Introduction to Spanish Adverbs

Two people hugging License

Like adjectives, adverbs are words that often are used to provide needed details in speech and writing. Although we could make grammatically complete sentences without them, we would be severely limited in what we could convey.

Spanish adverbs are much like their English counterparts. There are at least two ways in which you can define what adverbs are:

  • Words that tell us when, how or where the action or process in a sentence takes place.
  • Words that modify or limit the meaning of a verb, adjective, adverb or entire sentence.

A look at the examples below should make clear what types of words we're talking about.

As in English, most adverbs are derived from adjectives. In Spanish, most adverbs that are derived from adjectives end in -mente, just as in English most end in "-ly." Following are the most common types of adverbs.

Spanish Adverbs Examples

Adverbs of manner: Adverbs of manner are the most common and are used in a wide variety of situations, as they tell how something is done. In Spanish, they typically come after the verbs they modify.

  • Estudia bien. (She studies well.)
  • Canta mal. (He sings poorly.)
  • Conduce lentamente. (He drives slowly.)
  • Me abrazó cariñosamente. (She affectionately hugged me.)
  • Leo mucho. (I read a lot.)

Intensifiers and modifiers: These serve to make the adverb or adjective they modify either more or less intense. They come before the words they modify.

  • Estoy muy cansada. (I am very tired.)
  • Es poco inteligente. (He is not very intelligent.)
  • Está más borracho. (He is quite drunk.)

"Point of view" adverbs: These adverbs modify an entire sentence and evaluate it. Although they usually come at the beginning of a sentence, they don't have to.

  • Quizás él tenga miedo. (Perhaps he is afraid.)
  • Personalmente, no lo creo. (Personally, I don't believe it.)
  • Pablo evidentemente estudia mucho. (Pablo obviously studies a lot.)

Adverbs of time: These adverbs tell when something occurs. They often come after the verb.

  • Salimos mañana. (We're leaving tomorrow.)
  • No estudia nunca. (He never studies.)

Adverbs of place: These adverbs tell where an action or process occurs. They can be confusing for beginning learners, since many of the adverbs that indicate place can also function as prepositions or even as pronouns. Adverbs of place appear either before or after the verb they modify. It is more important in Spanish than in English to make certain that the adverb is placed close to the verb it modifies.

  • Está aquí. (It is here.)
  • Allí comeremos. (We'll eat there.)
  • Te busca arriba. (He is looking for you upstairs.)