Adverbs are words that modify verbs, which indicate actions or states of being:
The clown acted goofily. Canada did wonderfully in the World Cup. The cat scratched me viciously.
Adverbs also modify adjectives: a goofily dressed clown, a wonderfully diverse Canada, a viciously behaved cat.
Adverbs also modify other adverbs: a really goofily dressed clown, a very wonderfully diverse Canada, an extraordinarily viciously behaved cat.
Many adverbs are formed from adjectives by adding –ly, sometimes with slight changes in spelling: goofy—goofily, wonderful—wonderfully, vicious—viciously. Some adverbs are irregular: good—well, and some have the same form as the adjective: hard—hard, fast—fast, straight—straight, far—far, early—early, daily—daily, monthly—monthly.
The negative adverbs no, not, scarcely, hardly, barely must not be used with a negative verb (didn’t, don’t, won’t) : I didn’t make no mistakes . Double negatives are a big no-no.
Remember that verbs such as feel, look, seem, taste, smell can be linking verbs that link nouns with adjectives, not adverbs: She looks beautiful (not beautifully).
Most educated English speakers—especially human resource officers—consider using an adjective to modify a verb or an adverb a gross grammatical error. Imagine that the sentences in the exercise appear on your job application.
Choose the correct word:
- I am not (real/really) sure why I was fired from my last job.
- When my boss told me to take shorter coffee breaks, I didn’t take it (personal/personally.)
- I don’t always appear (calm/calmly) during an interview.
- It is important to me to complete a job (satisfactory/satisfactorily.)
- When people correct my grammar, I try to not to feel (angry/angrily.)
- It is not a good idea to play a radio (loud/loudly) at you desk.
- You can (sure/surely) count on me to be on time.
- Do you require employees to dress (neat/neatly)?
- I (could/couldn’t) hardly believe how hard I had to work.
- Sometimes I answer (wrong/wrongly.)
Answers: 1. really 2. personally 3. calm 4. Satisfactorily 5. angry 6. loudly 7. surely 8. neatly 9. could 10 wrong or wrongly.*
*Wrong is both an adjective and an adverb, and as an adverb it is mostly interchangeable with wrongly, but wrong as an adverb sounds, well, wrong to most speakers. In constructions such as “He was wrongly fired,” they are not interchangeable. As an adverb, wrong can’t modify an adjective.