Adverbs are a vital part of English grammar, often providing critical information about how, when, or where an action occurs. However, their placement within a sentence can sometimes be confusing. This article aims to clarify the rules and offer examples to make it easier to understand how to use adverbs and maintain the correct word order in your sentences.

What are Adverbs?

Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They often answer questions like “how?”, “where?”, “when?”, and “how often?”

Examples:

  • She runs quickly. (How does she run?)
  • He lives nearby. (Where does he live?)
  • They will arrive soon. (When will they arrive?)

Additional Examples:

Adverbs of Manner (How?)

  • She dances gracefully.
  • He speaks softly.
  • The dog barks loudly.

Adverbs of Place (Where?)

  • The kids are playing outside.
  • She looked everywhere for her keys.
  • The airplane flew overhead.

Adverbs of Time (When?)

  • She finally finished her project.
  • We will meet later.
  • He recently moved to a new city.

Adverbs of Frequency (How Often?)

  • He rarely eats sweets.
  • She visits her grandmother weekly.
  • They always take a vacation in the summer.

By including these different types of adverbs in your sentences, you can create more detailed, engaging, and informative statements. Each type of adverb serves to answer a specific question, offering the reader or listener a more comprehensive understanding of the circumstances of the action being described.

You may also be interested in learning about adverb clauses.

Adverb Placement Rules

Rule 1: Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of manner usually go at the end of a sentence or directly after the verb.

Examples:

  • She speaks fluently.
  • He drives carefully.

Additional Examples:

  1. She sings beautifully.
    • How does she sing? Beautifully.
  2. He answered the question correctly.
    • How did he answer the question? Correctly.
  3. The children were playing noisily.
    • How were the children playing? Noisily.
  4. She explained the problem clearly.
    • How did she explain the problem? Clearly.
  5. They laughed heartily.
    • How did they laugh? Heartily.
  6. The cat jumped gracefully.
    • How did the cat jump? Gracefully.
  7. She writes neatly.
    • How does she write? Neatly.
  8. He spoke softly so as not to wake the baby.
    • How did he speak? Softly.
  9. The athlete ran swiftly.
    • How did the athlete run? Swiftly.
  10. The detective solved the case brilliantly.
    • How did the detective solve the case? Brilliantly.

As seen in these examples, adverbs of manner can provide a clearer, more detailed picture of how an action is carried out, enriching our understanding of each situation.

Rule 2: Adverbs of Frequency

Adverbs of frequency typically go before the main verb but after auxiliary verbs like “be,” “have,” “will,” etc.

Examples:

  • She always walks to work.
  • They have never been late.

Additional Examples:

  1. She seldom misses a class.
    • How often does she miss a class? Seldom.
  2. They usually take the bus.
    • How often do they take the bus? Usually.
  3. I rarely eat out.
    • How often do I eat out? Rarely.
  4. He often forgets his keys.
    • How often does he forget his keys? Often.
  5. You always make me laugh.
    • How often do you make me laugh? Always.
  6. We never miss a sunset when we are at the beach.
    • How often do we miss a sunset at the beach? Never.
  7. She sometimes reads before bed.
    • How often does she read before bed? Sometimes.
  8. He frequently checks his phone.
    • How often does he check his phone? Frequently.
  9. She occasionally enjoys a cup of tea.
    • How often does she enjoy a cup of tea? Occasionally.
  10. They hardly ever miss a family gathering.
    • How often do they miss a family gathering? Hardly ever.

By utilising these additional examples, you can see how adverbs of frequency help give a clearer understanding of the regularity of the actions described.

Rule 3: Adverbs of Time and Place

Adverbs of time and place usually go at the end of the sentence.

Examples:

  • I will call you tomorrow.
  • She is waiting outside.

Additional Examples:

Time Adverbs:

  1. He went to bed early.
    • When did he go to bed? Early.
  2. She visited her grandmother yesterday.
    • When did she visit her grandmother? Yesterday.
  3. They arrived late.
    • When did they arrive? Late.
  4. The store closes soon.
    • When does the store close? Soon.
  5. We will see you later.
    • When will we see you? Later.

Place Adverbs:

  1. She lives nearby.
    • Where does she live? Nearby.
  2. Please, sit here.
    • Where should I sit? Here.
  3. They moved abroad.
    • Where did they move? Abroad.
  4. The kids are playing upstairs.
    • Where are the kids playing? Upstairs.
  5. Let’s meet there.
    • Where should we meet? There.

Combined Time and Place Adverbs:

  1. We usually have dinner at home early.
    • Where and when do we usually have dinner? At home, early.
  2. She’s arriving tomorrow afternoon.
    • When and where is she arriving? Tomorrow, in the afternoon.
  3. He’ll be outside later.
    • Where and when will he be? Outside, later.

By understanding the placement and usage of adverbs of time and place, you can create sentences that are richer in context and easier to understand.

Rule 4: Sentence Adverbs

Sentence adverbs modify an entire sentence and usually come at the beginning or end of that sentence.

Examples:

  • Unfortunately, we missed the flight.
  • It’s raining, though.

Additional Examples:

  1. Obviously, they were not prepared for the exam.
    • What is the speaker’s opinion on their preparedness? It’s obvious they were not prepared.
  2. She passed her driving test; surprisingly, it was on her first try.
    • How surprising is it that she passed on her first try? It’s surprising enough to merit mentioning.
  3. Frankly, I don’t care about the politics.
    • What is the speaker’s opinion on the topic? They’re being frank about their lack of interest.
  4. He didn’t seem happy about the decision; however, he accepted it.
    • What is the relationship between his happiness and his acceptance? Despite his unhappiness, he accepted the decision.
  5. Fortunately, everyone was safe after the accident.
    • What’s the speaker’s feeling about the aftermath? They feel fortunate that everyone was safe.
  6. They won the match, naturally.
    • What does the speaker think about them winning? It’s natural or expected that they won.
  7. Ideally, you should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
    • What’s the optimal situation according to the speaker? Ideally, you’d eat five servings.
  8. Interestingly, the book was better than the movie.
    • How does the speaker feel about this comparison? They find it interesting enough to point out.
  9. The meeting was cancelled; consequently, we have a free afternoon.
    • What is the result of the meeting being cancelled? A free afternoon.
  10. She’s good at singing; ironically, she doesn’t like it.
    • What’s unexpected about this situation? It’s ironic that she’s good at something she doesn’t enjoy.

These sentence adverbs help convey additional meaning or context that applies to the entire sentence, making your expression richer and more nuanced.

Related: You may want to learn about conjunctive adverbs and subordinating conjunctions. It sounds difficult, but it’s actually pretty easy to learn and it can really improve your writing skills.

Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Mistake 1: Incorrect Placement

English learners often put adverbs in the wrong place. For example:

Incorrect: She sings beautifully always.

Correct: She always sings beautifully.

Additional Examples:

  1. Incorrect: He quickly can finish the project.
    Correct: He can quickly finish the project.
    • Where should “quickly” go? After the auxiliary verb “can.”
  2. Incorrect: She plays often the piano.
    Correct: She often plays the piano.
    • Where should “often” go? Before the main verb “plays.”
  3. Incorrect: He always has loved pizza.
    Correct: He has always loved pizza.
    • Where should “always” go? After the auxiliary verb “has” and before the main verb “loved.”
  4. Incorrect: They are inside playing.
    Correct: They are playing inside.
    • Where should “inside” go? At the end of the sentence or after the verb “playing.”
  5. Incorrect: The dog quietly is sleeping.
    Correct: The dog is sleeping quietly.

Remember, incorrect placement doesn’t always make a sentence wrong, but it can make it awkward or unclear. Understanding the rules for adverb placement can help you communicate more clearly and effectively.

You can also learn about adjective word order.

Mistake 2: Placing Adverbs Between Subject and Verb

Some learners incorrectly place an adverb between the subject and verb of a clause. For example:

Incorrect: She always is late.

Correct: She is always late.

Additional Examples:

  1. Incorrect: They usually are eating breakfast.
    • Correct: They are usually eating breakfast.
  1. Incorrect: He often has been to France.
    • Correct: He has often been to France.
  1. Incorrect: I seldom can understand what he’s saying.
    • Correct: I can seldom understand what he’s saying.
  1. Incorrect: You never should lie.
    • Correct: You should never lie.

These examples illustrate the correct placement of adverbs of frequency and other types that usually come between the auxiliary verb and the main verb, rather than splitting the subject and the auxiliary.

Conclusion

In summary, adverbs play a crucial role in adding depth, detail, and clarity to your sentences. Whether you’re describing how, when, where, or how often an action occurs, adverbs are your go-to tools for elaboration. Understanding the different types of adverbs and how to use them correctly will improve both your written and spoken English.