Teaching adverbs in English

Difference Between Verbs and Adverbs in English

Rebecca Doughty
By Rebecca Doughty . Updated: August 31, 2020
Difference Between Verbs and Adverbs in English

Most native or fluent English speakers will have learned the basic parts of a sentence during our early years in school; verbs and adverbs included. Like much of what we learn at school, we know how to apply this knowledge intuitively, but find ourselves unable to explain how they are used. With verbs and adverbs, we use them every day, but many cannot tell you which word is which in a given sentence. oneHOWTO simply explains the difference between verbs and adverbs in English whether you want to brush up on your technique or in case you are learning this often complex language.

You may also be interested in: How to Write and Tell the Time in English

Steps to follow:


In the English language, there are eight parts of speech. These include:

  • Verbs
  • Adverbs
  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Adjectives
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctions
  • Interjections

Verbs and adverbs are words we use every single day, whether in speaking to others or in written communication. All complete sentences will have a verb. However, they do not need to have an adverb as it is a verb modifier and not all verbs need to be modified.

You can have sentences without verbs, but they are known as incomplete sentences or sentence fragments. They are in common usage, but are not technically complete sentences. An example might be:

  • "Dinner in five minutes."

If you heard someone say this, you would likely get their meaning, despite the fact the sentence is missing a verb. What this sentence is implying, but not making explicit is:

  • "Dinner will be served/will be ready in five minutes."

Verbs are doing words, they are words which describe what someone or something is doing.

e.g run, sleep, spin, walk, watch, swim, fall, climb

Verbs in English need to have at least a subject in the sentence, e.g. 'Alan walks.' If a verb is used with a subject (in this case 'Alan' is the subject), but no object, it is known as an intransitive verb.

If a verb is used with a subject and an object, it is known as a transitive verb. Using the same verb we can say, 'Alan walks to the beach.' Here the subject of the sentence ('Alan') walks to the object of the sentence ('the beach').

Verbs are also conjugated when using different tenses. This means the infinitive verb 'walk' is altered depending on whether the action happened in the past, present or future:

  • Present - Alan walks.
  • Past - Alan walked.
  • Future - Alan will walk.

These examples are in simple tense, but they can be amended further for perfect tense, imperfect tense, continuous tense and more.


There are three main types of verb which can be used in a sentence:

Action verbs

Action verbs are the most common verb, used to describe an action as demonstrated above.

e.g. Alan ran for the bus

Here the action verb is 'ran'.

Linking verbs

Linking verbs are used to connect the subject of a sentence to a noun or adjective that describes the subject (called the subject complement).

e.g. Alan became a shop manager.

Here, the linking verb 'became', links the subject 'Alan' to its complement 'a shop manager'

Auxiliary verbs (helping verbs)

Auxiliary verbs are used before action or linking verbs to convert additional information. This could be to change the modality of the verb, its tense, emphasis and more. The verb 'to have' is always used with the perfect tense.

e.g. Alan has gone to the beach.

Here the auxiliary verb is 'has' and the main verb is 'gone'.


Now for the difference between verbs and adverbs.


Adverbs are words that describe an action or how something is done. They usually describe the verb and often, but not always, end in 'ly'. Almost any form of describing someone is an adverb.

e.g. quickly, noisily, quietly, slowly, kindly.

To use an adverb in a sentence you might say, 'Alan spoke quietly in the library'.

Here the adverb is 'quietly'.

So whilst a verb describes an action, the adverb describes how the action is done. Adverbs don't always have to be beside the verb in the sentence.

e.g. Alan walked along the road slowly.

In this example, the verb and the adverb are interrupted by the object, but it still makes as much sense as 'Alan walked slowly along the road.'

Adverbs can also be placed at the beginning or ending of sentences.

e.g. Usually Alan eats dinner at 6pm or Does Alan eat roast beef often?

Many adverbs will end in -ly, but not all of them. We also use different adverbs for different purposes. These include:

Adverbs of time:

e.g. already, finally, soon, later, yesterday, today, tomorrow

Adverbs of frequency:

e.g. always, never, often, usually, sometimes

Adverbs of certainty:

e.g. definitely, possibly, probably, obviously

Adverbs of manner of action:

e.g. slowly, loudly, smugly, suddenly, brusquely

Adverbs of degree of intensity of action:

e.g. just, almost, very, enough, quite, too

Difference Between Verbs and Adverbs in English - Step 4

There are many different grammar rules which help make up our sentences and language. It is not only sentence structure which can seem confusing at first, such as the differences between verbs and adverbs, but the use of the same words with different spellings often confuses people when writing and using the English language. E.g. they're, their and there or when to use the word too instead of to. Once you start to learn the basic rules of grammar it becomes a lot easier and will come to you naturally.

Read on to find out when to use the words 'few' and 'little' correctly.

If you want to read similar articles to Difference Between Verbs and Adverbs in English, we recommend you visit our Learning category.

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1 comment
Please, I need about ten differences between Verb and Adverb
Jane Bertin (oneHOWTO editor)
Nice try attempting to get us to do your homework! ;)
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Difference Between Verbs and Adverbs in English