An adverb is a “word that describes a verb, adjective, other adverb, or clause.” An adverb phrase consists of an adverb plus any modifiers. Many grammars use the category of adverb as a “catch-all” category to classify words with various different types of syntactic behavior that otherwise have little in common except for not fitting into other available categories in a language. English has five general categories of adverbs: manner, time, place, frequency, and degree.
In the English language, adverbs and adverb phrases perform eight grammatical functions:
- Adverb phrase head
- Adjective phrase modifier
- Adverb phrase modifier
- Verb phrase modifier
- Prepositional phrase modifier
- Adjunct adverbial
- Disjunct adverbial
- Conjunct adverbial
The internal structure that distinguishes English adverbs from other grammatical forms is the expression of degrees of modification. However, the majority of adverbs show no inflectional variation. English adverbs express three degrees of modification — positive, comparative, and superlative — through periphrasis. Typically only adverbs of manner have comparative and superlative forms. Other adverbs — such as adverbs of time, place, and frequency — lack comparative and superlative forms.
The following sections define and exemplify the five types of adverbs in the English language.
Adverbs of Manner
The first type of adverb in the English language is the adverb of manner. Adverbs of manner answer the question “how” by providing more information about how something happens. Some common adverbs of manner include the following:
- He slowly walked to his doom.
- My dog chewed his new toy excitedly.
- My daughter shrieked annoyingly throughout the car ride.
- Politely I asked the waiter for a clean spoon.
Often ending in an -ly suffix and derived from adjectives, adverbs of manner are the most abundant type of adverb in the English language. Some adverbs of manner are also identical in form to adjectives including the following:
- My daughter is a fast runner. (adjective)
- Driving fast is dangerous. (adverb)
- Her straight hair curls beautifully. (adjective)
- Come straight to the church when you arrive. (adverb)
Adverbs of Time
The second type of adverb in the English language is the adverb of time. Adverbs of time answer the question “when” by providing more information about when something takes place. Some common adverbs of time include the following:
- I recently changed the tablecloth.
- Sometimes my toddler wets the bed.
- The mail usually arrives before lunchtime.
- She works as a vice president of finances now.
Note that some grammars analyze words such as today, tomorrow, and yesterday as adverbs of time. However, all three time words can also be analyzed as nouns performing the grammatical function of adjunct adverbial.
Adverbs of Place
The third type of adverb in the English language is the adverb of place. Adverbs of place answer the question “where” by providing more information about where something takes place. Some common adverbs of place include the following:
- I took a walk but went nowhere.
- While he was swimming in the ocean, he dove beneath.
- The hot air balloon floated up.
- You need to come here.
Note that many adverbs of place are identical in form to prepositions. If a prepositional complement follows the location word, then a prepositional phrase performs an adverbial function rather than an adverb. The p-word functioning as a particle in many phrasal verbs also resembles an adverb of place.
Adverbs of Frequency
The fourth type of adverb in the English language is the adverb of frequency. Adverbs of frequency answer the question “how often” by providing more information about how often something takes place. Some common adverbs of frequency include the following:
- Sometimes I drink only coffee for breakfast.
- You must water your garden daily.
- My son rarely finishes his dinner by himself.
- I usually decorate my house for Christmas before Thanksgiving.
Adverbs of Degree
The fifth type of adverb in the English language is the adverb of degree. Adverbs of degree provide more information about the level or intensity of a verb, adverb, adjective, or other grammatical form. Some common adverbs of degree include the following:
- My daughter was so hungry.
- My son felt famished too.
- My infant is the least noisy of my three children.
- I am super tired but uber busy.
The English language has five general categories of adverbs: adverbs of manner, adverbs of time, adverbs of place, adverbs of frequency, and adverbs of degree.
Adverbs in English grammar are defined as “words that describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and clauses.”
Adverb is a grammatical form.
The five general categories of adverbs in English are adverbs of manner, adverbs of time, adverbs of place, adverbs of frequency, and adverbs of degree.
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Hopper, Paul J. 1999. A short course in grammar. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Huddleston, Rodney. 1984. Introduction to the grammar of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.