Position of Adverbs in English Sentences


Advanced English Grammar Course

Adverbs are words that describe verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, or clauses. Adverbs often answer the questions “How?” and “In what way?” For example:

  • She sings beautifully.
    In what way does she sing? Beautifully.
  • He runs very fast.
    How fast does he run? Very fast.
  • I occasionally practice speaking English.
    How frequently do I practice? Occasionally.

The position of adverbs in the sentence depends on what type of adverb it is. Here are some general guidelines for knowing the position of adverbs:

#1 – Do not place an adverb between a verb and its object.

In the following sentence, painted is the verb, and the house is the object. Carefully is the adverb.

  • I carefully painted the house. = Correct
  • I painted the house carefully. = Correct
  • I painted carefully the house. = Incorrect

Here’s another example. In this sentence, read is the verb, a book is the object, and sometimes is the adverb.

  • sometimes read a book before bed. = Correct
  • Sometimesread a book before bed. = Correct
  • I read a book before bed sometimes. = OK, but informal
  • I read sometimes a book before bed. = Incorrect
Position of Adverbs in English Sentences

“I sometimes read a book before bed.”

#2 – There are three normal positions for adverbs.

Front position: At the beginning of a clause

  • Suddenly the phone rang.
  • Fortunately, nobody was injured.
  • Maybe I’ll go for a walk.

Mid-position: Next to the main verb

  • always exercise before work.
  • They have completely forgotten about our appointment.
  • He was probably late for the interview.
  • She slowly began to recover from her illness.

End-position: At the end of a clause

  • You speak English well.
  • Please sit there.
  • They ate dinner quietly.
Position of Adverbs in English Sentences

“They ate dinner quietly.”

#3 – The position of adverbs depends on their type. Some adverbs can go in various positions.

Adverbs of manner

Ex) quickly, slowly, easily, happily, well,* badly, seriously

  • Mid-position gives less emphasis to the adverb:
    • He quickly corrected his mistake.
    • She easily passed the test.
    • We happily accepted the invitation.
  • End-position gives more emphasis to the adverb:
    • He corrected his mistake quickly.
    • She passed the test easily.
    • We accepted the invitation happily.

* Adverbs of manner not ending in -ly (like well, hard, and fast) can only appear in the end position:

  • They dance well.
  • He’s working hard.
  • She runs fast.
Position of Adverbs in English Sentences

“She runs fast.”

Adverbs of time & frequency

Definite frequency: Ex) daily,* weekly,* every year, last week

Front-position or end-position (more common).

  • I study English every day.
  • Every day, I study English.
  • We went to Australia last year.
  • Last year we went to Australia.

The single-word adverbs of frequency cannot go in the front-position:

  • I speak with my mother daily.
  • Let’s meet weekly to share updates on the project.

Indefinite frequency: Ex) often, usually, frequently, occasionally, sometimes, rarely, always, never, finally, eventually, soon

Always and never go in the mid-position, before the verb:

  • I always wake up early.
  • We never imagined this would be so hard.

The others can go in various positions:

  • Usually I take the bus to work.
  • usually take the bus to work.
  • Soon you’ll be finished with school.
  • You’ll soon be finished with school.
  • You’ll be finished with school soon.
  • We occasionally drink wine.
  • Occasionally we drink wine.
  • We drink wine occasionally.
  • We drink occasionally wine. = Incorrect!
    Remember never to put an adverb in between the verb and its object.

Adverbs of place

Ex) downstairs, outside, nearby, south/southward, towards, backwards, everywhere

Usually go in end-position or mid-position immediately after the verb:

  • The children are playing outside.
  • The glass shattered and the pieces flew everywhere.
  • They drove south/southward on the highway.
  • He walked towards the police station.

Connecting & commenting adverbs

Connecting adverbs show the relationship between events or ideas: Ex) however, anyway, then, next, similarly, additionally, furthermore, otherwise

Commenting adverbs show us the speaker’s attitude or opinion about the sentence: Ex) fortunately, surprisingly, stupidly, personally, honestly

Both of these usually go in the front-position…

  • First I went to the bank. Then I went to the post office.
  • The test will be difficult. However, the students are well prepared.
  • He doesn’t have a job. Furthermore, he’s not interested in finding one.
  • I dropped my wallet on the street. Surprisingly, an honest person found it and gave it back to me.
  • They showed me all the products available. Honestly, I didn’t like any of them.

…although for some of them other positions are possible:

  • They showed me all the products available. I didn’t like any of them, honestly.
  • They showed me all the products available. I honestly didn’t like any of them.

Adverbs of certainty

Ex) definitely, certainly, clearly, obviously, probably, maybe, perhaps

Maybe and perhaps usually go in the front-position:

  • Maybe we’ll go out to eat tonight.
  • Perhaps I should explain further.

Other adverbs of certainty usually go in the mid-position:

  • We’ll probably go out to eat tonight.
  • I should definitely explain further.
  • He clearly made a mistake.
  • That’s certainly not the case.

Emphasizing adverbs

Ex) very, really, extremely, terribly, quite, pretty, almost

These words usually go in the mid-position, immediately before the word that they emphasize.

  • We’re very tired.
  • Their new house is really impressive.
  • He plays the piano extremely badly.
  • This lesson is pretty easy to understand.
  • The employees are terribly underpaid.
  • It’s quite generous of you to let me stay at your house.
  • We almost got lost in the city.

 

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