Parts of speech – verbs and adverbs

Verbs and adverbs, nouns and adjectives – how can you tell the difference?

The most frequent AQE test question about parts of speech involves a table. You will be given four words that appear in the passage you’ve read. You will need to tick which type of word each one is, based on reading the passage. Is it a noun, verb, adjective or adverb? Usually there will be one word of each type in the  question.

This is all about identifying verbs and adverbs. These two parts of speech go together, because adverbs are used to describe verbs. Here’s how to tell the difference.



Verbs are DOING or BEING words. That means they tell you about an action or a state of being.

Every sentence has a verb.

There are great clues that can tell you if a word is a verb –

  • if it’s an action, it’s a verb – she ran, they yawn.
  • many verbs end with -ed, -ate, -ing, -ise, -ify, -en.
  • to HAVE is a verb – I have, they had.
  • to DO is a verb – we do, she did.
  • to BE is a verb – I am, they were, he is.



Adverbs tell you more about verbs. They often tell you more about how an action is done.

Mostly they tell you HOW – quickly, cleverly, suddenly. These are the easiest adverbs to recognise.

If you’re not sure what type of word it is, or what it means, but it ends in –ly, then it’s clever to guess that it’s an adverb.

Tricky adverbs

Sometimes an adverb tells you WHEN or WHERE – yesterday, tomorrow, soon.

Sometimes an adverb will tell you HOW OFTEN or HOW MUCH – always, sometimes.

Clues for adverbs –

  • lots of adverbs end in -ly.
  • they are “jumpy” words – you can sometimes move them around in a sentence and it will still make sense.
  • they tell you HOW, when, where, how often or how much (HOW is the most common).


Try our parts of speech quiz, and see how many verbs and adverbs you can identify.


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