Adverbs: types, functions, exceptions

An adverb tells us more about a verb, an adjective, another adverb or even a noun phrase. General definition sometimes ignore the noun phrase part but you should know it exists.

You can form adverbs from some adjectives with the addition of -ly. However, some adverbs are the same as adjectives. Examples: fast, straight, hard (hardly is also an adverb), likely, etc.

Like adjectives, adverbs could use ‘more’ as comparative and ‘most’ as superlative. Examples: more slowly, most likely.

Adverbs usually express manner, time, place, frequency, etc: they tell us how things are done, in what way, to what extent, etc.

adverb and adjective:

  1. My boss was quite clueless.

(adverb quite modifies the adjective clueless)


adverb and noun phrase:

  1. He was temporarily the military president.

(adverb temporarily modifies the noun phrase military president)


adverb and verb:

  1. Ada sang beautifully.

(adverb beautifully modifies the verb sang)


adverb and another adverb:

  1. Tom spoke extremely slowly.

(adverb extremely modifies the adverb slowly)


Types of adverb

  •  Adverbs of time tell us about when things happen or events occur. They are: already, early, soon, now, today, tomorrow, recently, etc.


  1. Wale will edit the scripts soon.
  2. They promised to see him tomorrow.


  • Adverbs of place express where things happen or where they are. They are: nearby, there, upstairs, sideways, etc.


  1. We went to a nearby store.
  2. Steve tiptoed upstairs.


  •  Adverbs of manner explain the way things are done or the way they happen. They are: cautiously, quietly, carefully, greedily, quickly, etc.


  1. The popular politician embezzled public funds greedily.
  2. He fired the gun quickly before he could be seen.


  • Adverbs of degree elucidate to what extent things are done. They are: almost, nearly, so, too, very, etc.


  1. He almost got beaten for his arrogance.
  2. Lucy was very angry with her husband.


  • Adverbs of frequency show how often things happen. They are: always, almost, seldom, frequently, rarely, etc. The word seldomly was first recorded in the 16th century but rarely used in today’s English. It is considered wrong by many because we already have seldom as an adverb.


  1. Journalists always look for the right stories.
  2. My boss visits South Carolina frequently.


*An adverb can appear under more than one category (e.g. almost is both an adverb of degree and frequency).

*Adverbs could also belong to another part of speech other than adjectives (e.g. upstairs is also a noun).

*The word good is an adjective but could be used informally as an adverb; well is both an adjective and an adverb.


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