What Is an Adverb of Quantity?

C.J. Wells

The function of an adverb in a sentence is to modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb. An adverb of quantity is an adverb that concerns itself with how many. Common quantifying adverbs include words such as "all," "both," "many," "every" and "some." Adverbs are easy to recognize because they commonly end in “-ly,” such as in "slowly," "happily" or "prudently." This is not always the case, however, and this is especially true of an adverb of quantity, because no adverb of quantity ends in “-ly.”

A writer who lacks confidence that the sentence can speak for itself may use globally qualifying adverbs, like “basically.”.
A writer who lacks confidence that the sentence can speak for itself may use globally qualifying adverbs, like “basically.”.

Adverbs are one of the eight parts of speech. They are modifiers, meaning they are responsible for enhancing, clarifying, specifying or even exaggerating a sentence’s verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They have a descriptive function, so they are often confused with adjectives. Adjectives, however, modify only nouns or other adjectives. Quite simply: adjectives do not modify adverbs, and adverbs do not modify nouns.

Aside from “how many,” an adverb can tell the reader where, when and how. There are four main categories of adverbs. Adverbs of manner describe how someone or something behaves, such as "suspiciously," "angrily" or "carefully." Adverbs of place describe where, such as "inside" or "nearby." An adverb of frequency describes how often, such as "sometimes" or "always." Adverbs of time tell the reader when, such as "soon," "today" or "tomorrow."

And adverb of quantity does not belong to a major category of adverbs but rather to a small subset of adverbs. Depending on an adverb of quantity’s usage, this specific modifier of verbs, nouns or adjectives can fall within the larger categories of either adverbs of time or adverbs of frequency. Both time and frequency can be quantified, but manner and place lend themselves to other categories of adverbs.

Adverbs, because of their versatility and because they are widely used in speech, are often overused in writing. An adjective modifies a noun or another adjective that is modifying a noun, so an adjective is often placed alongside the noun it modifies. Adverbs, on the other hand, because they modify different kinds of words, phrases and even whole sentences, are often misplaced. An adverb of quantity is an exception because it is less likely to be misplaced or overused like the common “-ly” adverbs. Quantifying adverbs tend to be placed in a sentence close to the word or group of words that they are modifying.

Perhaps the most egregiously overused adverb is one that comes at the start of a sentence and therefore modifies everything that comes after it, such as "apparently," "significantly" or "basically." This kind of adverb tells the reader how he or she is to respond to the entirety of the sentence. A writer who lacks confidence that the sentence can speak for itself often uses these globally qualifying adverbs.

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