An adverb is a word that’s used to give information about a verb, adjective, or other adverb.
When used with a verb, an adverb can give information about:
- how something happens or is done:
She stretched lazily.
He walked slowly.
The town is easily accessible by road.
I live here.
She’s traveling abroad.
The children tiptoed upstairs.
They visited us yesterday.
I have to leave soon.
He still lives in Dallas.
Adverbs can make the meaning of a verb, adjective, or other adverb stronger or weaker:
I almost fell asleep.
He really means it.
These schemes are very clever.
This is a slightly better result.
They nearly always get home late.
The answer to both questions is really rather simple.
Adverbs normally come between the subject and its verb:
She carefully avoided my eye.
They also come between an auxiliary verb (such as be or have) and a main verb:
The concert was suddenly canceled.
Some adverbs refer to a whole statement and not just a part of it. They are called sentence adverbs and they act as a sort of comment, showing the attitude or opinion of the speaker or writer.
Sentence adverbs often stand at the beginning of the sentence:
Clearly, there have been unacceptable delays. [sentence adverb]
(i.e., it is clear that there have been unacceptable delays)
Sadly, the forests are now under threat. [sentence adverb]
(i.e., it is sad that the forests are now under threat)
If you compare the way clearly and sadly are used in the next two sentences, you can easily see the difference between the meaning of the sentence adverbs and the 'ordinary' adverbs:
He spoke clearly and with conviction. [adverb]
(i.e., he spoke in a clear way and with conviction)
She smiled sadly. [adverb]
(i.e., she smiled in a sad way)
Hopefully and thankfully
Sentence adverbs are well established in English, but there are two—hopefully and thankfully—that have caused a lot of controversy. Take a look at these sentences:
Hopefully, the work will be finished within the next two or three weeks.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait long.
Many people are convinced that it’s wrong to use hopefully or thankfully in this way. What’s the problem? Well, many sentence adverbs, like clearly and sadly, can be rewritten as ‘it is clear/sad/unfortunate/regrettable/etc., that ....,’ as we saw above. You can’t do this with hopefully and thankfully. If you wanted to rewrite the two previous sentences, you couldn’t say:
X It is hopeful that the work will be finished within the next two or three weeks.
X It is thankful that we didn’t have to wait long.
You’d need to choose a different wording, for example:
It is to be hoped that the work will be finished within the next two or three weeks.
As luck would have it, we didn’t have to wait long.
In fact, there are no very strong grammatical grounds for criticizing the use of hopefully and thankfully as sentence adverbs: there aren't any rules that ban this sort of development of meaning. And there are other adverbs that behave in the same way but which haven’t attracted the same level of condemnation—e.g., frankly or briefly:
Frankly, I was pleased to leave.
(i.e., to be frank, I was pleased to leave)
Briefly, the plot is as follows.
(i.e., to be brief, the plot is as follows)
Nevertheless, you should be aware that some people strongly object to the use of hopefully and thankfully as sentence adverbs. In view of this, it’s a good idea to be cautious about using them in formal writing such as job applications, in case your reader happens to be one of those people.