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Basic Word Order Rules for Adverbials

Adverbials give us more information about the words they modify, including verbs, adjectives, objects, and subjects. They explain how, when, why, and where things are done. Even though this part seems clear, it may be hard to identify the right place to use an adverbial in a sentence.

Adverbs can be used at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence. However, there are general word order rules for different types of adverbs. Learning them may help avoid many mistakes.

Fundamental Principles for Placing Adverbs

Basically, it’s better to put adverbs closer to the words they provide information about. Picking an incorrect position for an adverb can ruin the whole sentence. If an adverb should modify a verb, it’s necessary to place it in the middle of a sentence. Naturally, an adverb should be placed before a verb. Here are a few examples:

  • ✔️ Mary has always loved dancing.
  • ✔️ A manager will pleasantly answer your questions.

Adverbial phrases starting with prepositions are placed at the beginning or at the end of a phrase. However, it’s necessary to be careful when picking the right position. If an adverbial phrase is placed at the beginning of a sentence, it means that this information is really important. The following examples will show the difference:

  • ✔️ In spring, he will go on a vacation.
  • ✔️ He will go on a vacation in spring.

However, there are many exceptions to remember. Different adverb types can be used in different sections of a sentence. That’s why the following rules should be also learned.

Adverbs of Time and Frequency

Adverbs of time help us understand when something happens. If the information is really important, they take an initial position. But if time isn’t an essential detail, an adverb will go to the end of a sentence. For example:

  • ✔️ Today I’m going to visit a festival.
  • ✔️ Last week Ben wrote a poem.
  • ✔️ Jim called them two hours ago.
  • ✔️ My sister will celebrate her triumph tomorrow.

Adverbs of frequency explain how often an action happens. They can be definite and indefinite. Adverbs of definite frequency, including every day, weekly, monthly, and annually, can be used at the beginning and the end of a sentence. Adverbs of indefinite frequency, such as always, often, and seldom, are placed in the middle of a sentence. Here are the examples:

Definite frequency Indefinite frequency
Tom plays tennis every day He often forgets about that book
The subscription is updated annually Workers always go home at 5 o’clock
The newspaper is published monthly Ann is seldom late for classes

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of place bring us an understanding of where an action takes place. Usually, they are placed at the end of a sentence or after the main clause. In some cases, an adverb of place can be used in the middle of a sentence. The best position for an adverb of place is after a verb or direct object:

  • ✔️ Children are playing outside.
  • ✔️ Flowers were grown everywhere.
  • ✔️ He put berries into a bucket.

Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of manner answer the question “How?” To create an adverb of manner, it’s necessary to add “ly” to an adjective. In some cases, this rule doesn’t work. Irregular adverbs are formed in another way:

Good ➡️ Well
Late ➡️ Late
Hard ➡️ Hard
Fast ➡️ Fast
Straight ➡️ Straight

Usually, adverbs of manner follow a verb or a direct object:

  • ✔️ He plays basketball well.
  • ✔️ Bob eats quickly.
  • ✔️ We sang loudly to awaken everyone.

Sometimes an adverb of manner is placed before a verb to emphasize the meaning and make this information more important. Besides, if a direct object is placed after a verb, an adverb of manner shouldn’t be used between them. In this case, an adverb takes the position before a verb or after a direct object. For example:

Mary understood clearly the rule ✔️ Mary clearly understood the rule
The boy opened hurriedly his presents ✔️ The boy hurriedly opened his presents
He read attentively the book ✔️ He read the book attentively

Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of degree show the intensity of a word they are connected with. Usually, they are used before verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. However, the adverb “enough” is placed after adverbs and adjectives. Here are the examples:

  • ✔️ She ran quite quickly
  • ✔️ That man is very fat
  • ✔️ He was tall enough to reach the shelf

Importance of Placing Adverbials Correctly

Proper word arrangement is essential in English grammar. Adverbials are rather tricky because they can be placed in any part of a sentence. The tiniest mistake can break the logical chain, and a phrase will become meaningless. Typically, adverbials are placed closer to the words that need to be modified. But there are many exceptions and rules for adverbs of different types, so it’s necessary to learn them all.

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