What Do Adverbs Modify?
Adverbs are used to modify verbs, adjectives, an adverb or a sentence as a whole. They often end in –ly but can take many other forms. Examples of their use in sentences include;
The keeper played poorly
He speaks brilliantly well
The animal is very big
"Thankfully, the team equalized in the final minutes of the match" is an example of where an adverb modifies a whole sentence.
Adverbs and Verbs
A key function of adverbs is to modify verbs, in which case they describe the particular way something is happening.
He walked slowly to class.
I firmly held his hands.
He came early for his lecture.
In the above sentences, the adverbs address what manner something was done.
However, there are many other cases where an adverb might not particularly mix well with a verb. For example, linking verbs such as smell, feel, appear and seem are usually better combined with adjectives, not adverbs. One common example of this mix up occurs in the statement;
The room smells badly.
Since smell is a linking verb unlike other verbs, "smells badly" means that something has a poor sensory reception. However, you likely want to say that the room stinks for some reason, in which case, the room smells bad is the better statement.
Adverbs and Adjectives
Adverbs are also commonly used to modify adjectives as well as other adverbs. This is quite easy since adverbs are meant to confer some level of intensity or degree to an adjective.
The lad is very intelligent.
His store is quite big.
This report is more comprehensive than the last one.
The team performed incredibly well today.
Adverbs and Other Adverbs
In many other cases, adverbs can be used to modify another verb. As a matter of fact, you could go with many of them in a sentence if you so wish.
His piece of poetry is entirely beautifully sublime.
However, using so many adverbs might make for unnecessarily bulky sentences, so you'll only want to use them when necessary.
Adverbs and Sentences
Other verbs can be used to completely modify a whole sentence, and such are referred to as sentence adverbs. Common examples include thankfully, interestingly, interestingly. When in use, therefore, they do not specifically modify part of a sentence but describe a general perception of the information contained therein.
Thankfully, he arrived just before the meeting started.
Interestingly, his meal was just as delicious as the last one.
Hopefully is another sentence verb. However, it is not generally fancied by many people, so you'll want to avoid it if possible, especially in formal writing.
Degrees of Comparison
Adverbs, much like adjectives, can sometimes be used to show degrees of comparison. In some "flat adverbs" (i.e., those that mirror their adjectives), the comparative and superlative forms are identical; thus, a stronger adverb should preferably be used. An absolute verb, therefore, describes an intrinsic property of something. E.g.
He laughed loudly
A haphazardly crafted piece.
The word "more" is added to adverbs ending in –ly. For example, She spoke more eloquently than the others. Most is added to the superlative forms of adverbs that end in –ly.
Placement of Adverbs
Adverbs should be placed very close to the words that they modify in order not to make a sentence look awkward or change the meaning. For example;
John only greeted him.
John greeted only him.
The first sentence means that all John did was greet someone, without asking about his family or anything else. However, in the second sentence, John greeted only one individual, ignoring others who might have been present.