Adverbs have become a catch-all category for parts of speech. While most famous for modifying verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, they can also modify noun phrases, clauses, and sentences.
Adverbs can describe manner, time, place, and degree; they can show focus, evaluation, and point of view; and they can link clauses or sentences.
These are some of the most easily identified adverbs. They’re usually created by adding -ly to the end of an adjective. These adverbs tell HOW someone acts or something is done.
The dancer is beautiful (adjective)
She dances beautifully (adverb)
The band is loud (adjective)
They play loudly (adverb)
Adverbs of time tell WHEN something happened, is happening, or will happen.
We went to the store yesterday.
Bob is eating now.
You should wear a sweater soon.
These adverbs tell us WHERE an event happened or where something is.
I am here.
Sasha went upstairs.
Adverbs of degree show the amount or intensity of a quality or action.
We are very hungry.
Julie sang rather well.
These adverbs direct attention to a word, phrase, clause, or sentence.
I also invited Justin.
Notably, Bill will be absent.
Evaluative and Viewpoint
These words give more information about the speaker’s opinion or point of view.
Presumably, we’ll eat dinner together.
Personally, I can’t stand zucchini.
Linking and Conjunctive
These adverbs show relationships between clauses and sentences.
Joan baked cookies then the kids ate them.
I forgot to set a timer, and so the cookies burned.
Why does it matter?
While some writers adore their adverbs, most editors suggest cutting them. General wisdom is adverbs kill pace and indicate lazy writing. If you can identify all adverbs, not just the -ly adverbs, you’ll know where to begin strengthening your word choices and your writing.
E.g.: While you could write “Beth walked quickly across the room,” that only TELLS the reader how fast Beth crossed the room. If you replaced “walked quickly” with a stronger verb (scurried, rushed, hurried, nipped, trotted, etc.), you may SHOW the reader more about Beth’s posture, intentions, or character.
See more from my grammar guide.