Adverbs are modifying words that do not modify nouns. Though their name suggests only that they modify verbs, they also modify adjectives, other adverbs, sentences and clauses, and certain types of phrases. Although adverbs ending in -ly are the ones most often recognized as adverbs, others are formed from other suffixes, such as -wise, and many of the most common ones, such as very, too, backward, indeed, do not have any easy-to-recognize features as words to distinguish them from other types of words. Advanced grammars divide adverbs into classes based on the way they are formed, what they modify, and their grammaticality. Highly "grammatical" words are often common ones that are difficult to define, but indispensable for speaking and writing.
- 1 The most common adverbs
- 2 Adverb formation
- 3 Structure of adverb phrases
- 4 Adverbs as modifiers
- 5 Semantic categories of adverbs
- 5.1 Verb-modifying adverbs
- 5.2 Degree adverbs
- 5.3 Focusing modifiers
- 5.4 Sentence adverbs
- 6 Other classes of adverbs
- 7 See also
The most common adverbs
A list of the 100 most frequently used words in the English language contains three nouns, five adjectives, and at least twelve adverbs, in order of deceasing frequency:
This type of adverb includes many that are most readily defined by how they are used rather than by a conventional definition. They form a closed class of grammatical adverbs. Most of them are simple, not derived from other words by adding suffixes or prefixes in Modern English.
Other simple adverbs
Many adverbs have been formed by simple morphology. The suffixes "-ly", "-wise", and "-ways", and others and prefixes "a-", "al-" (from "all"), "n-" (from "not"), and others form adverbs.
Adverbs ending in -ly
The largest number of adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. Many of the these form adverbs with definitions that use the word "manner", "way", or "style". Of all the words ending in -ly, only a relatively small number are not adverbs. All of these are adjectives, most readily distinguished from adverbs (eg, friendly, deadly, daily, lovely). Adverbs formed in this way can be found in almost all of the grammatical and semantic classes that adverbs are usually divided into. New adverbs enter the language almost always by adding -ly to a recently introduced adjective.
Adverbs ending in -wise or -ways
Adverbs formed by prefixation
Adverbs identical in form to adjectives
Structure of adverb phrases
Adverbs may form phrases with complements and modifiers, but do so less than adjectives.
Modifiers of adverbs
A small number of adverbs accept neither modifiers nor complements. Most of the rest can be modified by other adverbs. In some structures determiners can modify adverbs. Noun and prepositional phrases, especially of time, can modify adverbs as well.
Complements of adverbs
Only a small number adverbs, all ending in "-ly", take a complement. Prepositional phrases are the most common type. For some the adverb inherits the form of the complement from the adjective from which it is derived. ("Their protest was kept separate from the ceremony." => "They protested separately from the ceremony.") Some evaluative adverbs take a prepositional phrase headed by "for" as a complement. ("Gratifyingly for me, his offer was rejected in favor or mine.")
Adverbs as modifiers
Most adverbs can modify a few types of other words, phrases, and clauses. But one of the most useful ways of distinguishing types of adverbs is by the distribution of types that they modify. Often the meaning of a single adverb changes according to the type modified.
Adverbs that only modify adverbs and adjectives
Adverbs that modify clauses and sentences
Adverbs can modify noun phrases
Adverbs that don't modify verbs
Semantic categories of adverbs
To help word adverb definitions, it helps to put them in semantic classes, for which the kind of word, phrase, or clause modified provides some hints.
Semantically, CGEL offers nine semantic classes of verb-modifying adverbs. All modify adjectives and adverbs as well. Degree adverbs are distinguished because they are the most important of the adjective- and adverb-modifying adverbs. The other eight classes are:
- means or instrumentality
- temporal location
- serial order
These are most commonly formed from adjective "X" by adding "-ly". They are commonly defined as "in an X manner". Such a definition is perfectly adequate for most of these, but conveys little meaning, especially if the adjective is somewhat obscure. If applicable at all, it can cover many of the meanings of a polysemic adjective. If some meanings might fall into the other classes, those possible meanings should get attention before relying on a "manner" definition.
|Examples (manner adverbs)|
Means or instrumentality
A definition for this type of adverb derived from an adjective "X" would be "by X means". The definition could be further improved by reference to a noun or verb.
|Examples (means adverbs)|
|Examples (act-related adverbs)|
Several adverb classes are types of time-related adverbs.
These adverbs locate an action at a point or in an interval of time, often relative to some other action or event. These can modify adjectives, verbs, and clauses. A definition might use synonyms or a verb.
|Examples (temporal location adverbs)|
Subsequently they revised the draft.: "Following a previous event or action"
|Examples (duration adverbs)|
|Examples (aspect adverbs)|
|Examples (frequency adverbs)|
often, rarely, intermittently, unceasilngly
|Examples (serial-order adverbs)|
alternately, serially, alphabetically
Other classes of adverbs
Other classes of adverbs include some that are controversial. Examples are those that some grammarians consider pronouns, prepositions, or determiners.
- core or pro-adverbs: here, now, yesterday, tomorrow, etc.
- -ly adverbs
- -wise adverbs
- sentence adverbs
- verb modification
- manner vs degree