1.4 Adverbs/Adverbials

4. Adverbs/Adverbials

Adverb of Time, Adverb of Space, Adverb of Manner, Intensifying Adverb, Adverb of Emphasis, Adverb of Modality, Adverb of Degree, Adverb Phrase = Adverbial = Prepositional Phrase

Adverbs tell us how something is done, why, when or where. They answer questions for the reader and show us what additional information the writer feels we need to see things from their point of view.

Adverbs of Manner are the most basic. Usually, the end with an –ly, a novel technique the English language has for converting some adjectives to adverbs:

quick becomes quickly

beautiful becomes beautifully

hard becomes

Whilst adjectives can only modify nouns, adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs and even whole sentences.

The bus was quick.

The bus turned the corner quickly.

The bus quickly turned the corner.

The very quick bus was a godsend.

The bus turned the corner extremely quickly.

Hopefully, there will be no snow this month.

There will, hopefully, be no snow this month.

There will be no snow this month hopefully.

…notice how the positioning of adverbs is a choice made by the author – what difference does the different word order make?

But the most important thing to remember about adverbs or adverbials (adverb phrases) is that they are usually optional; they are added in by the author not because they are required (grammatically) but because they have been adjudged necessary, and that is why they tell us so much about an author’s motives. All of the adverbs in the sentences above can be dropped without reducing them to ungrammatical drivel or even changing the essential meaning of the respective sentences. Also, compare:

He will not succeed in his studies.          

He will probably not succeed in his studies.


Probably is an Adverb of Modality – in this reflecting the level of certainty the author has or wishes to convey. More generally, adverbs of modality give the author’s perspective on what they are writing about. Why would this adverb of modality be added to this sentence?

Types of Adverb:

Adverb of Time (or frequency) – answers the question: when (or how often)?: now, afterwards, often, never, always, frequently, recently, regularly, yesterday

Adverb of Space/Place – answers the question: where?: anywhere, outside, everywhere, there, upstairs

Adverb of Manner – answers the question: how?: reluctantly, timidly, badly, menacingly, effectively

Adverb of Degree / Intensifying Adverb – answers the question: how much or how little?: certainly, very, well, almost, sort of, absolutely, much, little, just, barely, nearly

Adverb of Emphasis – answers the question – how much or how little?: badly, really, indeed, even, at least

Adverb of Modality – answers the question – how do you (the author) feel about what you’re saying?: perhaps, maybe, fortunately, hopefully,

As with nouns or adjectives, if an adverb is replaced in a sentence by a group of words, i.e. that group of words functions as an adverb, then that group of words is an Adverbial. An adverbial can also be called a Prepositional Phrase, owing to the fact that they usually begin with a preposition:

I went to school slowly.

I went to school with my feet dragging on the ground.

I went to school in a foul temper.

I went to school without a care in the world.

Although there would seem little point in these sentences if the adverb or adverbial were removed, they can be, and so, they are a strong hint of the author’s intentions for the text. What of the following sentence:

I shuffled along the path.

I cautiously shuffled along the path.

I shuffled along the path with my heart in my mouth.

With my eyes closed, I shuffled along the path.

I shuffled along the path towards that place.


1.       Write a basic first person narrative account of approaching and entering a haunted house – without resorting to any kind of averb or adverbial.

2.       Swap your text for another – rewrite the text adding whatever adverbs or adverbials you deem necessary to add to the pieces atmosphere as well as to our understanding of the narrator/character.

3.       What does the second version achieve which the first does not?

4.       Why might an author chose one version over the other?

6 thoughts on “1.4 Adverbs/Adverbials

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