An adverb (/ædvɜ:b/) is a content word used to express when, where or how something happens. Adverbs can also form part of adverb phrases, such as quite often, at once, last year, once a week.
Basically, there are two kinds:
- "verb phrase" adverbs, which refer to the actor;
- "sentence" adverbs, which indicate the attitude of the speaker and refer to the whole clause. Sentence adverbs include admittedly, amazingly, curiously, fortunately, frankly, happily, honestly, perhaps, seriously and supposedly.
What they modify
Adverbs are sometimes thought to be a little difficult to classify. In a simplistic sense one could argue that they modify verbs or "add" something to verbs; but this is clearly not their only use. In fact, they can modify many other parts of language, including adjectives, numbers, sentences, clauses and other adverbs. However they are unable to modify nouns (except gerunds), which are modified by determiners and adjectives.
Depending on the specific adverb or type of adverb, they can go in three positions in a clause, and some of them can go in all three positions.
Connecting adverbs (however, then) and time adverbs (tomorrow, next).
See main article Mid-position
Sentence adverbs, such as frankly, sadly, clearly and curiously, are often used at the beginning of the sentence, and transmit the attitude or opinion of the speaker or writer and refer to a whole sentence rather than the verb or whatever other words they might normally modify.
While language pundits rue the adman's use of the so-called "flat" or "bare" adverbs, we language teachers are out here on our own having to explain such usage to our enquiring students. Basically, these adverbs have the same form as the adjective, such as quick in "Come quick!". Such usage is considered non-standard, though increasingly common: "Think Different" (Apple) and the ecologists' "Think global, act local". That said, there are, of course, adverbs such as hard, low and fast that have the same form as the adjective in standard use.
And as is so often the case with anything the language pundits set their sights on, boldly stating that the language is going to the dogs - and that they have to "protect" it from further deterioration - the flat adverb has in fact been in extensive use for hundreds of years.
Adverbs of certainty
See main article Adverb of certainty
- perhaps, maybe, probably;
Adverbs of manner
See main article Adverb of manner
- well, badly, softly;
Adverbs of place
See main article Adverb of place
- around, here;
Adverbs of time/frequency
See main article Adverb of frequency
- today, already, still;