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Adverbs - Where Should You Put Them?

Adverbs tell us when, why, or how something is done. The role of adverbs is to modify verbs, and others parts of speech; hence the name. The placement of adverbs can change; you can place them before or after the verb they are modifying or they can be separated. However, their syntactical location can change for many reasons.

Most often the adverb follows the verb: “I presented the law accurately.”
It can also come before the verb: “I accurately presented the law.”
The adverb can also come before the subject: “Accurately, I presented the law.”

The last sentence, as you can see, can cause some issues. Many times using an adverb this way can confuse your readers. For example, does the last sentence mean that I was successful in presenting the law with accuracy? Or does it mean that it should be obvious that I presented the law accurately?

When writing a sentence like the last one, you will need to add a sentence before or after it to add context so that your readers understand the sentence the way you intended. Also, watch your punctuation as it can also change the meaning. For example: This sentence differs in sense, “I presented the law, accurately.” from this one: “I presented the law accurately.” The first sentence indicates that the writer believes it is obvious that the law was presented accurately.

Still with me? Great!

Multiple verbs:

When you have a sentence that has multiple verbs, what do you do then? You place the adverb where it will clearly modify the verb. Placement dictates meaning.

For example: “He parked quickly at the movie theater and picked out a candy bar.” If you said: “He quickly parked “or “Quickly, he parked.” You would give the impression that he was racing around looking for a parking spot, or that he took the first spot he saw as he was in a hurry to get into the movie.

If you said: “He parked at the movie theater and quickly picked out a candy bar.” you now show he is hungry or in a rush to buy the candy and not to park.

When editing your writing take note, are you using adverbs to help a weak, verb, or are you adding to the meaning of your sentences? You can use adverbs over and over again, just be sure you are using them to build up your writing and not hide weak choices of verbs.

Happy Writing!

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