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Do Adverbs Always End in -ly?

What is an Adverb

Adverbs are words that can added to verbs, adjective or even other adverbs to change or add meaning. When you add an adverb changes a verb, it can give information on how, where, when, how often, why, and how much the action is occuring.

The majority of adverbs do end in ”ly” but it is not a set rule. There is more to consider than just the ending spellings of words to determine what meaning to apportion to them. Not all words that end in ly are adverbs, for example sly and lily, and not all adverbs end in -ly – for example never and very.

We will provide a list of examples below for both adverbs that do end in Ly and ones that don’t and links to full lists as well.

The Role of Adverbs

Words play roles in language. Some words have multiple roles. Read can be different words with different pronunciations, and this greatly depends on the usage. A person can be well-read (looked at and comprehended many books and articles). A person can read (looks at comprehends words on a page currently).

A person may also have read books before (looked at and comprehended words before now). Each of these words is related, but they have different meanings. Two of them are verbs. Reading, whether past or present, is an activity. To be well-read, however, is an adjective describing a person.

There are two common parts of speech beginning with ad—adjective and adverb. You may recall that an adjective describes an object or noun. Adverbs are similar. They are also describing words, and they are used to describe verbs.

They tell us how a verb was performed. Let’s look back at the verb read. There are many ways to describe how someone is reading. She read the book quietly while she waited. She read the book aloud noisily. He read the book clumsily, unable to understand the words (meaning he stumbled over the words).

Examples of Use of Adverbs

She read the book aloud clearly. He read the book excitedly, anticipating the next paragraph. These sentences all describe how someone was reading, so the words that describe reading are adverbs.

If you notice, in two of them, two words describe how the book was read. One says the book was read aloud noisily, and the other says that it was read aloud clearly. In this case, aloud is an adverb describing how the book was read and noisily or clearly describe how the audible reading sounded.

There are two adverbs. One adverb describes another. Likewise, in both of these examples, aloud is an adverb that doesn’t end in -ly, demonstrating that all adverbs do not need to end in -ly. However, quietly, noisily, clumsily, clearly, and excitedly demonstrate the frequency in which these words do end in -ly.

Double Duty Descriptors

Just as we had dual adverbs earlier, we often have adjectives that masquerade as adverbs sometimes. One of those examples is the word hard. A test can be hard (difficult). A rock can be hard. In this case, it’s a hard test or a hard rock. However, if it is raining hard, the adverb for raining (verb) is hard.

If you are looking for adjective or other grammar activities we have them in the shop here, and free versions right here. There are also sets of adjective worksheets ready to download here as well.

To say the weather is raining hardly, would be inappropriate in this case. Hardly raining would mean not raining very much. Many verbs can be both adjectives and adverbs, depending on how they are used.

Other adjectives can become adverbs by adding ly. Sweet is a fantastic example of this. The boy gave his friend a sweet card. Sweet describes the card in this case. Since card is a noun, sweet becomes an adjective (adjectives describe objects).

However, by adding -ly we get an adverb. Sam smiled sweetly at Jack. In this case, sweetly describes how Sam smiled. The root of both words is sweet, but adding the ly changes it from an adjective to an adverb (adverbs describe verbs).

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Flat or Bare Adverbs

Flat adverbs, sometimes referred to as bare adverbs, are those that do not have an -ly ending but could. These are words like slow, real, tight, and close. Some of these words change meaning when they get the ly, so you use the flat adverb instead.

Take the example from above. When you say it is hardly raining, this takes on an entirely different meaning than it is raining hard. Both words describe the intensity at which it is raining, but with the ly, we learn that it is not raining much at all. Without the ly, we discover that it is indeed raining intensely.

Adverbials (Part Time Adverbs)

Sometimes, we may see the term adverbial. This is any word or phrase that behaves like an adverb. These are not typically adverbs, but they are pretending to be one in the sentence or phrase. Some examples are deep, in town, or at work. “She sleeps at work.” In this sentence, at work describes where or how she sleeps. “His anger runs deep.”  Deep, in the previous sentence, describes how his anger runs.

Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

Sometimes you may want to use adverbs in a comparative or superlative sense. You may want to compare whose smile is sweeter. In this case, you would say that Sam smiles more sweetly than Jack. Sweetlier would not be a word. Some comparative and superlative forms do get er and est, but they never end in ly first.

For flat adverbs, you will use the same rules that you would for the word as an adjective. For instance, harder or hardest would be appropriate because of the length of words. Keep in mind that we do not always use words or phrases in informal English as we would in more formal settings.

For instance, we might say “drive careful” to a loved one, but the standard formal English should be “drive carefully.” No one is going to correct you for leaving off the ly in this case as it is the informal accepted form of the phrase. If speaking to a friend, this phrase is acceptable, but on an English quiz, you might want to avoid it.

Other Parts of Speech Ending in Ly

As noted already, there have been many adverbs that do not end in ly or take the adjective form depending on their usage. There are also more than enough words that end in ly but are not adverbs. Most often, these words are adjectives. A common way to turn a noun into an adjective is to add ly.

For instance, “a northerly wind blows tonight” contains northerly, but it refers to the wind, not the blowing. Technically, it is blowing northerly, but we generally are describing the wind and not the blow. A scholarly argument is one that the person considered and researched their topic carefully. Argument is a noun in this case, and scholarly is describing the kind of argument.

List of Adverbs ending in – ly

Here we have an example list of both adverbs ending in ly, and other words ( not adverbs) that also end in ly just to add to the confusion!!! an then we have a list of adverbs that do not end in ly.

Adverbs ending in lyAdverbs not ending in lyWords ending in ly – not adverbs

If you need a linger list there is a PDF here

Final Thoughts

Many words can be manipulated to have several different forms and meanings. Just because a word ends in ly does not make it an adverb. The absence of such letters also does not make it another part of speech. We have to look at what each word is doing in the sentence. If a word is a person, place, thing, or idea, it is a noun. If another word is describing that noun, it becomes an adjective.

Similarly, if the word is an action, we call it a verb, and a word describing that action is an adverb. Even if the word is sometimes used in another part of speech, we have to take each encounter for what it represents. Adverbials nearly never have ly endings.

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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