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Intermediate

Adverbs From Adjectives - Rules and exercises for intermediate level

Written by
Monday, 22 March 2010
Example of adverbds from adjectives: Jack built a beautiful, small cottage This image by Stefan Stefancik is licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license

An overview of the adverbs from adjectives which explains what rules you must follow when using these words, with examples and exercises to help you learn. This online lesson is designed for intermediate level students.

Form of adverbs from adjectives:

You should already be familiar with the following grammatical rule:

Adjectives describe nouns (a thing or person):
Jack built a beautiful, small cottage
(adjective + noun)

Adverbs describe verbs (how something is done or happens):
Jack built his cottage carefully.
(verb  +  noun  + adverb)


1) We can turn adjectives into adverbs by adding -ly onto the end of a word.

So: - regular (adjective) becomes regularly (adverb)
He is a regular driver to town.   He drove the car regularly to town.

nervous (adjective) becomes nervously (adverb)
He gave a nervous answer.   He answered nervously.

passionate (adjective) becomes passionately (adverb)
They were passionate in their beliefs. They believed passionately.

Adverbs from adjectives: be careful!

Words ending in -y change to -ily and words ending in -le change to -ly.

  • Happy Happily
  • Angry Angrily
  • Moody Moodily

When we turn adjectives ending in –le into adverbs ending in –ly, notice how the spelling changes. We take off the –e and replace it with -y:

  • Horrible Horribly
  • Terrible Terribly
  • Simple Simply

2) Sometimes adverbs are not derived from adjective and the equivalent adverb does not end in -ly.

good (adjective) becomes well (adverb) – not goodly
Terry is a good cook. Terry cooks well.

Some adverbs don’t end in –ly. These include adverbs of frequency. These adverbs  tell us how often something is done or happens and include adverbs such as: sometimes, never, often, and always. Unlike adverbs ending in –ly (where the adverb usually comes after the main verb), adverbs of frequency usually come before the main verb, except the main verb “to be”:

  • He always plays cricket on Sunday.
  • Vegetarians never eat meat.
  • It’s sometimes alright to ask him.

Occasionally, adverbs of frequency can come at the end of a sentence:

  • I see them often.

or at the beginning of a sentence:

  • Sometimes I go and watch cricket.

3) There are some words that are both adjectives and adverbs. They stay the same.

Some common ones are:  hard, fast, early and late.

  • He is a hard person to please. Pleasing him is hard.
  • He had a late return that night. He returned late that night.
  • It was a fast car. The car was travelling fast.
  • It was early when he set off. He set off early.

4) There are some adjectives that end in –ly. Here are some common examples:

  • a daily paper
  • an early night
  • an elderly woman
  • a friendly face
  • a likely story
  • a lovely day

This can become confusing, but remember that an adjective describes a noun and always goes before the noun. All the words above describe a noun, so they are adjectives.

5) Sometimes adjectives that become adverbs are the same, and often the adverbs have two forms with different meanings.

Some common ones are: hard/hardly, late/lately and cool/coolly

  • It was a hard (adj) exam. (It was a difficult exam and require maximum effort)
  • They were hard (adv) at work.  (They worked with great effort)

Here the meaning of the adjective and the adverb are very similar. However if we look at the adverb form that ends in -ly the meaning is very different.

  • He hardly put any effort into it (He put very little effort into it)

Hardly is negative in meaning. Notice how these two examples have an opposite meaning, even though both words (hard/hardly) look almost the same.

Manchester United scored a late goal. (after the expected time)
He’s often late to class. (he doesn’t get to class on time).
Lately, she has been working mornings only. (recently, in the very near past).

Late means not on time. It refers to a time after that which something should have arrived or occurred. But lately refers to an action or event that has happened recently.

It was a cool breeze. (of a cool temperature)
The concert was cool. (good, enjoyable)
He coolly replied to the question (He replied in a calm manner)

When we say cool, we are either referring to temperature or giving our opinion. But, coolly refers to a person’s manner. Reacting coolly, is the same as reacting calmly.

6) We will often use adverbs with adjectives together and adverbs with adverbs:

  • Incredibly effective (adverb + adjective)
  • Faintly interesting (adverb + adjective)
  • Unbelievably slowly (adverb + adverb)
  • Extremely quietly (adverb + adverb)
  • He moved unbelievably slowly up the stairs.
  • It was an incredibly effective way of doing it.
  • The talk was faintly interesting.
  • He spoke extremely quietly to the little girl.
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Last modified on Sunday, 05 February 2017 22:46

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