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Adverbs with two forms – EFL teaching tips from the experts at EBC

English adverbs with two forms

English has adverbs with two forms. Many adverbs in English come from adjectives but have more than one form which can change the expression in the sentence.

English adverbs with two forms are written as those that end in “ly” and those that don’t.

There is no pattern in this regard to how adverbs with two forms have written forms. It is their use in the context of the sentence that is important.

Read the following sentences.

  • “We work hard during the summer.”

In this sentence, hard is an adverb of manner. It expresses that the people make a lot of effort and comes after the verb.

  • “We hardly work during the summer.”

In this sentence, hardly is an adverb of degree or frequency. It expresses how much or how often people work and comes before the verb.

Sometimes adverbs from the same root can have similar meanings or different meanings. They can also be positioned at different places in the sentence.

Some more examples

Example 1 – high versus highly

  • “John, the new employee is really flying high.”

High is an adverb of manner to suggest how well John is doing in his job.

  • “Since starting the new project, the staff have been highly motivated.”

Highly is an adverb of degree saying how motivated the staff .

Example 2 – fine versus finely

  • “He is doing fine in his new job.”

Fine is an adverb of manner that indicates that he is doing  a good job.

  • “You need to finely detail the contract.”

Finely is an adverb of degree to suggest the contract needs a lot of detail.

Example 3 – late versus lately

  • “I hate it when people arrive late to the meeting.”

Late is an adverb of time to mean beyond the expected time.

  • “What have you been doing lately?”

Lately is also an adverb of time, but in this context it means recently.

Example 4 – most versus mostly

  • “What do you like most about working here?”

Most is an adverb of degree, out of all things which is best.

  • “He has lived in many countries, but mostly in Europe.”

Mostly means generally, mainly or for the most part.

Example 5 – sure versus surely

  • “Can you come with me to the party?”, – “Sure I can!”

Sure is an adverb of agreement to mean yes.

  • Surely you can see that this is a bad idea.”

Surely is an adverb of comment and means that something is obvious.

Example 6 – wide versus widely

  • “Could you tell me why the door to my office is wide open?”

Wide also expresses a degree and here it means fully.

  • “I am lucky enough to have widely travelled throughout Asia.”

Widely is an adverb of degree and expresses how much. In this case, a lot.

Example 7 – wrong versus wrongly

  • “This year started well but then it all went wrong.”

Wrong is also an adverb of manner to suggest that something bad has happened.

  • “I apologise. I wrongly accused you of being lazy.”

Wrongly is an adverb of manner, to mean by mistake.

Example 8 – free versus freely

  • “Despite everyone thinking he was guilty, he walked free from the courtroom.”

Free is adverb of manner. He was not restricted in any way.

  • “He moved freely about the office as if he were the owner.”

Freely is also an adverb of manner. In this sentence it means without problem or limits.

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