Understanding adverbs is an important reading skill because adverbs serve several different functions. They modify words, phrases and sentences; they may convey the attitude and opinions of the writer and others; they add important details and sometimes vivid description.

Adverbs in English provide details about:

Task One
Drag the following adverbs into the correct sentence and then write what it is the adverb gives details about. Choose from the words in the boxes above.

  1. I’ve been coming here for many years. (Where)
  2. The doctors told Mrs Bryant that her husband’s condition had improved significantly. (How much)
  3. In this match Federer proved to be stronger psychologically than his opponent. (How)
  4. He has said repeatedly that he will not retire from football until he’s 35. (How often)
  5. The new smartphone recently launched by Samsung is lighter and thinner. (When)
  6. My aunt obviously liked the cake, because she ate it extremely quickly and helped herself to another slice. (How certain)
Adverbs are used to modify 1) verbs recently launched
  2) adjectives stronger psychologically
  3) other adverbs extremely quickly

Types of Adverbs
There are at least 6 different types of adverbs
Task Two
Complete the chart below with the following adverbs. The starred adverbs have already been put into the chart to help you.

here fortunately* repeatedly scarcely likely nowadays
necessarily significantly psychologically outside never* probably*
obviously basically* everywhere* normally upstairs next
afterwards* tightly just recently fundamentally maybe

I could scarcely believe it when she told me she was pregnant.
Scarcely means ‘almost not’ or only just’.

Jews and Christians have fundamentally different views about Jesus.
Fundamentally means ‘in a basic and important way’.

The MTR trains are often tightly packed with people.
Here tightly means ‘closely’.

Time Place Frequency Manner Degree Certainty
afterwards everywhere never fortunately basically probably
recently here normally necessarily just* likely
nowadays outside scarcely psychologically fundamentally obviously
next upstairs repeatedly tightly significantly maybe

*The adverb ‘just’ could also be understood from the perspective of time.

Task Three
Read the article below, decide which of these adverbs fits into each of the gaps and type your answers in. Some adverbs occur more than once. Make sure that you read the whole paragraph and not just the sentence with the missing adverb, because often you will only get the right answer if you understand the relationships between the sentences in the paragraph.

fortunately normally fundamentally next likely significantly
just psychologically repeatedly tightly basically obviously

BBC Future
14 January 2013

Tom Stafford

Reprinted with permission from the BBC - future (bbc.com/future)

1) repeatedly
2) Fundamentally/Basically
3) repeatedly
4) fundamentally/basically
5) fundamentally/basically

6) Normally
7) Fortunately
8) necessarily (‘just’ is possible, but more natural in spoken English)

9) basically
10) Next

11) psychologically
12) just/basically

13) likely

14) significantly 15) obviously

16) tightly

Adverbs and Adjectives ending in –ly
Many adverbs, as you have seen here, end in –ly. This is true of all types of adverb, but it is particularly common with adverbs of manner and adverbs of degree.
Task Four
However, occasionally, adjectives also end in –ly and it is important for comprehension purposes not to confuse the two. Look again at the text in Task Three. Identify the two adjectives that end in –ly and write them in the box below.


What next?

The same text – Are we naturally good or bad? - is also used to practise and explore understanding main ideas. What you have done so far will help you with this next task. Go to the set of materials called ‘Understanding Main Ideas: Are we really good or bad?’ to develop your reading skills further.
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