English Grammar Review
Adjectives and Adverbs

Functions of Adverbs

Like adjectives, adverbs modify other words in the sentence. Given the name "adverb" you would think they only modify verbs. That is what they are used for most of the time. But there are actually four things that adverbs modify:

(1) verbs
(2) adjectives
(3) adverbs
(4) sentences

Adverbs modify verbs.

Adverbs modify verbs in well-understood ways.

telling how : He spoke quickly.

telling when : She answered immediately.

telling where : They moved forward.

telling how much : We shifted slightly.

Adverbs modify adjectives.

An adverb can be used to qualify or clarify an adjective.

Tokyo is populated by surprisingly helpful locals.

Ms. Suzuki delivered an unexpectedly detailed report.

Adverbs modify adverbs.

An adverb can also be used to qualify or clarify an adverb.

Sakura's email was rather strongly worded.

Haruto's rebuttal was very carefully worded.

Adverbs modify sentences.

Sometimes adverbs are used to modify the whole idea of a sentence. These adverbs are often transition words, such as fortunately that writers use to briefly stop the reader to ponder the point of the sentence.

Fortunately, our partner helped us. It was indeed a fruitful partnership. However, the partnership did not last. We were, therefore, in need of a new partner. Thankfully, we found one.

Predicates: adjectives versus adverbs

1. When you want to modify the subject, use an adjective.

2. When you want to modify the action of the verb, use an adverb.

This may seem obvious, but it is surprisingly easy to get wrong.

example: adjective

Yuto appeared quiet at my desk. [interpretation: I found him at my desk, and he was quiet while he sat there at my desk.] This kind of sentence is considered a bit awkward.

example: adverb

Yuto appeared quietly at my desk. [interpretation: He appeared at my desk, but I did not hear him as he arrived at my desk.]

Note: The common words good and well are important to use properly. The word good is always an adjective.

The meeting was good.

The word well is usually an adverb.

The meeting went well.

However, it is usually used as an adjective when used to convey specific meanings.

All is well. [meaning: satisfactory]

That tie goes well with that suit. [meaning: attractive]

You look well. [meaning: in good health]

You look good. [common usage as adjective, but when the word good is emphasized, it can mean "I find you physically attractive." (be careful!)]

Lesson: Functions of Adverbs
Module: Adjectives and Adverbs
Course: English Grammar Review