When I think back on those dreary grammar lessons in the fourth and fifth grade, I can remember quite clearly being taught that adverbs were helping verbs. Perhaps I remember it wrong, or my poor teacher had to find an easy way to drill into our heads just what this part of speech is all about.
An ADVERB is really defined as descriptive words used to qualify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
In writing, we use adverbs frequently, but these words have earned a bad rap. Why? Because we are told that the adverb is NOT our friend. I know that I make it a routine to evaluate the adverbs I’ve used on my editing steps, especially those pesky words ending in ‘ly.’
I think the warning is about using too many adverbs and using them as a crutch. They do not accurately ‘show’ versus ‘tell,’ yet we feel that their descriptive nature makes them do just that.
So, when used right, there are nine distinct types of adverbs.
- They describe time-WHEN something happened.
- They describe place-WHERE something happened.
- They describe manner-HOW something happened.
- They describe degree-EXTENT to which something occurs.
- They describe frequency-HOW OFTEN something occurs.
- They describe probability-The CHANCE something will occur.
- They describe duration-HOW LONG something lasts.
- They describe emphasis-ACCENTUATES as an action.
- They are interrogative-ASK QUESTIONS.
The frazzled clerk screamed loudly (HOW did she scream?) as the mouse quickly (HOW did the mouse walk?) disappeared behind the microwave.
The previous examples are the MANNER type. Most of this type of adverb end in ‘ly.’ They tell you how something happened.
The other adverbs describe adjectives or other adverbs or add information about the place, time, degree, and frequency.
I will not go there (place) without a buddy.
After all, I bought two bags of groceries yesterday (time).
The resume we received from him is extremely (degree) extensive, which we seldom (frequency) see when we advertise for this position.
Whenever possible, I always (frequency) fly Southwest.
An easy way to identify adverbs in sentences is to ASK QUESTIONS about the nouns and verbs contained in the text.