Adverbs are words that modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. A word is an adverb if it answers how, when, or where.

The only adverbs that cause grammatical problems are those that answer the question how..


He runs slowly .
Answers the question how.

He runs very slowly.
Answers the question how slowly.

Rule 1.

Generally, if a word answers the question how , it is an adverb. If it can have an ly added to it, place it there.


She works slow/ slowly .
She works how? slowly.

She is a slow /slowly worker.
Slow does not answer how so no ly is attached. Slow is an adjective here.

She works fast /fastly.
Fast answers the question how , so it is an adverb. But fast never has an ly attached to it.

We performed bad/ badly .
Badly describes how we performed.

Rule 2.

A special "ly" rule applies when four of the senses— taste , smell , look , feel —are the verbs. Do not ask if these senses answer the question how to determine if ly should be attached. Instead, ask if the sense verb is being used actively. If so, use the ly .


Roses smell sweet /sweetly.
Do the roses actively smell with noses? No, so no ly .

The woman looked angry /angrily.
Did the woman actively look with eyes or are we describing her appearance?
We are only describing appearance, so no ly .

The woman looked angry/ angrily at the paint splotches.
Here the woman did actively look with eyes so the ly was added.

She feels bad /badly about the news.
She is not feeling with fingers, so no ly .

Rule 3.

The word good is an adjective while well is an adverb.


You did a good job.
Good describes the job.

You did the job well.
Well answers how.

You smell good today.
Describes your odor, not how you smell with your nose, so follow with the adjective.

You smell well for someone with a cold.
You are actively smelling with a nose here so follow with the adverb.

Rule 4.

When referring to health, always use well .


I do not feel well.

You do not look well today.

Rule 5.

A common error in using adjectives and adverbs arises from using the wrong form for comparison. For instance, to describe one thing we would say poor , as in, "She is poor ." To compare two things, we should say poorer , as in, "She is the poorer of the two women." To compare more than two things, we should say poorest , as in, "She is the poorest of them all."


One Two Three or More
sweet sweeter sweetest
bad worse worst
efficient*       more efficient*   most efficient*

*Usually with words of three or more syllables, don't add -er or -est. Use more or most in front of the words.

Rule 6.

Never drop the ly from an adverb when using the comparison form.


She spoke quickly.
She spoke more quickly than he did.


She spoke quicker than he did.


Talk quietly.
Talk more quietly.


Talk quieter.