How are adverbs used in sentences?

The adverbs in English - overview

1. Adverbs and adjectives in comparison

Adjectives express how someone or a thing is.
Adjectives determine nouns (here: girl) or pronouns (here: she) more closely.

Express adverbs, how someone does something or how something happens.
Adverbs can specify verbs (here: drive), adjectives or adverbs.

Mandy is a careful girl.
(Mandy is a careful girl.)
Mandy drives carefully.
(Mandy drives carefully.)
She is very careful.
(She is careful.)
She drives carefully.
(She drives carefully.)
Question:How isMandy?
Answer: she is carefully.
Question:How drivesMandy?
Answer: she drives carefully.

2. Formation of adverbs

Adjective + -ly




Ends in an adjective -y, then when the adverb is formed, the -y a -i:


Ends in an adjective -le, then when the adverb is formed, the -le a -ly.

  • terrible → terribly

Ends in an adjective -e, Then it will be -ly attached.

► Not all words ending in -ly ends are adverbs.

  • Adjectives that end in -ly: friendly, silly, lonely, ugly
  • Nouns ending in -ly: ally, bully, Italy, melancholy
  • Verbs ending in -ly: apply, rely, supply

From the adjectives that point to -ly end, you cannot form an adverb.

3. Use of adverbs

3.1. for a more detailed definition of verbs

The handball team playedbadly last Saturday.
(The handball team played badly last Saturday.)

3.2. for the more precise definition of adjectives

It was an extremelybath match.
(It was an extremely bad game.)

3.3. for the more precise definition of adverbs

The handball team played extremelybadly last Wednesday.
(The handball team played extremely badly last Wednesday.)

3.4. for the more precise determination of quantities

There are quitea lot of people here.
(There are quite a few people here.)

3.5. for the more detailed definition of sentences

Unfortunately, the flight to Dallas had been canceled.
(Unfortunately, the flight to Dallas was canceled.)

4. Types of adverbs

4.1. Adverbs of the way

  • quickly
  • kindly (nice)

4.2. Adverbs of degree

  • very
  • rather

4.3. Adverbs of frequency

  • often
  • sometimes (sometimes)

4.4. Adverbs of time

  • now
  • today (today)

4.5. Local adverbs

  • here (here)
  • nowhere (nowhere)

5. How do I know whether to use an adjective or an adverb?

For Germans in particular, it is not always easy to recognize whether it is an adjective or an adverb:

  • John is a careful driver. → John is a careful driver.

This sentence contains the adjective careful (carefully). This adjective determines the noun driver closer. It is stated that John is usually a cautious driver, although he can go fast at times. And there we come to the adverb. When I say how someone does something, I use the adverb:

  • John drove yesterday Notcarefully. → John didn't drivecarefully yesterday.

Here's another example:

  • I am a slow walker. (I am a slow runner. How am I? → adjective)
  • I walk slowly. (I run slowly. How do I run? → Adverb)

6. Adjective or adverb after special verbs

Since both adjectives and adverbs can appear in verbs of smell or taste, the meaning of the sentence changes.

Here are two examples:

The pizza tastes good.
(The pizza tastes good.)
Jamie Oliver can taste well.
(Jamie Oliver can taste good.)
Peter's feet smell bad.
(Peter's feet stink.)
Peter can smell badly.
(Peter can smell bad.)

At good / well it gets very complicated now:

  • Linda looks good.
    (Linda looks good / pretty.)
  • Linda looks well.
    (Linda looks fit / healthy. → She may have been sick and now looks fit again.)
  • How are you? - I'm fine, thank you./ I'm good.
    (How are you? - Thank you, good. → Meaning: I'm feeling good emotionally. I'm in a good mood.)
  • How are you? - I'm well, thank you.
    (How are you? - Thank you, good. → Meaning: I'm fine in health.)

The second / fourth sentence could be assumed to be the adverb well, however can well to be both an adjective (in the sense of fit / healthy) and an adverb (in the sense of good) to be.


So when it is more about describing the person or thing than the act that is being performed, then the adjective is used.

Recommendation: Memorize the above example sentences as vocabulary and memorize situations in which you use them. In this case it is easier than always carefully considering which word is which grammatical structure and how to use it.