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Adverbs in English – Video

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In this lesson, you can learn about adverbs. What do adverbs do? What’s the difference between adjectives and adverbs? How do you use adverbs in English? You can learn the answers to these questions in this lesson.

QUIZ: Adverbs in English

Now, test your knowledge of what you learned in the lesson by trying this quiz. There are 20 questions, following the same order as the lesson, and you can get help with some of them if you press ‘Hint’.

You will get your score at the end, when you can click on ‘View Questions’ to see all the correct answers and explanations.

Let’s start with a challenge. Can you write down five English adverbs? Pause the video and do it now.


I’m guessing you wrote down words ending with -ly. For example:

  • quickly
  • slowly
  • clearly

These are all adverbs. However, there are many other adverbs. Many of them don’t end with -ly, like these:

  • fast
  • too
  • often

Many adverbs aren’t just one word. Adverbs can be two words, or even whole phrases. For example:

  • last week
  • in a very strange way
  • for the last six years

So you might be thinking: what do adverbs actually do? What are adverbs?

1. What Do Adverbs Do in English?

Adverbs are describing words. They add information to something else in your sentence.

Adverbs can describe many different things. You can use an adverb to describe a verb, like this:

  • He speaks very loudly.
  • Does everyone drive that fast in this city?
  • I think I sound better than I did the first time.

The adverbs add information to the verbs.

These adverbs all describe the verbs by saying how someone did something.

For example, look at the first sentence: he speaks very loudly.

The adverb loudly tells you how he speaks.

You can also use adverbs to add information to verbs in other ways. For example:

    • I kind of enjoyed it, but it could have been better.
    • We talked a little, but we didn’t have time to discuss everything.

Learn more about verbs with this Oxford Online English lesson on English verb tenses.

What else? Well, you can use an adverb to show when, where, or how often something happens. For example:

      • Let’s meet at eight o’clock.
      • She moved overseas after she graduated.
      • I don’t often have time to cook for myself.

Remember that adverbs can be phrases; adverbs aren’t always single words.

Another point: adverbs can add information to adjectives, or even to other adverbs!

How does this work? Can you think of any examples of this?

Here are some examples:

      • It was a really exciting trip.
      • It’s too hot in here.
      • She works incredibly hard.

You can see two examples where an adverb describes an adjective and one example where an adverb describes another adverb.

Remember that hard here is an adverb, because it describes a verb, works.

Is that everything?

No, not quite! Adverbs can do one more thing. Adverbs can also express your opinion about a situation.

Look at three sentences:

      • She’s obviously the best of the candidates we’ve seen so far.
      • Apparently, they’re not sure they want to get married any more.
      • Fortunately, we were able to recover most of the files.

These adverbs are different because they don’t just add information to one word; they add information to the whole sentence.

So, you can see that adverbs can do many, many different things. They can describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or even whole sentences.

But, there’s a connection. Do you remember what we said at the start of this section?

Adverbs describe other things. They add information to something else in your sentence.

Now, let’s look at our next question: how do you form adverbs?

2. How to Form English Adverbs

Actually, this question isn’t always relevant. For most English adverbs, you don’t need to ‘form’ them. They just exist!

For example: too, very, sometimes, always, here and soon are all adverbs, and you don’t need to do anything to them.

So, why ask the question at all?

For some adverbs, you can form them from adjectives. This is mostly true for adverbs which describe verbs: adverbs which describe how someone does something.

For example, slow is an adjective. How can you make an adverb from it? Look at a sentence and complete the missing word:

      • He eats very s________.

Do you know the answer?

The answer is slowly. You add -ly to the adjective to make an adverb.

This is the same for many adverbs which describe verbs. For example:

      • quiet → quietly
      • nice → nicely
      • clear → clearly

Can you use these adverbs in a sentence? Pause the video and write down three sentences using these adverbs.

Of course, there are many possibilities! Here are some suggestions:

      • Everyone was sitting quietly and reading.
      • He sings very nicely.
      • You clearly told me that you would be here at ten thirty.

However, even here, you can’t just think ‘add -ly to an adjective’. It doesn’t always work!

First, if an adjective ends with -y, you need to change -y to -ily to make an adverb. For example:

      • healthy → healthily
      • lazy → lazily
      • happy → happily

Secondly, some words don’t change their form. The same word can be either an adjective or an adverb. For example:

      • He’s a really fast worker.
      • He works really fast.
      • You’re a better dancer than you used to be.
      • You dance better than you used to.

Fast and better can be used as adjectives or adverbs, and the form of the word doesn’t change.

Thirdly, some adjectives already end in -ly like ugly, friendly, likely or oily. These adjectives can’t be made into adverbs.

Finally, some adverbs are irregular. Words which don’t change, like fast or better, are examples of irregular adverbs. There’s one more important one: what’s the adverb from the adjective good?

The answer is well. For example:

      • She’s a good writer.
      • She writes well.

Adverbs in English - writing image

Now, you know how to form adverbs from adjectives. Remember that you don’t need to ‘form’ most adverbs. Most adverbs are ready for you to use, and you don’t have to do anything to them!

So, now seems like a good time to ask a new question: what’s the difference between adjectives and adverbs?

3. What’s the Difference Between Adjectives and Adverbs?

Hopefully, you have enough information from parts one and two to answer this question. Do you know the answer?

Adjectives and adverbs both describe other words.

Adjectives describe nouns. For example:

      • Are you a good cook?
      • He has a loud voice.
      • My computer is so slow!

Adverbs describe everything else: verbs, adjectives, adverbs and whole sentences.

That sounds easy, right? So, let’s test your skills! Look at four sentences. Is the word in bold an adjective or an adverb?

      • It’s unlikely that we’ll be there on time.
      • I found the exam really hard.
      • I worked really hard preparing for the exam.
      • He hardly studied at all, but he got a high score!

Adverbs in English - people taking exams

What do you think? Pause the video if you want more time to think about it.

Unlikely and hard are adjectives.

Hard and hardly are adverbs.

Did you get the right answers?

There are two things to pay attention to here.

One: the form of the word doesn’t tell you if it’s an adjective or an adverb. Unlikely ends in -ly, but it’s not an adverb; it’s an adjective. Hard in the third sentence doesn’t end in -ly, but it’s an adverb which describes a verb.

Two: the same word can be an adjective or an adverb in different sentences, like hard, which is an adjective in the second sentence, but an adverb in the third sentence.

So, what can you do here?

You can’t depend on memory. If you think something like, ‘Hard is an adjective’, that won’t work all the time.

Don’t look at the form of the word; look at what the word does in the sentence. Does the word describe a noun? It’s an adjective. Does it describe something else: a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or the whole sentence? It’s an adverb.

Next, let’s look at one more important question: how do you use adverbs in a sentence? More specifically: where should you put the adverb?

4. Word Order with English Adverbs

Let’s start with a simple point: word order rules for adverbs in English are complicated. There are many rules, and as usual the rules don’t work all of the time.

So, if you want to use an adverb and you’re not sure where it should go in the sentence, trust your instinct first. If it sounds right, it probably is.

If you want to understand word order rules in depth, you need to divide adverbs into five different categories.

You already saw these categories in part one, although we didn’t give them names. Let’s review now!

Adverbs of manner describe a verb. They describe how someone does something. For example: fast, lazily, or well.

Adverbs of time and place describe where or when something happens. For example: yesterday, here, or in five minutes.

Adverbs of frequency describe how often something happens. For example: often, sometimes, or never.

Adverbs of degree mostly add information to other adjectives or adverbs. For example: very, too, or a little.

Comment adverbs describe a whole sentence or situation. For example: unfortunately, basically, or obviously.

Here you have five different categories of adverb. Mostly, where you put the adverb depends on the type of adverb it is. So, for example, comment adverbs follow different rules to adverbs of manner.

‘Mostly’? Why ‘mostly’? Of course, there are exceptions! Remember, trust your instinct when you can.

Now, let’s look at how to use these different types of adverb in an English sentence.

Adverbs of manner go after the verb or verb phrase which they describe. For example:

      • He drives slowly.
      • She sings well.

Here, you have very simple examples: a verb followed by an adverb. Remember that adverbs of manner can also follow a verb phrase. For example:

      • She didn’t handle the situation well.

Adverbs of time and place usually go at the end of the sentence or phrase, like this:

      • Let’s leave in half an hour.
      • Is there a bank nearby?

If you have both, then adverbs of place go before adverbs of time:

      • She was here ten minutes ago.

Adverbs of frequency usually go before the main verb. For example:

      • I usually get up early.
      • They hardly ever talk to each other.

There’s one important exception here: if the main verb is be, adverbs of frequency go after it:

      • He isn’t often so talkative.

Adverbs of degree go before the word they describe:

      • It’s absolutely freezing in here!
      • She took the news very calmly.

Comment adverbs usually go at the beginning of the sentence:

      • Basically, you’ve got two options.
      • Eventually, we had to admit that things weren’t going how we expected.

That’s a lot of rules! It’s good to have an idea of the rules, or know where to find them in case you want to look something up. However, you don’t need to carry all of these in your head all the time. Remember that you can (and should) use your instinct.

Finally, here are two important points which you can carry in your head and which you should remember:

One: if the verb has two parts, most adverbs will go in the middle, before the main verb. Try it: look at five sentences, and put the adverb in the right place. Pause the video, and start again when you think you have the answers.

      1. They didn’t tell us they’d be late. (even)
      2. I’ve spoken to her. (just)
      3. He’s becoming one of our most valuable team members. (quickly)
      4. I can do it by next Wednesday. (probably)
      5. She hasn’t been like that. (always)

Ready? Let’s look at the answers:

      1. They didn’t even tell us they’d be late.
      2. I’ve just spoken to her.
      3. He’s quickly becoming one of our most valuable team members.
      4. I can probably do it by next Wednesday.
      5. She hasn’t always been like that.

Did you get them all right?

This is a useful rule, and many of the mistakes that English learners make with adverb word order are related to this rule, so remember it!

We said before that there are two important points. What’s the second?

There can be more than one possible position for an adverb. For example:

      • He can be very moody sometimes.
      • Sometimes, he can be very moody.

Both of these are possible. The first is more common, but the second is also correct, and you might use this if you want to emphasise the word sometimes.

So, if you have two choices, and you aren’t sure which is right, maybe they both are!

Hopefully this lesson has helped you to understand English adverbs and how to use them.

Thanks for watching!

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