ly = quickly Wonderful + ly = wonderfully Nice = nicely Magnificent = magnificently Note; It is important to note that not all words that end in ‘ly’ are adverbs of manner. E.g really, absolutely, fly etc.
2. Adverbs of place; These are adverbs that indicate where an action takes place. These adverbs answer the question ‘WHERE?’ Traditionally, the two adverbs of place are; here, there. However, other words or parts of speech that refers to places maybe used grammatically as adverbs of place. Examples include; North, up, down, Accra, inside the house etc. Usage Examples; i. The children entered there. (where did the children enter?) – there We notice that the natural adverb of place, ‘there’ answers the question, ‘where did the children enter?’
A different part of speech could also be used in the same sentence to replace ‘there’ which would still answer the question ‘where?’ For instance; The children entered inside the house. (where did the children enter?) – inside the house In this sentence, we have observed that the expression, ‘inside the house’ answers the question ‘where?’. This suggests that even though it is not a natural adverb of place, but it has been used as an adverb of place. There are many of such instances where you may find a noun, a noun phrase, a preposition or a prepositional phrase functioning as an adverb of place. E.g The children went inside. Inside is a preposition, but it has been used as an adverb indicating place in the sentence above. Let us now shift our attention to the types of adverbs of place.
Types of adverbs of place
a. Adverbs of direction; These are adverbs of place that indicate a specific direction of movement. Examples include; up, down, north, south, east, etc. Usage Examples; i. The herdsmen moved north. (where did the herdsmen move?) – north North – adverb of place (indicating direction). – modifies the verb ‘moved’ ii. The child fell down. (where did the child fall?) – down
b. Adverbs of location; These are adverbs that indicate the location of something or someone. Examples include; inside, outside, behind, around etc. Usage Examples; i. The teacher carried the children around. (where did the teacher carry the children?) – around ii. They sent the goods outside. (where did they send the goods?) – outside
Note; Adverbs of place that indicates location can also be used as prepositions. If they are used as prepositions, they show the relationship between a noun or a pronoun and other parts of a sentence, i.e a noun or a noun phrase (and maybe its modifiers) always comes after the preposition (object of the preposition). Adverb; The teacher carried the children around. Preposition; The teacher carried the children around the school.
c. Adverbs of movement and direction; These are adverbs of place that describes movement in a particular direction. These adverbs usually end in the words ‘ward’ or ‘wards’. E.g forward, backwards, downward, upwards etc. Example; The blood level of the man has moved upward.
3. Adverbs of time; These are adverbs that indicate when an action takes place. E.g now, then, early, late. Other nouns that express time relations can also be used as adverbs of time; today, yesterday, tomorrow, next week. Some prepositional phrases can also be used to indicate time; in the morning, in the evening etc.
Usage examples i. The lady left the house then. (when did the lady leave the house?) – then In the example above, the traditional adverb of time ‘then‘ has been used to indicate the time the lady left, hence an adverb of time. However, a noun or a prepositional phrase can be used to replace ‘then’ in the sentence which will still express time as we will see in the two examples below; i. The lady left the house yesterday. (when did the lady leave the house?) – yesterday In the example above, the noun ‘yesterday‘ has been used to replace ‘then‘ to express the time the lady left, hence, ‘yesterday‘ isused as an adverb of time in the sentence. ii. The lady left the house in the night. (when did the lady leave house) – in the night. In the above example, the prepositional phrase ‘in the night‘ has been used as an adverb of time.
The two examples justify the fact that other parts of speech can also be used as adverbs of time.
4. Adverbs of frequency; These are adverbs that indicate how often an action takes place. Examples include; twice, daily, always, usually etc. Adverbs of frequency answer the question ‘HOW OFTEN?’ Usage Examples; i. The students learn always. (how often do the students learn?) – always Always – adverb of frequency, function; it modifies the verb learn
ii. The men usually come. (how often do the men come?) – usually Usually – adverb of frequency Function; modifies the verb ‘come’
iii. Women are sometimes strong. (how often are women strong?) – sometimes – adverb of frequency Function; modifies the adjective ‘strong’
Adverbs of frequency can be used to indicate; a. Definite frequency b. Indefinite frequency
a. Adverbs of definite frequency; These are adverbs of frequency that indicate the specific or exact range of time an action happens or occurs. Examples include; daily, weekly, monthly etc. Usage examples; i. I write letters daily. (how often do I write letters?) – daily ii. Christmas is celebrated annually. (how often is Christmas celebrated?) – annually. In the above examples, the adverbs; daily and annually tell us how often certain actions take place, they also go further to tell us the exact or specific range at which these actions take place. Daily – means every day. Annually – means every year.
b. Adverbs of indefinite frequency; These are adverbs that indicate how often an action takes place, but does not indicate the exact or specific range of occurrence of that action. E.g always, normally, usually, rarely etc. Usage examples i. He comes to me always. (How often does he come to me?) – always Always; This word indicates how often he comes to me, but it does not specify the exact occurrence of the frequency such as; twice, once, daily, weekly, monthly etc. That is why this adverb and other adverbs that fall within this category are referred to as adverbs of indefinite frequency.
5. Adverbs of reason; These are adverbs that are used to introduce clauses that indicate or explain why an action takes place. These expressions that are introduced by these adverbs always answer the question ‘WHY?’ Examples include; because, since, as, given etc. Usage examples; i. The teacher did not smile because he was hungry. (why did the teacher not smile) – because he was hungry ii. The manager has stopped paying John as he has refused to work. (why did the manager stop paying John?) – as he has refused to work.
6. Adverbs of degree; These are adverbs that are used to indicate to what extent an action or something takes place. These adverbs answer the question ‘TO WHAT EXTENT?’ Examples include; quite, fairly, really, totally, absolutely, extremely, very, too etc. Note; It is important to note that adverbs of degree are used to modify only adjectives and adverbs. They do not modify verbs. Usage examples; i. The teacher wrote the letter very quickly. (to what extent did the teacher write the letter quickly?) – very Very – adverb (of degree) Function; modifies the adverb, ‘quickly’ ii. The girl is extremely beautiful. (to what extent is the girl beautiful?) – extremely
Adverbs of degree are divided into; a. Intensifiers b. Downtoners/mitigators
a. Intensifiers; These are adverbs that increase the strength of gradable adjectives and gradable adverbs. They are thus, modifiers that give additional emotional content to the words they modify, sometimes for emphasis. E.g very, too, so, extremely etc Usage Examples; i. That girl is very humble ii. The boy is too wicked
b. Mitigators/downtoners; These are adverbs that reduce or decrease the strength/intensity of the adjectives and the adverbs they modify. Examples; slightly, fairly, less, rather, quite etc. Usage example i. The chemical is slightly hazardous. Slightly has been used to reduce the intensity of the adjective, ‘hazardous’
7. Adverbs of condition; These are adverbs that are used to introduce expressions that indicate the condition under which something is done. E.g if, unless, whether, should etc. Usage examples i. She will pass if you teach her. ii. If they do not work, I will not pay them.
8. Adverbs of concession; These are adverbs that are used to introduce expressions that indicate how one action is contrasted/different from another. E.g though, although, even though, even if, in spite of etc.
Usage examples i. Even though he is rich, he could not afford the car. ii. Although she is brilliant, she failed.
Summary on types of adverbs
The table below provides a summary on some of the commonly used words for the various types of adverbs and the kind of questions they answer.
Words often used
Slowly, beautifully, mercilessly etc.
Here, there, away, outside etc.
Now, then, later,soon etc.
How often? How long?
Never, often, weekly, annually etc.
To what extent?
Very, so, too, really etc.
Because, since etc.
Degrees of comparison (adverbs)
Just like adjectives, adverbs also have degrees of comparison. Adverbs that can be expressed in various degrees are called GRADABLE ADVERBS. Adverbs have; positive, comparative and superlative degrees.
a. Positive degree; These are adverbs in their basic forms. They are generally not used for comparison. Examples include; carefully, dangerously, badly, well etc. Usage example; John did the work carefully.
b. Comparative degree; These are adverbs that express a higher or lower degree of how an action is performed, usually, in comparison with how another action is performed. Examples include; more carefully, more dangerously, worse, better etc. Usage example; John did the work more carefully than how Emmanuel did the work.
c. Superlative degree; These are adverbs that express the highest or the lowest degree of how an action performed. Examples include; most carefully, most dangerously, worst, best etc. Usage example; John did the work most carefully.
Forming the comparative and superlative Degree of Adverbs
As far as forming the comparative and superlative forms of gradable adverbs is concerned, adverbs will be categorised into; One syllable adverbs ‘-ly’ adverbs Irregular adverbs
a. One syllable adverbs; These adverbs are made of one pronounceable unit. Their comparatives and superlatives are formed by adding the suffixes ‘-er’ and ‘-est’ to the end of the adverbs respectively.
One syllable adverbs
b. ‘-ly’ adverbs; These adverbs are formed by adding ‘-ly’ to descriptive adjectives. Their comparatives and superlatives are formed by adding ‘more/less‘ and ‘most/least’ respectively to their positive forms. More and most are used for increasing comparison whereas less and least are used for decreasing comparison.
c. Irregular adverbs; These adverbs form their comparatives and superlatives through irregular forms, i.e. they do not add ‘-er’ nor ‘-est’ to their positive forms, neither do they take ‘more/less’ nor ‘most/least’ before them. Their comparatives and superlatives formation involve a change in the spelling or structure of the basic form.
Order of adverbs
There are instances where more than one adverb is used in a sentence, when this happens, the adverbs must be ordered. There is a general order in which different categories of adverbs should appear in a sentence. This is known as the order of adverbs which is sometimes called the ROYAL ORDER OF ADVERBS. Manner Place Frequency Time Reason
Though it is uncommon to use five adverbs in e row to modify the same word, but if a sentence has two or three adverbs, it is best to follow this order to avoid sounding unnatural.
Usage example; The prefect caned a student mercilessly at the dining hall yesterday because of misconduct. In the above sentence, mercilessly (adverb of manner) comes first, then, at the dining hall (adverb of place), then, yesterday (adverb of time), and then, because of misconduct (adverb of reason).
Although there is a general order for the occurrence of adverbs in a sentence, it is still possible to alter the order in which they (adverbs) occur without destroying the grammaticality (meaning) of the sentence since adverbs movable. In view of this, the same sentence can be reconstructed as; At the dining hall yesterday, the prefect caned a student mercilessly for misconduct.