How to Identify Adverbs for the Praxis Core Exam - dummies

How to Identify Adverbs for the Praxis Core Exam

By Carla Kirkland, Chan Cleveland

You will see adverbs on the Praxis Core exam. Adverbs can modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs — and they don’t need to be anywhere near the words they modify to get the job done. All things considered, adverbs are probably the most versatile part of speech.

They can look many different ways, they can perform many different jobs, and they can appear just about anywhere in the sentence. In short, whenever you find yourself looking at a word and wondering “What the heck part of speech is this word?” the safe bet is that it’s an adverb.

Just consider the following three correct sentences:

I studied tirelessly all night. (Tirelessly is an adverb modifying the verb studied.)

The movie was very sad. (Very is an adverb modifying the adjective sad.)

I handled the dynamite extremely gently. (Extremely is an adverb modifying the other adverb gently, which is modifying the verb handled.)

In those examples, two of the adverbs end in “-ly,” and the one that doesn’t is still fairly easy to spot as an adverb, because very means the same thing as extremely.

But adverbs can disguise themselves much more confusingly than that. They can even look like nouns. For example, in the sentence “I’m going to a concert tonight,” the word tonight is an adverb. Why? Because it is doing the job of an adverb.

If you were asked to describe what the word tonight is doing in that sentence, you’d probably say that it’s modifying (or adding more information to) the word going (namely, it answers the question of when the speaker is going). And because going is a verb, the word that modifies it must therefore be an adverb.

When it comes to adverbs, be aware that they are masters of disguise. Never try to pick out adverbs based on what they look like. Instead, look at what the word in question is modifying. If it’s modifying a verb, an adjective, or another adverb, it’s an adverb, no matter what it looks like.

In cases where the word looks so little like an adverb that you simply can’t believe it is one, a good way to double-check is to substitute a word that does look like an adverb and see whether it can do the same job.

For example, if you alter the sentence “I’m going to a concert tonight” to read “I’m going to a concert excitedly” or “I’m going to a concert cheerfully,” you can see that all three sentences are grammatically correct and that excitedly and cheerfully are clearly adverbs. Therefore, tonight must be an adverb too, because it occupies the space in the sentence that needs to be occupied by an adverb.

Please indicate which, if any, of the underlined portions contains an error.

We had a rough A time trying to figure out which of the generally B quiet C children had been constant D making noise. No error. E

The correct answer is Choice (D). Making is a verb, so it should be modified with an adverb instead of an adjective: constantly instead of constant. Choice (A) is wrong because rough, as an adjective, correctly modifies the noun time.

Choice (B) is wrong because generally, as an adverb, correctly modifies the adjective quiet. Choice (C) is wrong because quiet, as an adjective, correctly modifies the noun children. Choice (E) is wrong because the sentence does, in fact, contain an error.