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What are adverbs of manner?
Adverbs of manner are used to tell us how something happens or is done. They can modify verbs, adjectives, or clauses of a sentence.
Creating adverbs of manner
Adverbs of manner are very often formed from adjectives by simply adding “-ly.” For example:
- “She is a beautiful singer.” (Beautiful is an adjective. It describes the noun “singer.”)
- “She sings beautifully.” (Beautifully is an adverb of manner. It describes the verb “sing.” How does she sing? She sings beautifully.)
- “He is a slow walker.” (Slow is an adjective describing the noun walker.)
- “He walks slowly.” (Slowly is an adverb of manner. How does he walk? Slowly.)
Changes in spelling
Sometimes the spelling of a word will have to change slightly so as to better accommodate the extra “-ly.” If the adjective ends in “-ic,” for instance, it will usually become “-ically”:
- “They are enthusiastic students.”
- “They work enthusiastically.”
If the adjective ends in a “-y,” it usually becomes “-ily”:
- “The children are happy when they are playing.”
- “The children are playing happily.”
And if it ends in “-le,” the “e” on the end is dropped to make “-ly”:
- “He is a terrible golfer.”
- “He plays golf terribly.”
If an adjective already ends in “-ly,” we can give it an adverbial function by simply using it in the adverbial prepositional phrase “in a ______ manner”:
- “They played in a lively manner.”
- “Please arrive in a timely manner.”
There are a number of exceptions to these spelling rules, though, which are known as irregular adverbs. Here are some irregular adverbs of manner:
- The adjectives straight, fast, and hard all remain the same (with no “-ly” ending) when they function as adverbs.
- The adjective wrong can become wrongly, or simply remain wrong—both are acceptable. However, wrong as an adverb must come after the verb if modifies (as in “I guessed wrong” or “he filled out the form wrong”), but wrongly can be used both before or after the word it modifies (as in “wrongly accused” or “judged wrongly”).
- Finally, well is the irregular adverb of the adjective good—but well can be used as an adjective, too!
(There are more irregular adverbs than the ones above. Go to the chapter on Regular and Irregular Adverbs to learn more.)
As we saw above, phrases can also function as adverbs in a sentence. These are called adverbial phrases, or sometimes simply adverbials.
Besides the ones we looked at above, other prepositional phrases can also function as adverbs of manner. For example:
- “They left in a hurry.”
- “He lived without a care.”
We can also use similes with the word like to describe manner in metaphorical terms. For instance:
- “I slept like a baby last night.”
- “He ran out like a shot.”
The position we use for adverbs of manner depends on whether they are modifying a verb, a clause, or an adjective.
Adverbs of manner most commonly come directly after intransitive verbs that they modify. If the verb is transitive, then the adverb must not immediately follow the verb; it can either come before the verb or after the direct object. For example:
- “He speaks well.” (intransitive)
- “She walked slowly.” (intransitive)
- “Janet wrote the letter beautifully.” (transitive—correct)
- “Janet wrote beautifully the letter.” (transitive—incorrect)
Rearranging the order
You may have noticed that in the second example we can put the adverb first: “She quickly walked” is perfectly correct, and it adds a bit more emphasis to quickly. The adverb can also come before a transitive verb, as in “Janet slowly sang a song.”
However, for simple sentences that don’t require extra emphasis, it is better to have the adverb come after the verb. (And, in some instances, the adverb can’t come first. For example, “he well speaks” is clearly incorrect.)
Adverbs of manner can also come at the beginning of the sentence, usually set apart by a comma, which serves to modify the entire clause and add a lot of emphasis to the adverb. Consider these two examples:
- “Quietly, he held the candle aloft.”
- “He quietly held the candle aloft.”
Although they are both quite close in meaning, we can see how the first sentence places much more emphasis on the adverb quietly. In the second example, the adverb is only modifying the verb held, so its impact on the sentence is less intense.
Adverbs of manner can also be used to describe adjectives, giving them an extra depth or dimension of character. In contrast to verbs, adverbs of manner always come before the adjective they modify; this order cannot change. For example:
- “The book was beautifully profound.” (correct)
- “The prisoner remained stoically silent.” (correct)
- “Darling, you are brave wonderfully.” (incorrect)
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