Grammar Adverb Examples: How to Modify Action Words |
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Adverb Examples: How to Modify Action Words

Adverbs are important to writing and speaking in English. However, even though adverbs are taught in school, many of us may not often consider them in such a way; they become words rather than parts of speech to us.

We’ll review what adverbs are, how they are used, and what they can add to our communication. We’ll also provide some examples for reinforcing your familiarity with their function.

What Is an Adverb?

An adverb is a word or group of words that modify a verb (action word). While the verb identifies an action, the adverb tells us more about when, where, how, and why that action is being done.

Let’s start with a quick example:

Sue ran a mile.

In this sentence, ran is the verb. It describes the action Sue performed. Now consider that same sentence with adverbs applied:

Sue ran a mile quickly.

Sue ran a mile joyfully.

Sue ran a mile desperately.

Each underlined word is an adverb. All three adverbs add context by explaining something distinct about the way Sue ran. For example, running joyfully and running desperately create two different images of how Sue had been running.

Let’s look at another sentence without an adverb:

Jon studied.

Again we have a simple sentence with a simple verb (studied). It tells us what Jon did. Now consider the same sentence with different adverbs:

Jon studied frantically last night.

Jon studied halfheartedly this semester.

Jon studied tirelessly before class.

We now have much more information about Jon’s studies. Single adverbs indicate how he studied (frantically, halfheartedly, tirelessly). Adverb phrases further inform us of when he studied (last night, this semester, before class).

Examples of Common Adverbs

The following are just a few more examples of single-word adverbs you’ll commonly read, write, and hear:

quickly beautifully
happily truthfully
badly thoughtfully
loudly boldly
abruptly warmly

You will notice that many common single-word adverbs end with -ly. Each of these words further modifies a simple action by describing how it was done.

Here are several more common adverbs that inform us about an action’s time and location:

earlier upstairs
later downstairs
now inside
never outside
soon below

Why Do We Use Adverbs?

As you’ve likely picked up by now, we include adverbs in our writing when we want our audience to understand an action more clearly.

Jenna was walking briskly through the park.

Jenna was walking sadly through the park.

Adding a different adverb to each sentence makes it tell a different story. When we apply adverbs with proper placement and restraint, we convey information that can be useful.

When we don’t use adverbs in the right places in the right ways, we can wind up with a sentence such as:

Sally sprinted quickly through the lightly blowing breeze to arrive at the river punctually on time.

In this sentence, the adverbs provide more information than we need and even repeat what other sentence components already achieve. For example, to sprint is to run quickly. We could probably do better by writing “light breeze” instead of “lightly blowing breeze.” To be punctual is to be on time.

Let’s try that sentence again:

Sally sprinted through the light breeze to arrive at the river on time.

In this revised sentence, we don’t need adverbs to communicate what’s important to create a clear image for our audience. There may be other sentences related to this that will need a handy adverb. Our mission as precise and eloquent writers is to become intuitive judges of where they belong.

Pop Quiz

Identify the adverbs in the following sentences.

1. Stefani is rarely late.

2. You will find the dog downstairs.

3. Albert speaks thoughtfully and eloquently.

4. Do you know if Anne will ever finish writing her book?

5. Tonight we will gladly attend the lecture about turning pennies into dollars.


Pop Quiz Answers

1. Stefani is rarely late.

2. You will find the dog downstairs.

3. Albert speaks thoughtfully and eloquently.

4. Do you know if Anne will ever finish writing her book?

5. Tonight we will gladly attend the lecture about turning pennies into dollars.


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