Adverbs in English Grammar

What is an adverb?

Adverbs are describing words. We use them to modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. They give us more information about the word they modify such as how, when, where, how often and to what degree. Different types of adverbs include adverbs of manner (slowly), time (yesterday), frequency (often) and degree (very). Adverbs can often be identified by their -ly ending, although this is not always the case (yesterday/always). Adverbs also have comparative and superlative forms.

Learn how and when to use adverbs in English grammar with Lingolia’s online grammar rules. Then put your knowledge to the test in the interactive exercises.

Example

The band on stage is playing fantastically good songs. The girl is singing extremely well and the audience is clapping along loudly.

The band is standing directly in front of the audience and they are playing one song immediately after the other. They are trying hard to entertain the audience and there is hardly anybody in the audience who is not completely thrilled.

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When to Use Adverbs in English

We use adverbs to describe:

  • verbs
    Example:
    The audience is clapping along loudly.

    How is the audience clapping along? – loudly

  • adjectives
    Example:
    The band on stage is playing fantastically good songs.

    How good are the songs? – fantastically good

  • other adverbs
    Example:
    The girl is singing extremely well.

    How does the girl sing? – extremely well

How to Form Adverbs

Many adverbs are derived from adjectives. To form them, we simply take the adjective and add the adverb ending -ly.

Example:
loud → loudly

Spelling Rules

  • For true, due, and whole, we remove the e before adding -ly.
    Example:
    true → truly
  • A -y at the end of the adverb changes to -i.
    Example:
    happy → happily
  • When an adjective ends with a consonant + le, the le is removed before adding -ly.
    Example:
    sensible → sensibly
  • When an adjective ends with -ll, we simply add a -y. However, adjectives ending in -l take the -ly ending.
    Example:
    full → fully
    (but: final → finally)

Adjectives ending in -ic

Adjectives that end in -ic form the adverb using -ally (except for: public → publicly).

Example:
fantastic → fantastically

Irregular Constructions

The adjectives difficult, good and public have irregular adverb forms. They are formed in the following way:

adjective adverb
good well
public publicly
difficult with difficulty

Some adjectives that end in -ly don’t have an adverb form. In this case, we use the phrase in a … way/manner, or we use a similar adverb.

Example:
friendly (adjective) → in a friendly way/in a friendly manner
likely (adjective) → probably (adverb)

The adjective and adverb forms are the same for the following words: early, hourly, daily, monthly, yearly.

Example:
a yearly concert → We go to the concert yearly.

For more information about adjectives and adverbs that are the same, or the difference between adverbs and adjectives see: adjective or adverb.

Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

Some English adverbs also have comparative and superlative forms. The formation and usage of these adverbs is the same as comparative and superlative adjectives:

  • We use -er/-est to form the comparative of single-syllable adverbs, and of adverbs which have the same form as their adjectives. Note that the usual spelling rules applyl: -y at the end a of word changes to -i, -e at the end of word is left out)
Example:
hard – harder – the hardest
late – later – the latest
early – earlier – the earliest
  • We use more/most to form the comparative of all adverbs that end in -ly (except for adverbs whose form is the same as the adjective; see above).
Example:
happily - more happily - the most happily

Irregular Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

We have to learn the following irregular comparative forms by heart.

adverb comparative superlative
well better the best
badly worse the worst
ill worse the worst
little less the least
much more the most
far (in space and time) further the furthest
far (in space) farther the farthest
late (in time) later the latest

More About Adverbs

Learn more about adverbs in English grammar and practice using English adverbs in the following pages: