i) I usually am quite good at getting up early to go to college.
ii) I started recently an English course.
iii) I haven’t applied still to go to any universities and I need to soon.
Did you notice that the adverbs in each of the statements above are in the wrong place? In this lesson we’ll look at how you can avoid making similar mistakes. (See the bottom of the page for these statements corrected.)
Adverbs are words that modify other words, phrases or clauses. For example:
i) I usually spend 1 or 2 hours doing homework every day.
ii) I also speak a little German.
iii) Luckily, I found a good school near my apartment.
There are no ‘absolute’ rules for the position of all adverbs and you’ll find many exceptions to the guidelines below. However, to help you make the right decisions it’s useful to have an understanding of why adverbs are used.
a) Adverbs that are used to describe an adjective or another adverb will often be placed immediately before these words. For example:
i) The clothes in my favourite shop are quite cheap.
ii) Since I enrolled for the exam I’ve been working really hard.
b) Comment adverbs are words like ‘obviously’, ‘clearly’ or ‘hopefully’. These are generally OK to place before the subject and sometimes between the subject and main verb. For example:
i) Hopefully, I’ll pass my driving test first time. I’ll hopefully pass …
ii) Fortunately, my father has his own business so I might work with him.
Remember to put the adverb before the main verb but after an auxiliary verb like ‘will’, ‘be’ or ‘have’. For example, this would be regarded as unnatural or even incorrect:
I hopefully will pass my driving test … (X)
c) Adverbs of indefinite frequency, like ‘always’, ‘often’, ‘usually’, ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ are generally safe to put between the subject and the main verb (but after the auxiliary verb). For example:
i) We usually visit my grandparents every weekend.
ii) I’ve never been to America but I hope to go one day.
d) Focus adverbs are used to focus attention on specific information in a clause rather than individual words. Focus adverbs include words like ‘just’, ‘only’ and ‘even’. The position of these adverbs is similar to those above, that is they go between the subject and the main verb (but after the auxiliary verb). For example:
i) My computer is so old it can’t even connect to the Internet.
ii) I’ve only just started attending English lessons.
However, focus adverbs can also be placed elsewhere, depending on which part of the statement is being emphasised. For example:
i) My younger brother can even play chess. (The speaker thinks this is surprising)
ii) Even my younger brother can play chess. (The speaker thinks chess is easy)
e) Adverbs of time such as ‘yesterday’ or ‘last month’ and adverbs of definite frequency such as ‘daily’, ‘weekly’ or ‘every year’ normally go at the end of the clause:
i) My parents go to the same holiday resort every summer.
ii) I took the IELTS exam last year.
f) Adverbs of manner such as ‘slowly’, ‘quietly’ or ‘carefully’ usually go at the end of the clause:
i) I play the guitar quite well.
ii) After I went to England I think my English improved quickly.
10 Minute Grammar
Watch our ’10-Minute Grammar’ video for more practice in word order.
Over to you
1) How often do you do the following? Use adverbs of frequency like ‘sometimes’, ‘often’, ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ in your answers:
- go swimming
- travel abroad
- take risks
- eat chocolate
2) Respond to the following using the adverb in brackets:
- a film you have seen (recently)
- a job that you haven’t finished (yet/still)
- something you did 10 minutes ago (just)
- your favourite national cuisine (especially)
- the reason you are learning English (mainly)
- something you do (well)
The correct word order in the statements at the top of the page is:
i) I am usually quite good at getting up early to go to college.
ii) I recently started an English course.
iii) I still haven’t applied to go to any universities and I need to soon.