Easy Learning English

Adverbs and adverbials - Easy Learning Grammar

When you want to add information about how, when, where, or to what extent something has happened, you can use an adverbial. Many adverbials are members of the group of words called adverbs, but adverbials are not necessarily just single words. They can also be word groups, prepositional phrases, or even clauses. They are sometimes called adjuncts.Adverbials generally modify the meaning of a verb,
  • I greatly admire your courage.
  • They changed hurriedly into their pyjamas.
  • Monica hummed softly as she washed the car.
  • The firework exploded with a loud bang.
  • He ran across the lawn towards the house.
an adjective,
  • Harry is absolutely terrified of flying.
  • You must admit that he can be rather boring.
  • That is quite silly.
  • Fears like that are very real to the sufferer.
another adverb,
  • I thought about it quite seriously.
  • The children are behaving remarkably well.
  • Ali objected very strongly to the plan.
a whole sentence,
  • Frankly, I think he is lying.
  • Nevertheless, we must give him a chance.
  • Honestly, I didn’t mean to be rude to you.
or a prepositional phrase.
  • We are really in a no-win situation.
Most adverbials are optional parts of a clause or phrase, but there are a few verbs that need an adverb to complete their meaning. See Phrasal verbs. Conditional sentences must also have an adverbial clause, usually one beginnining with if or unless. See Adverbial clauses for more about adverbial clauses.Adverbials can be divided into:
  • adverbials of manner, which express how: e.g. slowly, with care, well.
  • Two men were working their way slowly up the hillside.
  • adverbials of place, which express where: e.g. there, here, up, in town.
  • Two men were working their way up the hillside.
  • adverbials of time, which express when: e.g. now, today, last night, lately.
  • Two men were lost on the hills yesterday.
  • adverbials of degree, which express to what extent: e.g. largely, extremely, much, by a whisker.
  • It was largely their own fault.
  • adverbials of frequency, which express how often: e.g. rarely, often, sometimes, twice daily.
  • Search parties went out every hour.
Although adverbials change the meaning of clauses or phrases, they are usually optional parts of the group or clause.
  • He coughed nervously.
  • Really, I think you are mistaken.
  • In a fit of temper, he slammed the door shut.
They stand outside the word, group, or clause that they are associated with. For example, the same adverb can in one sentence be part of the description of a verb, while in another sentence, it may modify the whole clause.
  • I think she acted honestly.
  • Honestly, who does she think she is?
The exceptions are that:
  • Some verbs must be followed by an adverbial to complete their meaning.
  • Alice behaved wonderfully.
  • Sylvia acted unlawfully.
  • Justin sped down the corridor.
  • Some verbs require both an object and an adverbial to complete their meaning. See also Types of main verb.
  • Ranjit put the folder back.
  • James stood the golf clubs in the corner.
  • Clare placed the cover over the cot.
  • New meanings can be made by combining an adverbial with a verb to make a phrasal verb. See also Phrasal verbs for more about phrasal verbs.
  • The car pulled out.
  • Lydia went away.
  • Things are looking up.
Adverbials are classified according to the way they modify a word, group or clause. In addition to the uses given on Adverbs and adverbials, one important use of a special group of adverbials is to show how a sentence relates to what comes before it. An adverb used in this way is called a sentence adverb.
  • Nevertheless, we must give him an answer.
  • However, it’s good advice.
  • On the other hand, we cannot turn him down.
Another use of adverbials is to let your listener or reader know your point of view about a situation. This is called a viewpoint adverb.
  • Foolishly, I gave him my address.
  • Clearly, he deserves our help.
  • Actually, I don’t mind.
A further group of adverbials, all of them adverbs of degree, can only be used with adjectives or other adverbs. Examples are very, rather, quite, really, too, somewhat. These are sometimes called submodifiers because they can weaken or strengthen the descriptive value of the adjective.
  • She seems rather nice.
  • Angus is a very good tennis player.
  • Kim gave me this really expensive bag.
They are used mainly with adjectives of quality. An adverb can also be submodified by another adverb.
  • She began to cry, quite loudly.
  • Sometimes I think you’re too easily impressed.
  • It must have been done extremely recently.
  • The car was almost totally submerged in the flood water.
There are certain adverbs (and adverbials) which can only be used with verbs and so cannot modify adjectives.
  • Most adverbs are able to come:
  • before the verb phrase or the subject
  • Happily she ran over the sand dunes.
  • Tearfully, he told his brother the whole story.
  • after the verb phrase or the object
  • She ran happily over the sand dunes.
  • He was telling the whole story tearfully to his brother.
  • between the auxiliary and the main verb.
  • She was happily running about over the sand dunes.
  • He was tearfully telling the whole story to his brother.
  • Some adverbs can only come after the verb, e.g. back, up, down, sideways, clockwise.
  • Suddenly the frightened animal ran back.
  • They hammered the wedge in sideways.
  • A few adverbs can come before the main verb, e.g. barely, hardly, little, rarely, scarcely, seldom.
  • Scarcely had she spoken when it came crashing down.
  • He had hardly eaten anything.
  • Seldom have I seen such ridiculous behaviour.
A subordinate clause that begins with one of these words adopts the same word order as a question. These are called broad negatives, because they give a negative meaning to a clause.
  • Compare:
  • They never noticed her presence.
  • They scarcely noticed her presence.
Some speakers take care not to place an adverb between the to and the base form of the verb in a ‘to infinitive’. This is called a ‘split infinitive’. There is no good reason to regard a split infinitive as an error; the choice is a matter of personal preference.
  • I need to really think hard about this.
  • I really need to think hard about this.

Adverbs with nouns and pronouns

While adverbs can modify most parts of speech, they normally do not modify nouns or pronouns. Much more common is the use of an adverb of degree to modify a whole noun phrase.
  • Dominic thought that Geoffrey was rather a good teacher.
  • Jason is quite a skilled craftsman.
There is a small group of adverbs that can modify nouns and indefinite pronouns.
  • the man downstairs
  • the example above
  • Almost everyone brought a bottle to the party.

See related content

English Dictionary
English Dictionary
NEW from Collins!
NEW from Collins!
English Word Lists
English Word Lists
COBUILD Grammar Patterns
COBUILD Grammar Patterns
Word Lover's Blog
Word Lover's Blog
Online Scrabble Checker
Online Scrabble Checker
The Paul Noble Method
The Paul Noble Method
Create an account and sign in to access this FREE content
Register now or login in to access