Using adverbs in English for the IELTS testJune 9, 2023 2023-06-21 4:59
Using adverbs in English for the IELTS test
Modifying, and Adding Information
The most common use of adverbs is to modify adjectives; the adverb usually comes before the adjective:
- I thought his answers were pretty good on the whole.
Some adverbs, e.g. really, almost, quite, pretty, can modify another adverb:
- The French team did really well in the first round.
Certain adverbs, e.g. quite, roughly, about, approximately, can also modify following noun phrases, prepositional phrases and numbers:
- Her news came as quite a shock
- In our school, roughly fifty students have mobile phones.
A key use of adverbs is to add information about the time, manner or place of an action or state described in a sentence:
- He hit the ball hard and this time it flew into the back of the net.
Note that we can use noun phrases (this time) and prepositional phrases (into the back of the net) as adverbs.
We can use adverbs with as, so, too, enough, etc.:
- She performed so enthusiastically that the judges overlooked her inexperience.
- We missed the bargains because we didn’t get there soon enough
Some adverbs are used in conversation to show the speaker’s attitude.
Using Adverbs in Comparisons
We can use adverbs in comparatives and superlatives, usually with more and most:
- In the lottery draw, red balls seem to come up more frequently than yellow ones.
- Of all the relatives at Gran’s funeral, I think Uncle Ralph felt her loss most deeply.
Adverbs which do not end in -ly take the same comparative and superlative forms as adjectives
- If you tuned the engine more often the car would go faster.
Note that the comparative and superlative forms of the adverb well are better and best.
Position of Adverbs in Sentences
The Three Positions
The position of an adverb depends on its meaning and the word or phrase it is modifying. Adverbs that modify adjectives, other adverbs and noun phrases have fixed positions, but adverbs which modify a verb or add information about how, when or where something happens can take several positions in a sentence. We call these ‘front position’ (before the subject), ‘mid-position’ (next to the verb ) and ‘final position’ (after the object or complement):
- These days (front)I probably (mid) take my health much more seriously (final).
Note: If the object or complement of a verb is very long we can put a final position adverb before it:
- These days I take much more seriously all those things I used to take for granted.
We can use many adverbs in this position. We often use adverbs which link or contrast with information in the previous sentence:
- I’ve been incredibly busy this week. Yesterday I worked for more than twelve hours.
After negative adverbs (e.g. never), or after adverbs of time and place followed by a verb of movement or position, we put the verb before the subject ( inversion):
- Never have I seen such a disturbing sight.
- Here lies the body of our late lamented sovereign.
Note: We do not use adverbs of definite frequency, e.g. daily, weekly, in front position:
X Monthly I get paid. ✓ I get paid monthly
This is the usual position for adverbs of indefinite frequency, adverbs of degree, adverbs of certainty, one-word adverbs of time, even and only:
|Adverbs of indefinite frequency||always, frequently, generally, hardly ever, never, normally, occasionally, often, rarely, seldom, sometimes, usually|
|Adverbs of degree||absolutely, almost, completely, entirely, just, hardly, partly, quite, rather, really, slightly, totally|
|Adverbs of certainty||certainly, definitely, probably|
|One-word adverbs of time||already, finally, immediately, just, now, no longer, soon, still, then|
With a simple verb, we put the adverb between the subject and the verb, but with simple forms of being the adverb goes after the verb:
X She arrives always by taxi and she always is on time.
✓ She always arrives by taxi and she is always on time.
If there is a modal or auxiliary verb we put the adverb after the (first) auxiliary verb:
- We’ve never been to the Greek islands. You can just see the coast.
- Sea eagles have occasionally been seen around Loch Lomond.
These adverbs go after do or not:
- They don’t really understand my point of view.
Note: But we put sometimes, still, certainly, definitely and probably before a negative auxiliary:
X I don’t sometimes understand his arguments. He hasn’t still convinced me.
✓ I sometimes don’t understand his arguments. He still hasn’t convinced me.
In spoken British English, if we want to emphasize an auxiliary verb or a simple form of being, we can put a mid-position adverb before it. The auxiliary/verb (underlined) is usually stressed:
- You really don’t understand me at all! But she never is on time!
- I don’t really like him. (unmarked position = I slightly dislike him.)
- I really don’t like him. (emphatic position = I hate him.)
We can do this in US English even when we are not emphasizing the verb:
- Madonna never has been shy of image changes.
Note: We do not use other time adverbs (definite time or frequency) in mid position:
X We every day buy our lunch at that sandwich bar on the corner.
But we can do this in news reports:
- The Federal Reserve today announced an immediate rise in interest rates.
The most frequent position for adverbs in English is the end of the sentence. It is the usual position for yet, a lot, any more, any longer, too, as well:
X They aren’t any more selling it.
✓ They aren’t selling it anymore
We usually put adverbs of manner (which describe how something is done) and adverbs of definite frequency in this position:
X He well plays the guitar.
✓ He plays the guitar well.
Adverbs of manner which end in -ly (except badly) can go in final or mid position:
- Harry painstakingly counted out the coins and arranged them neatly into piles.
Note: We don’t use hardly ever or never in final position:
X They watch television hardly ever
✓ They hardly ever watch television.
Note: If we put often, rarely and seldom in the final position, we must use very or quite:
X These days I eat desserts rarely
✓ These days I eat desserts very rarely
If there are several adverbs in the final position, we usually follow a sequence of adverbs of manner, then place, and finally time:
- The statue was lifted (carefully) (onto the plinth) (before the ceremony).
Adverbs can describe the particular aspect of something we are commenting on:
- Economically, the current government has been a resounding success. (= The government has successfully managed the economy.)
- Although economically successful, the government is starting to lose popularity.
Attitude/ Sentence Adverbs
Adverbs such as clearly, honestly, obviously, surprisingly, understandably can express our attitude towards an action:
- You’ve obviously been eating too many sweets, young man! (This is a logical deduction which is clear to anybody.)
We can also use these adverbs in conversation to introduce, extend, or make a comment on a topic or opinion. We usually put these ‘sentence adverbs’ at the front or end of the sentence, separated by a comma:
- Incidentally, I noticed they were looking for new players down at the Red Lion.
- I don’t think he knows what he’s talking about, frankly.
Note: There are a number of these adverbs where the meaning is not always obvious:
|Incidentally/ by the way||
Note: Some adverbs, e.g. naturally and clearly, can be used as sentence adverbs and also as adverbs of manner. Note the different meanings:
- Despite being in a zoo, the animals behaved quite naturally (= in a natural way)
- Naturally, wild animals behave quite differently in captivity. (= what is expected)
- The teacher answered the question clearly and precisely. (= in a clear way)
- Clearly, the teacher didn’t answer the question. (This is obvious.)