Luke Taylor

Grammar Grater®

with Luke Taylor

Episode 116: Adverbs are Everywhere

This week on Grammar Grater, we're talking about adverbs. According to the Gregg Reference Manual, an adverb can modify a verb:

We closed the door quietly. (Quietly modifies the verb closed.)

An adverb can modify an adjective:

This ice cream is really good! (Really modifies the adjective good.)

An adverb can even modify another adverb:

My job interview went extremely well. (Extremely modifies the adverb well.)

An adverb is a word that answers: when, where, why, in what manner or to what extent. Gordon Jarvie, in the Bloomsbury Grammar Guide, explains the ways adverbs do this. He says adverbs of time answer when:

We left work later.
But we all went out to eat afterwards.

Adverbs of place answer where:

Hey — my book was there a moment ago.
Oh, wait — I think I saw it downstairs.

Adverbs of manner tell us how something happened. Jarvie tells us these words often end in the suffix —ly.

absolutely
badly
exceptionally
softly
suddenly

The suffix -ly isn't the only suffix applied to adverbs of manner. There are others:

-ways, as in sideways
-wise, as in clockwise
-wards, as in forwards and backwards
-style, as in 1960s-style

Adverbs of degree, probability, frequency and duration answer to what extent.

I definitely saw him the other day.
The taxi driver will probably know the best route.
I will never forget my last birthday party.
Is it still raining?

Jarvie says adverbs can be very mobile. They can go in the beginning, middle or end of a sentence. Look at how the word suddenly can appear in different places in these sentences:

Suddenly, I heard a noise upstairs.
I was suddenly aware of a noise.
The silence was disturbed quite suddenly.

So when you're examining at a sentence and you're struggling to determine the part of speech of a particular word or phrase, ask yourself if that word or phrase answers: when, where, why, in what manner or to what extent. If so, odds are good you've discovered an adverb.

Music from this episode: “Everywhere” by Fleetwood Mac; “Suddenly” by Billy Ocean; “Personally” by Karla Bonoff

Sources: Gregg Reference Manual by William A Sabin; Bloomsbury Grammar Guide by Gordon Jarvie

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