Adverbs describe action verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They answer the questions HOW? WHY? WHEN? WHERE? HOW MUCH? or TO WHAT DEGREE? To determine whether to use an adverb or an adjective, locate the word it describes. 

  1. Ends in -ly
    Many adverbs are formed by adding –ly to an adjective. Sometimes the spelling changes when the –ly is added. When an adjective ends in –ly, it usually has no adverb form. To use the word as an adverb, use the adjective in an adverb phrase.

    • beautiful – beautifully
    • easy – easily
    • He responded to the crowd in a friendly manner.
  2. Ends in -ic

    When an adjective ends in –ic, form an adverb by adding –ally (except the word public, whose adverb form is publicly).

    • athletic – athletically
    • pathetic – pathetically
  3. Placement

    For clarity, place an adverb close to the word it describes.

    • I almost had to work the entire weekend. (I didn't have to work.)
    • I had to work almost the entire weekend. (I worked, but not the entire weekend.)
  4. Comparisons

    With a one–syllable adverb and some two–syllable adverbs, add –er for comparisons between two items and –est for comparisons among more than two items. NOTE: If the adverb ends in –y, change the –y to –i before you add the ending.

    • fast
    • faster
    • fastest
    • happy
    • happier
    • happiest
  5. Longer adverbs

    With some two–syllable adverbs and all three– and four–syllable adverbs, DO NOT use the –er or –est endings. Instead, put the word more/most or less/least before the adverb when you use it in a comparison. If an –er or –est ending can be used with a two–syllable adverb, the dictionary will list these endings.

    • suddenly
    • more suddenly
    • most suddenly
    • rapidly
    • less rapidly
    • least rapidly
  6. Begins with "to"

    DO NOT split an infinitive (a phrase beginning with the word “to”) with an adverb.

    • Place the adverb after the infinitive.
    • CORRECT: You need to review the assignment carefully.
    • INCORRECT: You need to carefully review the assignment.
  7. Some words are adjectives and adverbs

    Some words can be both adjectives and adverbs, depending upon how they are used. The word well, for example, is an adverb when it describes an action verb, but it can also be an adjective when it refers to health.

    • Pam manages the department well. (“Well” is an adverb telling how she manages.)
    • Although he recently had surgery, Mario looks well. (“Well” is an adjective used with the linking verb looks.)