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ad·​verb ˈad-ˌvərb How to pronounce adverb (audio)
: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages, typically serving as a modifier of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence, expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial, and in English also serving to connect and to express comment on clause content
In "arrived early" the word "early" is an adverb.
compare adjunct, conjunct, disjunct


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: adverbial
the adverb suffix "-ly"

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What is an adverb?

Adverbs are words that usually modify—that is, they limit or restrict the meaning of—verbs. They may also modify adjectives, other adverbs, phrases, or even entire sentences.

An adverb answers the question when?, where?, how?, how much?, how long?, or how often?:

The elections are coming soon.

They only shopped locally.

They are happily married.

The roads are very steep.

He stopped by briefly to say hello.

My daughter calls me regularly.

Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. If the adjective already ends in -y, the -y usually changes to -i.

bold / boldly
solid / solidly
interesting / interestingly
heavy / heavily
unnecessary / unnecessarily

There are, however, many common adverbs that do not end in -ly, such as again, also, just, never, often, soon, today, too, very, and well.

There are a few different kinds of adverbs. The words when, where, why, and how are called interrogative adverbs when they begin a question.

When did the event occur?

Where is the proof?

Why was he so late?

How did they get here?

The relative adverbswhere, when, and why (how is sometimes included as well)—introduce subordinate clauses (also called dependent clauses), which are clauses that do not form simple sentences by themselves.

This is the house where I grew up.

They go to bed when they want to.

She wondered why the door was open.

When an adverb modifies a whole sentence or clause, it is called a sentence adverb. Words such as fortunately, frankly, hopefully, and luckily are generally used as sentence adverbs and usually express the speaker's feelings about the content of the sentence. Such adverbs normally come at the beginning of a sentence, but may also come in the middle or at the end.

Unfortunately, Friday will be cloudy.

Friday, unfortunately, will be cloudy.

Friday will be cloudy, unfortunately.

Examples of adverb in a Sentence

Noun In “arrived early,” “runs slowly,” “stayed home,” and “works hard” the words “early,” “slowly,” “home,” and “hard” are adverbs.
Recent Examples on the Web
In my Oxford English Dictionary both words take up several pages each in all their iterations (etymology, evolution in use, noun, adjective, adverb, etc.). Lisa Z. Lindahl, Forbes, 29 Nov. 2023 As the cognitive scientist Tomer Ullman has pointed out, a couple of misleading adverbs are enough to trip it up. Paul Bloom, The New Yorker, 29 Nov. 2023 Size and scope matters, in a résumé - adverbs, no so much. Chris Westfall, Forbes, 13 Nov. 2023 Other aspects of grammar could have emerged in a similarly natural way; facial expressions, for example, are natural adverbs, modifying the actions that are signed. Carl Zimmer, Discover Magazine, 11 Nov. 2019 That tension between adverb and adjective conveys a subtlety and disquiet reflected in the images. Mark Feeney,, 9 Aug. 2023 Watch the veil: ‘Thinly veiled’ is one of those phrases that is perfectly fine without the adverb. WSJ, 12 June 2023 The bound words were nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs that always existed with markers indicating a relation to other objects, events or states. Anvita Abbi, Scientific American, 16 May 2023 Also inseparable from their prefixes, which endowed them with meaning, were adjectives and adverbs. Anvita Abbi, Scientific American, 16 May 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'adverb.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



Middle English adverbe, borrowed from Middle French, borrowed from Latin adverbium (translation of Greek epírrhēma), from ad- ad- + verbum "word, utterance, verb" + -ium, suffix in compounds — more at word entry 1


attributive use of adverb entry 1

First Known Use


14th century, in the meaning defined above


1875, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of adverb was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near adverb

Cite this Entry

“Adverb.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a word used to modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence and often used to show degree, manner, place, or time
adverb adjective
adjective or noun

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