When you’re learning languages, word order can be a crazy thing.
In some language, word order hardly matters at all. The meaning is instead understood in other ways.
English is a language in which word order matters. For some words, if you get the order wrong, the sentence will say the opposite of what you mean or will be nonsensical.
For other words, the order may be less important. Where you place the word might have subtle implications for native speakers, or it might be irrelevant.
In today’s post, we’ll talk about where you put adverbs in relation to the verb in a sentence so that you can rest easy about this topic.
Should an adverb go before or after a verb?
Most adverbs can go before or after the verb, but there are exceptions. Fast, well, badly and hard must follow it. Adverbs of frequency and degree usually precede the verb. Some adverbs of frequency may come at the beginning or end of the sentence. Adverbs of place or time usually follow the verb.
Adverbs of manner before or after the verb
When you think of adverbs, the type of words you probably imagine are adverbs of manner.
These are adverbs that tell you how a thing is done. These types of adverbs often but not always end in “ly.”
Words like happily, quickly, vividly, repeatedly and coldly are adverbs of manner. For the most part, these can go before or after the verb.
Usually, they come after the verb, but if they are placed before it, it gives them a little bit more emphasis.
When there is an object after the verb, the adverb of manner should come before the verb or after the object. It should not come between the verb and the object.
Fast, well, badly and hard are adverbs of manner that must always go after the verb.
Examples of where to place adverbs of manner in a sentence
You’ve probably seen a lot of sentences using adverbs of manner, and you may have even used them yourself.
In the examples below, the word ending in “ly” is the adverb:
When these adverbs come before the verb, there is a small shift in the emphasis. The focus is more on how the thing is done:
In the second example sentence above, if you wanted to move the adverb, it would have to go after the object, the “bell.” An adverb of manner can’t come directly after the verb in a sentence with an object:
Here’s another example of a sentence where you would need to place the adverb either before the verb or after the object:
Finally, there are these four adverbs that must always be placed after the verb:
Adverbs of frequency or degree before the main verb
Adverbs of frequency tell you how often something happens, and they usually come before the main verb.
There are a few adverbs of frequency that can come at the beginning of the sentence. “Sometimes” and “usually” are examples of these kinds of adverbs.
Some adverbs of frequency can come at the end of the sentence as well.
However, “rarely,” “seldom” and “never” must always go before the main verb, not at the beginning or end of a sentence.
When in doubt, put an adverb of frequency just before the main verb.
Adverbs of degree tell us the intensity with which a thing is done. Most adverbs of degree modify adjectives or other adverbs, but there are a few that modify verbs, and those always come the verb.
Two adverbs of degree that can modify verbs are “just” and “almost.”
Examples of where to place adverbs of frequency and degree in a sentence
Let’s take a look at some sample sentences with adverbs of frequency. These nearly always come before the main verb:
Some of those adverbs of frequency can move to the beginning of the sentence:
And some of them can move to the end of the sentence:
These sentences use adverbs of degree:
Adverbs of place or time and verb placement
These types of adverbs are sometimes confused with prepositions since the same words can be adverbs or prepositions.
If the place or time word does not have an object but is instead giving you more information about a verb, then it’s an adverb instead of a preposition.
Both types of adverbs usually come after the verb although as always, there are exceptions.
For example, “later” could come before or after the verb. It could also come at the beginning or end of the sentence.
Examples of where to put adverbs of place or time in a sentence
Unlike sentences where a misplaced adverb simply sounds a bit awkward, misplacing one with the “place” adverb can mean the sentence doesn’t make sense.
Here are a couple of sentences with a “place” adverb:
Some adverbs of time can move around, but the
Others can only come after the verb or at the beginning of the sentence but not immediately before the verb:
Tips for adverb placement around verbs
For native speakers, knowing where adverbs go in relation to the verb is generally a matter of what “sounds” right to them.
As discussed above, there are a few general rules you can follow about adverb placement.
However, there are also so many different types of adverbs and exceptions and subtleties about placement, especially when you introduce helping verbs and objects, that you might feel as though finding a pattern is to no avail.
The best strategy for English language learners may be to simply pay attention to where adverbs are placed in sentences and try to get that same sense as a native speaker of where individual adverbs that you commonly use go.
For the most part, if you place an adverb in the wrong place in a sentence, it might sound very awkward, but you will usually be understood.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.