What Are Adverbs?

Traditional Grammar and Adverbs

You now can identify almost all the parts of speech. For instance, let’s examine a sentence: 

Hey, Mom said that we need to clean up our messy rooms and the bathroom.

There are two sentences in the sentence:

Mom said

we need to clean up our messy room and the bathroom.

that connects them. 

Let’s identify the parts of speech:

INT      N    V     C   P    V    V    V     V   D    ADJ     N      C     D       N

Hey, Mom said that we need to clean up our messy rooms and the bathroom.

The sentence’s tree looks like this:

Leftover Word(s)

Let’s pretend the sentence reads like this:

INT      N           V    C   P    V    V   V     V   D    ADJ     N      C     D       N

Hey, Mom just said that we need to clean up our messy rooms and the bathroom right now.

We have three words left in the sentence. They do not fit any of the tests you have learned.

That’s because they are adverbs.

General Information About Adverbs

  1. Most words ending in -ly are adverbs:

quickly           rapidly             suddenly         immediately         studiously            sweetly

There are exceptions, such as friendly and ugly.  They can only be adjectives:

The friendly cat said meow.

The ugly duckling turned into a swan.

A few words, such as early, can be adverbs or adjectives:

Adverb:          We have to get up early.                     Early refers to the verbs get up.

Adjective:      The early bird catches the worm.       Early refers to noun, bird.

   2. Very is an adverb, and its synonyms (words like it) often are:

It is a very tall building.

Our cat is really mean.

She was a pretty good artist.

   3. Negatives are usually adverbs:

I am not impressed with your math assignment.

Joshua has never been friendly.

  4. Words that show time are usually adverbs:

We now will head to Dairy Queen.

Janet often goes skiing on the weekends.

Our class usually does well on vocabulary tests.

Tomorrow we will go to the zoo.

I always fail my chemistry tests.

  5. General places are usually adverbs.

We should camp here.

My cat follows me everywhere.

Professional Writers and Adverbs

Professional writers call adverbs “garbage words.”  Many textbooks tell students to use adverbs because they are descriptive words.  That is true, but adverbs often are not needed.

Tom quickly ran to the fire station.
Tom sprinted to the first station.

Suddenly, a bear roared behind me.
A bear roared behind me.

We immediately headed to train station.
We raced to the train station.

It was a very tall building.
The skyscraper loomed above us.

Traditional Grammar and Adverbs

Traditional grammar can be extremely confusing. For example, here are traditional grammar’s long version and short versions of what adverbs are:

Adverb: A word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there).

Adverb: A word that can modify or describe a verb, adjective, another adverb, or entire sentence. Adverbs can be used to show manner (how something happens), degree (to what extent), place (where), and time (when).

Tests for Adverbs

In GGS, there are two ways to recognize adverbs:

    1. They are likely the only unidentified words in a sentence.
    2. You can use the four GGS tests:

Adverb           =          +V

Adverb           =          +ADJ

Adverb           =          +ADV

Adverb           =          +?

Adverb = +V

Adverbs often are associated with verbs.  For instance, the word just is associated with said, not with Mom.  The phrase is just said, not Mom just.

Hey, Mom just said that we need to clean up our messy rooms and the bathroom.

Adverb = +ADJ

Adverbs can also be associated with adjectives. For instance, let’s change the sentence to—

Mom’s mad. Our rooms are really messy.

Messy is an adjective:                        test = extremely messy
Really is associated with messy.

Adverb = +ADV

Adverbs also can be associated with other adverbs.

Francine very quickly assembled her rifle.

Quickly is an adverb. It is associated with assembled.

Very is associated with quickly.  

Adverb = +?

If you are unsure what part of speech a word is, then it’s probably an adverb:

        ?            N          V       D  ADJ   N
Thankfully, Jester survived the big wave.

Thankfully is an adverb.

Small Group Activity

Name the part of speech for each word in the following sentences:

    1. We quickly forgot the names of half of the countries in Europe.
    2. Sam and Samantha soon were on their way to Florida.
    3. My friend Juniper often forgets her car keys.
    4. The deathly silent group of fans stared at the band.
    5. Sylvia is always quite worried about the color of her nails.
    6. My snail crawls very fast.
    7. The witch on the broom spoke extremely gruffly.
    8. I certainly would like to visit the haunted house.
    9. Rolinda always carried her umbrella.
    10. I never have been in a spaceship.

Individual or Small Group Activity

Complete the exercise:      Czech Republic

Optional Activity