Proper Use of Adverbs  

Spanish Adverbs



Adverbs are words and expressions that 'modify' verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. That is, they 'add information' about actions/events (verbs), descriptions of things (adjectives) or descriptions of events (adverbs).

Form: Like adjectival phrases, adverbial expressions can take various forms

1. Simple Adverbs: ahora = 'now', apenas = 'hardly', etc.

2. Prepositional Phrases: para siempre = 'forever', con cuidado = 'carefully', etc.

3. Present Participle Phrases express the "manner" in which an action takes place:

Los niños salieron corriendo y gritando. = 'The kids left running and screaming.'
Entraron rompiendo la ventana. = 'They entered (by) breaking the window.'

4. Adverbial Clauses are introduced by adverbial conjunctions and express many meanings
(space, time, manner, cause/purpose/reason, condition/circumstance, etc.)

Se van porque están aburridos. = 'They are leaving because they are bored.'
Te ayudo para que pases el examen. = 'I help you so that you pass the test.' [reason]


Adverbial expressions fall into a number of identifiable meaning classes. The next section presents a few examples in each of the major meaning categories.

Hacer + time expressions are an important adverbials, so they receive some special attention below.


When adverbs modify 'verbs', they usually give one of the following types of information about the action or event. We can give here only a few examples of each class:

1. Space/Location/Direction:

aquí = 'here', allí = 'there', acá = (to/over/around) here', allá = '(to/over) there'arriba = 'above', overhead, upstairs', abajo = 'below, down (there), downstairs', adentro = 'inside / within, 'indoors', afuera = 'outside, outdoors', cerca = 'nearby', lejos = 'far way.

2. Time:

a. Calendar time:

hoy = 'today', esta mañana = 'this morning', esta tarde = 'this afternoon', esta noche = 'this evening/tonight', ayer = 'yesterday', ayer por la manana/tarde/noche = 'yesterday morning/afternoon/evening', anoche = 'last night', anteayer = 'yesterday', pasado mañana = 'the day after tomprrow', la semana entrante = 'next week'/'the coming week', el mes/año que viene = 'next month/year' / 'the coming month/year', de hoy/mañana en ocho = 'a week from today/tomorrow'

b. Immediacy/Timeliness:

ahora = 'now', ahorita = 'right now (speech), ahora mismo = 'right away', enseguida = 'right away', pronto = 'soon', temprano = 'early', tarde = 'late', a tiempo = 'on time', antes = 'earlier/before'

c. Frequency:

(casi) siempre = '(almost) always', frecuentemente = 'frequently', a menudo = 'often', a veces = at times/sometimes, de vez en cuando = 'from time to time', rara vez = 'seldom/rarely', (casi) nunca = '(almost) never, dos veces a la semana/al mes = 'two times a week/month'.

d. Duration:

para siempre = 'forever', de hoy en adelante = 'from today on', durante various años = 'for/during several years', por dos días = 'for two days, a lo largo del día = 'throughout the day, a través de los años = 'throughout the years', hace mucho tiempo que [+present/imperfect] = '[present/imperfect] for a long time'.

3. Manner: An important meaning class indicates how an action/event takes place. Many manner adverbs are derived from adjectives by adding -mente = '-ly'.

Adjective: El caballo es rápido. = 'The horse is fast.'
Adverb: Corre rapidamente. = 'It runs fast/quickly.'
Adjective: Los accidentes son frecuentes. = 'Accidents are frequent.'
Adverb: Ocurren frecuentemente. = 'they occur often/frequently.'
Adjective: El examen fue fácil. = 'The test was easy.'
Adverb; Lo pasamos fácilmente. = 'But we passed it easily.'

Note the change of vowel in the first example [rapido  rapidamente].

4. Cause/Reason/Purpose/End/Result

Lo hicimos por miedo. = 'We did it out of fear.'
Se van porque están aburridos. = 'They are leaving because they are bored.'
Te ayudo para que pases el examen. = 'I help you so that you pass the test.' [reason]
Llegaron, de modo que pudimos irnos. = 'They arrived, so we could leave.'

5. Condition/Proviso/Circumstance

Vamos a menos que llueva. = 'We are going unless it rains.'
Trabajaremos con tal de que nos paguen. = 'We will work provided that they pay us.'

6. Degree: When adverbs modify adjectives or other adverbs, they do so in terms of "degree"; that is, they answer the question 'how big/fast/etc.' A useful set of 'degree' adverbs are presented on the following scale:

demasiado caliente = 'too hot, sumamente pelogroso = 'highly dangerous', extremadamente difícil = 'extremely difficult', muy interesante = 'very interesting', bastante rico = 'quite/rather rich' / 'rich enough', un poco testarrudo = 'a little/somewhat stubborn', más o menos honesto = more or less honest', algo curioso = 'somewhat odd'/strange, poco útil = of little use', muy poco trabajador = 'not very hardworking' , demasiado poco frecuente = "too infrequently'. Note that, although the adverbs demasiado/muy can modify poco; they can never modify mucho: muy mucho, demasiado mucho.

7. Limit: Some adverbs imply the presence of a limit:

casi = 'almost', apenas = 'hardly'

8. Phase/Aspect:

ya = 'already', ya no = 'no longer/not any more', ahora = 'now', ahora no = 'not now', todavía = 'still', todavía no = 'not yet'.

Popular Phrase: sentences with time | Spanish for Kids | Conjugated Verb: fundir - to melt [ click for full conjugation ]