What Is an Adverb? Definition and Examples

Adverbs are words that modify or describe verbs. They may also modify adjectives, other adverbs, and entire sentences. Many of them end in -ly, such as “happily,” “lazily”, or “loudly.” Not all do though, such as “sometimes,” “soon,” or “often.”

What Is an Adverb?

The adverb is a part of speech that helps us to provide more information about an activity.

Let’s take a simple sentence: Michael wrote. 

This is a perfectly fine sentence—it has a subject (Michael) and a verb (wrote). It provides some basic information about something that happened. But perhaps we want to know more about this event. Perhaps we want to know how Michael wrote; that is, what was the manner of his writing? That’s when we can use adverbs.

We could say:

  • Michael wrote quickly
  • Michael wrote slowly
  • Michael wrote furiously.
  • Michael wrote happily.

How to Use Adverbs Correctly

Adverbs have many uses. According to Merriam-Webster, “an adverb answers the question when?, where?, how?, how much?, how long?, or how often?

Let’s break this down, using the same example. We’ll see how adverbs can answer these various questions.

  • When? Michael wrote yesterday.
  • Where? Michael wrote nearby.
  • How? Michael wrote meticulously.
  • How much? Michael wrote nearly enough.
  • How long? Michael wrote briefly.
  • How often? Michael wrote frequently.

Notice that many adverbs end in -ly, but not all. Here are some more examples of adverbs that don’t end in -ly:

  • Better, well, very
  • Now, often, soon, sometimes, today, tomorrow
  • Here, there, everywhere

In many cases, when an adverb modifies a verb, it can be placed before or after the verb. For example:

  • Correct: Michael wrote frequently.
  • Also correct: Michael frequently wrote.

However, we don’t tend to do this with adverbs that answer where? and when? questions. For example:

  • Correct: Michael wrote nearby.
  • Incorrect: Michael nearby wrote.
  • Correct: Michael wrote yesterday.
  • Incorrect: Michael yesterday wrote.

Modifying More than Just Verbs

In all of the examples above, the adverbs are modifying the verb “wrote.” But adverbs can also modify other adverbs, as well as adjectives and entire sentences. 

Modifying Other Adverbs

Look at these adverbs modifying another adverb:

  • Michael wrote very quickly. 

Here, “quickly” tells us how Michael wrote, and “very” tells us how quickly. 

  • Michael wrote somewhat frequently.

The adverb “somewhat” modifies the adverb “frequently.”

The adverb should be placed immediately before the adverb it is modifying.

Modifying Other Adjectives

Adverbs can also modify adjectives, which describe nouns. 

We could say “Michael wrote a good book,” in which “good” is an adjective modifying “book.” We can also throw in an adverb to modify “good.” For example:

  • Michael wrote a very good book.
  • Michael wrote an incredibly good book.
  • Michael wrote an astoundingly good book.

In the examples above, the adverbs “very,” “incredibly,” and “astoundingly” modify the adjective “good.” Notice that when we modify an adjective with an adverb, we place the adverb immediately before the adjective.

Modifying Entire Sentences

We can also use adverbs to modify entire sentences. In these cases, we usually place the adverb at the beginning. For example:

  • Fortunately, Michael wrote a book.

When we do this, it usually tells us how the speaker feels or what the speaker thinks about what they’re saying. In the example above, the speaker thinks it’s fortunate that Michael wrote a book. 

Here are a few more examples:

  • Unfortunately, Michael wrote a book.
  • Amazingly, Michael wrote a book.
  • Hopefully, Michael will write a book.

Examples of Adverbs in Writing

Let’s take a look at some examples of adverbs in writing.

  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • “Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly.” —Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go
  • “You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” —Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
  • “And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” —F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
  • “Time moves slowly, but passes quickly.” —Alice Walker, The Color Purple
  • “Anything worth dying for is certainly worth living for.” —Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Need Help with Adverbs and More?

Many writers and content producers still occasionally struggle with adverbs, which can result in content that confuses the reader or, even worse, makes them think you aren’t a credible source.

If you find it challenging to use adverbs correctly or simply don’t want to worry about getting it wrong in the future, enlist EditorNinja’s professional editing services. We’ll ensure that your writing is clear, correct, and professional. Schedule a no-stress, no-risk, super-friendly discussion with our team to discuss your editing needs today!