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ADVERB A PART OF SPEECH or word class chiefly used to modify VERBS, ADJECTIVES, or other adverbs.


(1) Most adverbs are formed from adjectives by the addition of the ending -ly as in suddenly, playfully, interestingly, or -ally after -ic as in automatically, spasmodically (with the exception publicly). (2) Some are formed from NOUNS in combination with other suffixes: -wise as in clockwise, lengthwise, and -ward(s) as in northwards, skyward. (3) A set of common adverbs have no suffixes (here, there, now, just, well), though some are compounds (therefore, nevertheless). (4) A set of common adverbs, also known as adverbial particles, are used along with verbs: in, out, on, off, up, down, etc. See PHRASAL VERB.


The class is heterogeneous, and some grammarians have attempted to establish separate classes for some sets of words that are traditionally regarded as adverbs, such as INTENSIFIERS. Within the traditional adverb class, a distinction is made between adverbs that modify adjectives or other adverbs (the most frequent being very as in very quick), and adverbs that modify verbs or verbs together with some other part of the sentence (such as competently in She handled the matter competently). Adverbs in the second group are sometimes said to have an ADVERBIAL function, a function also performed by such constructions as prepositional phrases and clauses. The adverb competently is an adverbial in She handled the matter competently, as are the prepositional phrase in a competent manner in She handled the matter in a competent manner and the clause as everybody expected her to do in She handled the matter as everybody expected her to do.

Sentence adverbs

Adverbials that modify the sentence as a whole are sentence adverbials, and adverbs that function as sentence adverbials are sentence adverbs. In the following examples, fortunately and however are both sentence adverbs: Fortunately, she handled the matter competently; The task was formidable; however (that is, despite the task being formidable), she handled the matter competently.


There is a subclass of so-called wh-adverbs: how, when, where, why, and combinations such as whenever and wherever. The four simple adverbs introduce wh-questions (When did they come?), and they and the others introduce certain types of subordinate clauses (He told us when they had come).

Comparison and modification

(1) Apart from modifying adjectives and adverbs, some adverbs may modify prepositions (well in He kicked the ball well past the line), certain pronouns and determiners (virtually in They admitted virtually everybody), noun phrases (quite in It was quite a quarrel), and nouns of time and place (afterwards in the week afterwards). (2) Some adverbs may also function as the complement of certain prepositions (now in the phrase by now). (3) Like gradable adjectives, gradable adverbs allow comparison and modification by intensifying adverbs: more humbly, very humbly. Only a small number of gradable adverbs take comparative and superlative inflections, many of them having the same forms as the corresponding adjective: work hard/harder/hardest; drive fast/faster/fastest. There are also some irregular forms: plays well/better/best (compare *good/better/best plays), sings badly/worse/worst (compare bad/worse/worst songs). See DEGREE, PERIPHRASIS.


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adverb word that qualifies an adjective, a verb, or another adverb. XV. — F. adverbe or L. adverbium, f. AD- + verbum word, VERB; lit. rendering of Gr. epírrēma (f. EPI- + rhēma word).
So adverbial XVII, adverbially XV.


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ad·verb / ˈadˌvərb/ • n. Gram. a word or phrase that modifies or qualifies an adjective, verb, or other adverb or a word-group, expressing a relation of place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree, etc. (e.g., gently, quite, then, there).

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