The adverbs in English Grammar – Summary

1. The adverbs and the adjectives in English

Adjectives tell us something about a person or a thing. Adjectives can modify nouns (here: girl) or pronouns (here: she).

Adverbs tell us in what way someone does something. Adverbs can modify verbs (here: drive), adjectives or other adverbs.

adjective adverb
Mandy is a careful girl. Mandy drives carefully.
She is very careful.
She drives carefully.

Mandy is a careful driver. This sentence is about Mandy, the driver, so use the adjective.

Mandy drives carefully. This sentence is about her way of driving, so use the adverb.

2. Form

Adjective + -ly

adjective adverb
dangerous dangerously
careful carefully
nice nicely
horrible horribly
easy easily
electronic electronically

Irregular forms:

adjective adverb
good well
fast fast
hard hard

If the adjective ends in -y, change -y to -i. Then add -ly:

  • happy – happily


  • shy – shyly

If the adjective ends in -le, the adverb ends in -ly:

  • terrible – terribly

If the adjective ends in -e, then add -ly:

  • safe – safely

► Not all words ending in -ly are adverbs:

  • adjectives ending in -ly: friendly, silly, lonely, ugly
  • nouns, ending in -ly: ally, bully, Italy, melancholy
  • verbs, ending in -ly: apply, rely, supply

There is no adverb for an adjective ending in -ly.

3. Use of adverbs

3.1. to modify verbs

The handball team played badly last Saturday.

3.2. to modify adjectives

It was an extremely bad match.

3.3. to modify adverbs

The handball team played extremely badly last Wednesday.

3.4. to modify quantities

There are quite a lot of people here.

3.5. to modify sentences

Unfortunately, the flight to Dallas had been cancelled.

4. Types of adverbs

4.1. Adverbs of manner

  • quickly
  • kindly

4.2. Adverbs of degree

  • very
  • rather

4.3. Adverbs of frequency

  • often
  • sometimes

4.4. Adverbs of time

  • now
  • today

4.5. Adverbs of place

  • here
  • nowhere

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

John is a careful driver. – In this sentences we say how John is – careful. If we want to say that the careful John did not drive the usual way yesterday – we have to use the adverb:

  • John did not drive carefully yesterday.

Here is another example:

  • I am a slow walker. (How am I? → slowadjective)
  • I walk slowly. (How do I walk? → slowlyadverb)

6. Adjective or Adverb after special verbs

Both adjectives and adverbs may be used after look, smell and taste. Mind the change in meaning.

Here are two examples:

adjective adverb
The pizza tastes good.
(How is the pizza?)
Jamie Oliver can taste well.
(How can Jamie Oliver taste?)
Peter's feet smell bad.
(How are his feet?)
Peter can smell badly.
(How can Peter smell?)

Do not get confused with good/well.

  • Linda looks good. (What type of person is she?)
  • Linda looks well. (How is Linda? – She may have been ill, but now she is fit again.)
  • How are you? – I'm fine, thank you./I'm good. (emotional state)
  • How are you? – I'm well, thank you. (physical state)

One can assume that in the second/third sentence the adverb well is used, but this is wrong – well can be an adjective (meaning fit/healthy), or an adverb of the adjective good.


  • Use the adjective when you say something about the person itself.
  • Use the adverb, when you want to say about the action.