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What Is an Irregular Adverb?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

An irregular adverb is a word that describes how an action is performed, but which does not take on the regular form of most adverbs. Adjectives and adverbs both describe other types of words; while adjectives typically describe a noun, an adverb is primarily used to describe a verb. Most adverbs are formed through the modification of an adjective using the suffix “-ly,” such as the adjective “quick” that is used to form the adverb “quickly.” An irregular adverb, however, still serves the same function of any other adverb, but does not take this usual form and can include words like “well."

It is typically easiest for someone to understand what an irregular adverb is by first fully understanding the function and form of adverbs in general. The basic use of an adverb is similar to that of an adjective, in that both of these types of words are used to describe other words. An adjective is commonly used to describe a noun, usually coming before the noun that it describes in a sentence. This can be seen in a sentence like “The happy cat walked into the room,” in which “cat” is the noun that is described by the adjective “happy.”

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

An adverb, including an irregular adverb, is similar in function to an adjective, though it can be used differently within a sentence. While an adjective describes a noun, adverbs describe verbs or actions in a sentence, and they do not have to immediately precede the action described but can be moved within a sentence. The adverb in a sentence like “The happy cat walked quickly into the room,” is the word “quickly,” which describes the verb “walked.” It can be moved before the verb or even to the end of the sentence as “The happy cat walked into the room quickly.”

This similarity between adjectives and adverbs is important because most adverbs are formed by simply using an adjective and adding the suffix “-ly” to the end of it. Adjectives like “genuine” or “happy” can be changed into the adverbs “genuinely” and “happily.” Irregular adverbs, however, cannot be formed in this way and so while they serve the same function as regular ones, they can be confusing or difficult to use for many English speakers.

Common mistakes occur due to an irregular adverb that retains the exact same form as the adjective itself. This includes words like “daily,” “hard,” and “late” in which the same word form can be used as either an adjective or adverb. Another frequent mistake arises from the adjective “good” which may be incorrectly used as an adverb. While the adverbial form of this concept is an irregular adverb, it does not use the same form as the adjective, but instead changes to “well.” The statement, “The good pitcher threw the ball well,” properly uses “good” to describe the pitcher and “well” to describe the action of throwing.

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      Woman standing behind a stack of books