Adverb. Its Definition and Characteristics


Adverb is usually characterized as a notional part of speech. In English language, adverbs reflect the quality of a person’s action or of some other quality. To put it simple, it demonstrates when, how, where and in what situation an action takes place. It also emphasizes the quality reflected by the adjective. It is interesting to know that not all linguists consider that an adverb is a notional part of speech. Some linguists, including Sweets, consider that an adverb is a particle that in many ways differs from the noun, adjective, verb and pronoun. This issue is rather questionable, as according to the above linguists, there are no boundaries for this part of speech. Such examples as “put up with”, “I am off” and others show that adverbs can be characterized as a part of speech similar to preposition and can also be called postpositives or postpositions. Such characteristics of an adverb shows that this part of speech is rather tricky and students should therefore pay much attention to it while studying English as a foreign language.

An adverb can be defined as a part of speech or a class of words, which is generally used to modify adjectives, verbs or other adverbs. It should be noted that adverbs can also modify subordinate clauses, phrases with prepositions and even entire sentences. Adverbs can be divided into several groups, including quality and circumstance categories. When we are talking about modification of various parts of speech, it is worth giving a few examples.

Thus, when an adverb modifies an adjective, it can be reflected in the following example:

  • It was a very amusing situation.

In case of verb modification, a good example would be:

  • Jack smiled happily.

Adverbs can also modify other adverbs, which can be reflected in the following example:

  • Music at the concert ended quite abruptly.

Another question to be answered in the current essay is how to build adverbs. Building of this part of speech can be simple (for instance, how, why, etc.) or derived with the help of such endings as “ly”, “ways”, “wise” and others (for instance, likewise, afterwards, etc.). The latter would be considered compound adverbs that can also be phrasal or prepositional. For example, inside out, at least, etc.

It is worth mentioning that not all adverbs have a “ly” ending. Such words as “hard”, “fast” and others do not end with “ly” morpheme. Furthermore, another characteristic of an adverb is a fact that not all words formed with the help of “ly” morpheme are adverbs, because in most cases such words are adjectives. For example, the words “lively” and “daily” are not adverbs. It might be hard to remember this rule, but students should still understand the difference between different parts of speech as well as peculiarities of their formation and use.

To continue our discussion, there are adverbs that have so-called conjunctive “twins”. These twins differ from typical adverbs by their positions in the sentence. For example, such words as “around” and “round the clock” represent conjunctive twins. It is worth memorizing that such words generally have the same origin. All of them express relationships of time or space. Prepositions are similar to adverbs as they are intended to modify the meaning of verbs. For example, to give – to give away, to carry – to carry on. These examples show that the function of all prepositions that are added to the verb is either to make the verb carry some other meaning or add a lexical modification to the semantics of the verb. Such phrase as “bring about” means “to make something happen”. This proves that the semantics of the verb in this case is modified.

All of these elements are often interpreted in different ways. There are linguists who treat these prepositional phrases as some kind of adverbs. Others consider prepositions to be similar to specific functional words. Prepositions are also classified as a range of particles that are used with other prepositions or some kind of conjunctions. Let us analyze the difference between the adverb and the preposition. In fact, unlike adverbs, prepositions define the quality of some kind of action produced by a person. If you want to get additional information on this matter, you need to research such section of English grammar as cognitive analysis of various grammar units.

In the following section of the current essay, we will discuss three existing groups of adverbs. As a rule, adverbs are categorized as quantitative, qualitative and circumstantial adverbs. The qualitative adverbs are the ones that indicate how intense the characteristic of a word is. To this category belong such adverbs as very, quite, fully, etc. In such a way, such adverbs express the quality of this or that word. The quantitative group of adverbs includes the ones that demonstrate quality itself. To this group of adverbs belong such words as quickly, poorly, etc. As for the last group of adverbs, these are the adverbs of time and place, e.g. yesterday, inside, etc. Generally speaking, adverbs can be distinguished by their lexical connotations. For example, adverbs can be grouped into adverbs of manner, place, frequency, degree, direction, etc.  

Another characteristic of an adverb is its grammatical category, namely the category demonstrating the level of comparison. This grammatical notion involves three kinds of formation, which means that adverbs can be derived (quicker, quickest), analytical (more beautiful, most beautiful) and lexical (greater, poorer). Students who speak English as a second language should understand the difference between these categories in order to write correctly and avoid making grammatical errors. Therefore, the topic of adverbs should be studied thoroughly and consistently if you want to achieve success in your writing career and communication. We recommend you to practice a lot and learn the theory of English grammar. This will help you to cover all the areas of English language in order to understand the basics and proceed with studying more complicated topics.

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