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Definition of Adverb: Adverbs are words that modify verbs. This means that they provide more information about the verb. Since a verb is a word that tells the name of an action, an adverb provides information about how or when the action took (or is taking) place: quickly, slowly, yesterday. Notice that adverbs often end in -ly.


Adverbs tell us something about the details of an verb; that is when, where, or how something happened (or is happening, or will happen). That is, adverbs provide information about the place, time, manner, or degree of an action. So words such as “slowly,” “quickly,” or “carefully” are adverbs because they tell us how an action was performed. Adverbs often end in -ly. But beware! Not all adverbs use -ly. Phrases can also be adverbs, thus we call the adverbial phrases. Phrases such as “with great care” or “all by himself” are adverbial phrases. Often, introductory phrases are adjectival. That is, they introduce something related to how or when the action took place.

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In addition, adverbs can modify other adverbs, they can modify phrases, or they can modify clauses. (Remember, a clause is a phrase containing a subject and verb, a phrase is simply a collection of related words.)

Examples: (the adverb is in red; the verb is in blue)

I speak English badly.

I am studying hard in my online course. (Good for you! Notice that we don't use "-ly" here.)

I am hardly studying in my online course. (That's bad, because "hardly" means "not very much.")

Unfortunately, my investment in gold did not pay off.

In English we often use the suffix –ly to distinguish an adverb. These days, many people drop the –ly suffix in informal speech. So Apple Computers can advertise “Think Different” when a grammarian would have had them say “Think Differently.” However, because people speak English differently in different places, and English is an often-shifting language, there are many times when people drop the -ly from an adverb. This is a well-known variant, and it's known as a flat adverb.

Here's a little quirk: hopefully. It's one of those gray areas that is kind of wrong, but we use it all the time and all native English speakers understand it. In fact recently the AP Style Guide began to recognize this usage. Nonetheless, be careful, because many teachers will still mark it as wrong.

Hopefully, you will improve your grammar. So, if "hopefully" is an adverb, what verb does it modify? "Hopefully" modifies "improve." What's wrong with that? Well, it tells us how you did the action. Hopefully, he entered the employment center. His state of mind was hopeful as he entered the employment center. But if I want to express the hope that he entered the employtment center, then I should have said "I hope he entered the job center" (and not the pub). Very often, when we say "hopefully" we really mean "I hope" or "I am hopeful."

Adverbs are not the only words to end in –ly, some adjectives also use this suffix, such as “friendly.” Some adverbs don’t need the suffix—“fast” is correct, not “fastly”—so this is still only a generalization.

I feel bad or I feel badly? Let’s get to one of my pet peeves: feeling badly. I never feel badly. Sometimes I feel bad. Since “badly” has the tell-tale suffix “-ly” we know it is an adverb. So “feeling badly” must mean “not good at feeling.” Like when you reach over in the darkness to feel your lover and accidentally poke her in the eye, you are feeling badly. When she calls you a “clumsy oaf” you feel bad. If you close your eyes and can't tell the difference between a baby's butt and a coconut you feel badly. This has to do with the fact that the verb "feel" can be an active verb or a linking verb. When it's a linking verb, you need to use the adjective. (I’ll talk about the difference between feeling good and feeling well on the page about adjectives.)

Conjunctive adverbs

There's a special type of adverb called a conjunctive adverb. It's used to join two clauses.

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