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What is an adverb? (Linguistics)



Here are two senses for adverb:

  1. An adverb, narrowly defined, is a word belonging to a class of words which modify verbs for such categories as

    • time
    • manner
    • place, or
    • direction.
  2. An adverb, broadly defined, is a word belonging to a class of words which modify any constituent class of words other than nouns, such as

    • verbs
    • adjectives
    • adverbs
    • phrases
    • clauses, or
    • sentences.

    Under this definition, the possible type of modification depends on the class of the constituent being modified.


The general class adverb is a mixture of very different kinds of words, which cover a wide range of semantic concepts and whose syntactic distribution is disparate. The definition of the lexical category adverb is language-specific, based on syntactic distribution.


Many words traditionally called adverbs in English, such as degree words (very, awfully) and negatives (not), are set up as distinct word-classes in linguistic studies.

Examples (English)
  • He went fast.
  • She slowly shut the door.
  • Nearly in a rage, he left.
  Here are some kinds of adverbs:
  An adverb is a kind of

Crystal 1980 17


Hartmann and Stork 1972 6


Schachter 1985 20


Mish 1991 59

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