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11+ & KS2 English: What are adverbs?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

What are adverbs?

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Adverbs are words that describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

Another way to define adverbs is to say that they modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

Adverbs often end in ‘-ly’, but not always!

Top Tip

Remember, adverbs do not only describe verbs, which the word ‘adverb’ might suggest!

They are also incredibly useful to give extra information about adjectives and other adverbs.

Adverbs can modify verbs

Adverbs can tell us how, when, where or why an action (verb) is done.

For example:
The pianist plays wonderfully.
‘Wonderfully’ is an adverb that tells us how the pianist played.

The tennis players will play a match tomorrow.
‘Tomorrow’ is an adverb that tells when the players will play a match. 

Adverbs can modify adjectives

We know that adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns.

But what if we would like to add some extra information about an adjective?

An adverb can come in handy here.

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For example

Benjamin is exceedingly happy.

‘Exceedingly’ is an adverb which describes how happy Benjamin is.

Notice how ‘exceedingly’ is not describing the verb ‘is’. It is instead describing the adjective ‘happy’.

Another example

We realised that the cinema was completely empty.

‘Completely’ is used to modify ’empty’.

‘Completely’ does not add extra information to the verb ‘was’, so is not an example of an adverb modifying a verb.

Instead, it is modifying the adjective ’empty’, which itself is describing the noun ‘cinema’.

Adverbs can modify other adverbs


Adverbs can give modify or describe other adverbs.

So, we can have two adverbs next to each other in a sentence.

For example

She was able to run extremely fast

Here, ‘extremely’ is an adverb that adds extra information to the adverb ‘fast’.

We know ‘fast’ is an adverb because it describes the verb ‘run’.

Another example

I couldn’t find my watch, even though I looked very thoroughly.

‘Very’ is an adverb that describes the adverb ‘thoroughly’.

We know ‘thoroughly’ is an adverb because it gives information about the verb ‘looked’.

Adverbs in the 11+ exams

It is important to understand how to spot and use adverbs for the 11+ exams.

For expert practice of questions that involve adverbs, try our 11+ English practice papers!

Why can knowledge of adverbs be useful for the 11+?

Questions relating to adverbs can come up in English comprehension questions and Verbal Reasoning questions.

By using adverbs in English Creative Writing answers, students can pick up marks for enriching their language and using more complex clauses or noun phrases.

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