How to Form Adverbs

Adverbs add information to verbs. They can be used to tell us how, where, when or how often something happens. Below are some rules of correct adverb formation.

Adverb Formation Rules

Simple adverbs

Some adverbs may look the same as adjectives. This includes words like hard, fast, well and late. It also includes words like daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, which are used to talk about how often something happens:

AdjectiveAdverb
Jerry has a fast horse.
I have a yearly eye test.
I don’t feel well.
Henry can run fast.
I have my eyes tested yearly.
The project is not going well.

Derived adverbs

Derived adverbs are often formed by adding –ly to the end of an adjective. The suffix ‘-ly’ usually tells us that the word is an adverb and tells us how something happens:

AdjectiveAdverb
He was slow.
Freya sang. She was quiet.
Ryan was careful with the box.
He moved slowly.
Freya sang quietly.
Ryan carried the box carefully.

Adverbs that come from adjectives ending in -y will end in -ily:

  • angry → angrily
  • crazy → crazily
  • lazy → lazily

We don’t add-ly to adjectives that end in -ly:

  • lonely → NOT: lonelily
  • ugly → NOT: uglily
  • lovely → NOT: lovelily
Note: Remember, adverbs add information to verbs. Adjectives are used to describe nouns.

Do not confuse adverbs with adjectives that end in -ly:

– The party was lively. (Party is a noun. Therefore, lively is an adjective.)

Gradable adverbs

Most simple adverbs and derived adverbs ending in -ly are gradable, which means we can use more than one adverb to give extra information. We often add really, very, extremely, completely, fairly, rather or quite:

  • She shouted very loudly.
  • The man drove rather fast.
  • I opened the box extremely carefully.

Non-gradable adverbs

A small number of derived adverbs end in –ward(s) or -wise. These are not gradable. Adverbs ending in -ward(s) include upwards, downwards, inwards, outwards, eastwards, westwards, northwards and southwards:

  • I pushed the handle downwards.
  • The road leads westwards.
  • The door opens outwards.

Adverbs ending in -wise include clockwise, anticlockwise, lengthwise and likewise:

  • You should turn the handle anticlockwise. (The opposite direction to the hands of a clock.)
  • I spun the wheel clockwise. (Same direction as the hands of a clock.)
  • John got out of the car. William did likewise. (William did too.)

Compound adverbs

Compound adverbs are formed when two words are paired together. This includes words like everywhere, anywhere, sometimes, downstairs, upstairs and meanwhile:

  • Sometimes I go swimming.
  • I have searched everywhere for my keys.
  • Chloe tripped on the rug and fell downstairs.

Composite adverbs

Composite adverbs are made up of multiple words. This includes phrases like all of a sudden, at first, by all means, as far as and for ever:

  • All of a sudden, I felt very ill.
  • I did not understand at first.
  • As far as I know she is engaged.
Note: Adverbs ending in -ward(s) can end in either -ward or -wards:

– outward/outwards
– upward/upwards
– downward/downwards

Watch this video from Englishgrammarspot and learn what types of adverbs we can use and how to form them:

More on this topic:

Adverbs of Place and Movement

Position of Adverbs in a Sentence

Adverbs of Manner

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