Wednesday, 15 February 2012




An adverb is a word that’s used to give information about a verb, adjective, or other adverb.
When used with a verb, adverbs can give information about:
  • how something happens or is done:
She stretched lazily.
He walked slowly.
The town is easily accessible by road.
  • where something happens:
I live here.
She’s travelling abroad.
The children tiptoed upstairs.
  • when something happens:
They visited us yesterday.
I have to leave soon.
He still lives in London.
Adverbs can make the meaning of a verb, adjective, or other adverb stronger or weaker:
  • with a verb:
I almost fell asleep.
He really means it.
  • with an adjective:
These schemes are very clever.
This is a slightly better result.
  • with another adverb:
They nearly always get home late.
The answer to both questions is really rather simple.
Adverbs normally come between the subject and its verb:
She carefully avoided my eye.
They also come between an auxiliary verb (such as be or have) and a main verb:
The concert was suddenly cancelled.
Sentence adverbs
Some adverbs refer to a whole statement and not just a part of it. They are called 'sentence adverbs' and they act as a sort of comment, showing the attitude or opinion of the speaker or writer to a particular situation.
Sentence adverbs often stand at the beginning of the sentence. Here are some examples
Clearly, there have been unacceptable delays.
(= It is clear that there have been unacceptable delays)
Sadly, the forests are now under threat.
(= It is sad that the forests are now under threat)
Curiously, he never visited America.
(= It's curious that he never visted America)
The sentence adverbs are used to convey the writer or speaker's opinion that it is clear/sad/curious that something happened or is the case. If you compare the way clearly, sadly, and curiously are used in the next three sentences, you can easily see the difference between the meaning of the sentence adverbs and the 'ordinary' adverbs:
He spoke clearly and with conviction.
(= He spoke in a clear way and with conviction)
She smiled sadly. [adverb]
(= She smiled in a sad way)
He looked at her curiously.
(= He looked at her in a curious/inquisitive way)
Hopefully and thankfully as sentence adverbs
Sentence adverbs are well established in English, but there are two – hopefully and thankfully – which have caused a lot of controversy. Here are two sentences in which hopefully and thankfully are being used as sentence adverbs:
Hopefully, the work will be finished within the next two or three weeks.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long.
Many people are convinced that it’s wrong to use hopefully or thankfully in this way. What’s the problem? It lies in the fact that you can't rewrite this type of sentence using the wording 'it is hopeful that' or 'it is thankful that'. If you wanted to rewrite the two previous sentences, you couldn’t say:
X It is hopeful that the work will be finished within the next two or three weeks.
X It is thankful that we didn’t have to wait long.
You’d need to choose a different wording, for example:
It is to be hoped that the work will be finished within the next two or three weeks.
As luck would have it, we didn’t have to wait long.
This leads people to the conclusion that hopefully and thankfully should not be used as sentence adverbs. In fact, there are no very strong grammatical grounds for criticizing the use of hopefully and thankfully as sentence adverbs: there aren't any rules that ban this sort of development of meaning. And there are other adverbs which behave in the same way but which haven’t attracted the same level of condemnation, e.g. frankly or briefly:
Frankly, I was pleased to leave.
(i.e. to be frank, I was pleased to leave)
Briefly, the plot is as follows.
(i.e. to be brief, the plot is as follows)
Nevertheless, you should be aware that some people strongly object to the use of hopefully and thankfully as sentence adverbs. In view of this, it’s a good idea to be cautious about using them in formal writing such as job applications just in case your reader happens to be one of those people.
Adverbs are used to modify a verb, an adjective, or another adverb:
      [1] Mary sings beautifully
      [2] David is extremely clever
      [3] This car goes incrediblyfast
In [1], the adverb beautifullytells us how Mary sings. In [2], extremelytells us the degree to which David is clever. Finally, in [3], the adverb incrediblytells us how fast the car goes. Before discussing the meaning of adverbs, however, we will identify some of their formal characteristics.

Formal Characteristics of Adverbs

From our examples above, you can see that many adverbs end in -ly. More precisely, they are formed by adding -lyto an adjective:

Adjective slow quick soft sudden gradual
Adverb slowly quickly softly suddenly gradually
Because of their distinctive endings, these adverbs are known as -LY ADVERBS. However, by no means all adverbs end in -ly. Note also that some adjectives also end in -ly, including costly, deadly, friendly, kindly, likely, lively, manly, and timely.
Like adjectives, many adverbs are GRADABLE, that is, we can modify them using very or extremely:
softly very softly
suddenly very suddenly
slowly extremely slowly
The modifying words very and extremely are themselves adverbs. They are called DEGREE ADVERBS because they specify the degree to which an adjective or another adverb applies. Degree adverbs include almost, barely, entirely, highly, quite, slightly, totally, and utterly. Degree adverbs are not gradable (*extremely very).
Like adjectives, too, some adverbs can take COMPARATIVE and SUPERLATIVE forms, with -er and -est:

      John works hard-- Mary works harder -- I work hardest
However, the majority of adverbs do not take these endings. Instead, they form the comparative using more and the superlative using most:
recently more recently most recently
effectively more effectively most effectively
frequently more frequently most frequently
In the formation of comparatives and superlatives, some adverbs are irregular:
well better best
badly worse worst
little less least
much more most

Adverbs and Adjectives

Adverbs and adjectives have important characteristics in common -- in particular their gradability, and the fact that they have comparative and superlative forms. However, an important distinguishing feature is that adverbs do not modify nouns, either attributively or predicatively:
David is a happy child *David is a happily child
David is happy *David is happily
The following words, together with their comparative and superlative forms, can be both adverbs and adjectives:
early, far, fast, hard, late
The following sentences illustrate the two uses of early:
I'll catch the early train I awoke earlythis morning
The comparative better and the superlative best, as well as some words denoting time intervals (daily, weekly, monthly), can also be adverbs or adjectives, depending on how they are used.
We have incorporated some of these words into the following exercise. See if you can distinguish between the adverbs and the adjectives.

In each of the following pairs, indicate whether the highlighted word is an adverb or an adjective:

1a. My train arrived late, as usual 1b. I'm watching the late film Adverb

2a. My brother loves fastcars

2b. He drives too fast

3a. This exercise is harderthan I thought

3b. I hope you'll try harder in future

4a. The Times is published daily

4b. The Times is a dailynewspaper

5a. You've just ruined my best shirt

5b. Computers work best if you kick them


Although endings, gradability and comparison allow us to identify many adverbs, there still remains a very large number of them which cannot be identified in this way. In fact, taken as a whole, the adverb class is the most diverse of all the word classes, and its members exhibit a very wide range of forms and functions. Many semantic classifications of adverbs have been made, but here we will concentrate on just three of the most distinctive classes, known collectively as circumstantial adverbs.

Circumstantial Adverbs

Many adverbs convey information about the manner, time, or place of an event or action. MANNER adverbs tell us how an action is or should be performed:
      She sang loudly in the bath
      The sky quickly grew dark
      They whispered softly
      I had to run fast to catch the bus
TIME adverbs denote not only specific times but also frequency:
      I'll be checking out tomorrow
      Give it back, now!
      John rarelyrings any more
      I watch television sometimes
And finally, PLACE adverbs indicate where:
      Put the box there, on the table
      I've left my gloves somewhere
These three adverb types -- manner, time, and place -- are collectively known as CIRCUMSTANTIAL ADVERBS. They express one of the circumstances relating to an event or action - howit happened (manner), whenit happened (time), or whereit happened (place).

In each of the following sentences, indicate whether the highlighted word is an adverb of manner, time, or place.
1. The thief crept silently across the rooftops Manner
2. I'm not feeling well today Manner
3. The teacher smiled enigmatically Manner
4. We'll meet here after the match Manner
5. My aunt nevercomes to visit Manner

Additives, Exclusives, and Particularizers

Additives "add" two or more items together, emphasizing that they are all to be considered equal:
      [1] Lynn's prewar success had been as a light historical novelist; he employed similar fanciful ideas in his war novels [...] Joseph Hocking's war novels are also dominated by romance and adventure [W2A-009-40ff]

      [2] German firms have an existing advantage as a greater number of their managers have technical or engineering degrees. Japanese managers, too, have technical qualifications of a high order. [W2A-011-51ff]
In [1], the adverb alsopoints to the similarities between the war novels of Lynn and those of Hocking. In [2], the adverb too functions in a similar way, emphasizing the fact that the qualifications of Japanese managers are similar to those of German managers.
In contrast with additives, EXCLUSIVE adverbs focus attention on what follows them, to the exclusion of all other possibilities:
      [3] It's justa question of how we organise it [S1B-075-68]

      [4] The federal convention [...] comes together solely for the purpose of electing the president [S2B-021-99]
In [3], justexcludes all other potential questions from consideration, while in [4], solelypoints out the fact that the federal convention has no other function apart from electing the president. Other exclusives include alone, exactly, merely, and simply.
PARTICULARIZERS also focus attention on what follows them, but they do not exclude other possibilities:
      [5] The pastoralists are particularlyfound in Africa [S2A-047-3]

      [6] Now this book is mostlyabout what they call modulation [S1A-045-167]
In [5], it is implied that Africa is not the only place where pastoralists live. While most of them live there, some of them live elsewhere. Sentence [6] implies that most of the book is about modulation, though it deals with other, unspecified topics as well.
Other particularizers includelargely, mainly, primarily, and predominantly.

An adverb has been highlighted in each of the following sentences. Indicate whether it is additive, exclusive, or a particularizer.

1. I was especiallypleased to read about your award Additive
2. We're only trying to help, you know Additive
3. The rise in sea level is largelydue to global warming Additive
4. Roberts was both a coward and a thief Additive
5. Realism is precisely what I'm looking for Additive

Wh- Adverbs

A special subclass of adverbs includes a set of words beginning with wh-. The most common are when, where, and why, though the set also includes whence, whereby, wherein, and whereupon. To this set we add the word how, and we refer to the whole set as WH- ADVERBS. Some members of the set can introduce an interrogative sentence:
      When are you going to New York?
      Wheredid you leave the car?
      Why did he resign?
      Howdid you become interested in theatre?
They can also introduce various types of clause:
      This is the town whereShakespeare was born
      I've no idea how it works

Sentence Adverbs

We conclude by looking at a set of adverbs which qualify a whole sentence, and not just a part of it. Consider the following:
      Honestly, it doesn't matter
Here the sentence adverb honestlymodifies the whole sentence, and it expresses the speaker's opinion about what is being said (When I say it doesn't matter, I am speaking honestly). Here are some more examples:
      Clearly, he has no excuse for such behaviour
      Frankly, I don't care about your problems
      Unfortunately, no refunds can be given
Some sentence adverbs link a sentence with a preceding one:
      England played well in the first half. However, in the second half their weaknesses were revealed.
Other sentence adverbs of this type are accordingly, consequently, hence, moreover, similarly, and therefore.

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