Using Adverbs

Adverbs are words used to describe verbs, adjectives, or another adverb. Most adverbs end in –ly and describe why, how, when, where, to what extent?, or to what degree?. Not all words that end in -ly are adverbs. Some are adjectives (describing nouns, i.e. lovely).

Incorrect: She drives careful.
Correct: She drives carefully.

Special adverbs like not, soon, always, never, well, very, quite, often, seldom, and somewhat do not end in –ly.

Positive, comparative, and superlative adverbs show degrees of quality or quantity.

Single syllable adverbs usually form the comparative by adding the suffix –er and form the superlative by adding the suffix –est.

Multisyllable adverbs usually form the comparative with the addition of more or less and the superlative with the addition of most or least.

There are also irregular adverbs which do not follow these rules. Examples are listed in the following table.

Adverb Forms

Positive Comparative Superlative
soon sooner soonest
hard harder hardest
carefully more carefully most carefully
quickly less quickly least quickly
well better best
badly worst worst
little less least

Unlike adjectives, adverbs can occur almost anywhere in a sentence.

Quickly, the girl rose from the table.
The girl quickly rose from the table.
The girl rose quickly from the table.
The girl rose from the table quickly.

Although often heard, the use of good and bad as adverbs is nonstandard. Substitute well for good and badly for bad.

Incorrect: He spells bad but writes good.
Correct: He spells badly but writes well.

Other Articles of Interest

Article: Editing Your Writing

Other Editing References

Visit our Reference Desk page for a complete listing of articles and worksheets.