Using adverbs

    Englische Grammatik
    © James McQuillan/

    Adrian Doff presents and explains this key point of grammar with notes on a short dialogue. Read the dialogue and the explanations and try the exercises below.



    Mark, a teacher, is telling the director of the school about his students' progress.
    Jenny: How’s Mira doing?
    Mark: Oh, she’s fine. She’s a good (1) student. She’s very keen (1) on learning English, and she comes regularly (2) to class.
    Jenny: Is she up to the level of the class?
    Mark: Oh, yes. She was a bit quiet at first, but now she joins in more, and she speaks fluently (3). She writes beautifully (3), too. I really (4) enjoy reading her essays.
    Jenny: And what about José?
    Mark: José’s doing quite well (5), but he’s extremely (6) lazy. He doesn’t work hard (7) enough, and he often comes late (7). Actually (8), he was away last week. Apparently (8), he had some family problem — so he said, anyway.
    Jenny: OK, and how about Philippe?
    Mark: Philippe, hmm! Well, unfortunately (8)...



    1. Good and keen are adjectives. They can come before a noun (“a good student”) or after the verb “be” (“she’s very keen (eifrig)”).

    2. Regularly is an adverb. Adverbs modify verbs (= they tell us more about them). They are formed by adding -ly to an adjective (regular ? regularly).

    3. The adverbs fluently and beautifully are adverbs of manner (= they tell us how Mira speaks and writes). They are normally placed after the verb (“Mira sang softly”).

    4. Really is an intensifying adverb (= it makes a verb stronger). Intensifying adverbs usually come before the verb: “I really enjoy” (not: “I enjoy really”).

    5. Well is the adverb of the adjective good. It’s irregular.

    6. Intensifying adverbs, such as extremely in this case, can also come before an adjective (“extremely lazy”).

    7. A few adverbs, like hard and late, have the same form as adjectives (= -ly isn’t added to them): “he works hard” (not: he works hardly). If this were changed to “he hardly works”, it would mean “he doesn’t work very much”).

    8. Actually, apparently (anscheinend) and unfortunately are called “sentence adverbs”. They refer not to a single verb or adjective, but to a complete clause or sentence. They often come at the beginning of a sentence.



    • Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective: slow → slowly; careful → carefully; quick → quickly.    

    • If an adjective ends in -y, the adverb takes the form -ily: easy → easily; noisy → noisily.

    • Some adverbs have the same form as adjectives: (drive) fast, (arrive) late, (work) hard, go (far)

    • The adverb “well” is irregular.


    Beyond the basics

    1. After certain verbs, an adjective is used, not an adverb: be, become, feel, look, seem, smell, sound, taste.
    • He became rather forgetful in his old age.
    • That cheesecake smells wonderful.

    2. Notice the difference between good and well:

    • I don’t feel very good about what I said. (= I regret it.)
    • I don’t feel very well. (= I feel ill.)


    Now, test your knowledge with the exercises below.


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