Commonly Confusing Adverbs: Explained with Rules

Good knowledge of rules of grammar and their correct usage in right perspective, Is the only way of attempting the questions relating to the spotting errors.

1. Fairly/Rather -

Fairly is used with favourable adjectives and adverbs while rather is used before unfavourable adjectives and adverbs.
Example a) Ram is fairly clevr, but Ramesh is rather foolish.
b) Ram walks fairly fast, but Anil walks rather slowly.

Rather when used before alike, like similar, different etc. and before comparatives, means a little or slightly.
Examples a) These cats are rather like cubs in some ways.
b) The weather was rather hot than we had expected.

2. Hardly/Scarcely/Barely -

The adverbs: hardly, scarcely and barely are almost negative (almost not) in meaning. ‘Hardly’ is usually used with ‘any’, ever ‘, at all , or the verb ‘can’
Examples a) She has hardly any money (very little money)
b) We hardly ever go out, (We very seldom go out)
One should not be confused with adverbs ‘hard’ ‘hardly.
Examples a) He looked hard at it, (He stared at it)
b) She hardly looked at me.
(She gave me only a brief glance or didn’t look)
Scarcely means ‘almost not’ and can replace ‘hardly’ as used above.
But scarcely is usually used to mean not quite
Example : There Were scarcely ten people in the meeting. (probably fewer)
Barely means ‘not more than’ I only just
Examples a) His voice was barely audible. (It was only just audible)
b) There were barely ten people in the meeting. (only just ten)

3. Yet/Still –

Both are adverbs of time. Yet means up to the time of speaking. It is used with the negative or interrogative.
Still emphasizes that the action continues. It is mainly used with the affirmative or interrogative. It can also be used with the negative to emphasize the continuance of an action.

Examples a) He hasn’t completed (his work) yet.
b) He hasn’t yet applied for the licence I told him about.
c) He is still in bed.
d) Has she come? Not yet.
e) The Jeep hasn’t arrived yet.

Yet is normally placed after verb or after verb + Object. It the object consists of a large number of words yet can be placed before the verb also.
Example Still is placed after the verb ‘be’ but before other verbs.

4. Since/Ever Since -

Since and Ever since are used with Perfect Tenses. Since can be placed after the auxiliary or in end position after a negative or interrogative verb; Ever Since (adverb) is usually placed in end position.
Phrases and clauses with since and ever since are usually in end position though front position is also possible
Examples a) I first met her three years ago and have remembered her face ever since.
b) He’s been in bed since his accident.

5. Somehow/Anyhow -

Somehow ( means in some way or other) can be placed in the front position or after a verb without object or after the object.
Examples a) Somehow they managed.
b) I wasn’t qualified to apply for this job really but I got it anyhow.
Anyhow is an adverb of manner. It is often used to mean in any case/anyway.

6. Too –

Too is different from ‘very’ Too means ‘excess’ (more than enough’ or more than necessary’ or more than is wanted)
Example - He is too weak to walk.
  • We can use an infinitive structure after too+adjective/adverb/determiner. Example - She is too old to work. 
  • If the infinitive has its own subject, this is introduced by for. 
  • Example - It’s too late for the shops to be opened. 
  • The subject of a sentence with too can also be the object of the following infinitive . Object pronouns are not normally used after the infinitive in such cases. 
Example – The water is too hot to drink. (Correct)
The water is too hot to drink it. (Incorrect)
However, object pronouns are possible in this atructures with for.

Example The water is too hot for us to drink (it).
The two possible meanings of sentences like.
Example a) He’s too stupid to teach (=He’s too stupid to be a teacher)
b) He’s too stupid for anyone to teach (=He can’t be taught.)
  • Too is not normally used before adjective +noun. 
Example I put down the bag because it was too heavy. (Correct)
I put down the too heavy bag . (Incorrect)
In a rather formal style, ‘too’ can be used before adjective +a/an+noun.
Examples a) It’s too cold a day to go out.
b) He was too clever a businessman to accept the offer initially. (It means: As a businessman he was too clever to accept the offer initially.)

7. Too/Too much

Before adjectives without nouns and before adverbs, we use too, not too much.
Examples a) You’re too kind to me. (Correct)
You’re too much kind to me. (Incorect)
b) I arrived too early. (Correct)
I arrived too much early (Incorrect)

8. Much/Very -

Generally, participles are modified by much and adjectives by very. Certain participles which have largely lost their verbal force and are felt to be adjectival however, take very
Examples a) The law has been much abused (Participle)
b) Her dress was much admired (Participle)
c) It is a very good book. (Adjective)
d) This is a very old building. (Adjective)
e) She is a very clever girl. (Adjective)

Conversely, participles used before a noun to make a compound adjective with a modifying adverb, take much a much abused privilege, a much travelled person, a much discussed question.

9. Seldom –

Seldom is an adverb. We may say I seldom go to London, but not my visits to London are seldom; for here we are treating the word as a predicative adjective. It can be used after a verb in this way (and then as an adverb) only in the following types of construction.
(i) After It is After It is (was), and followed by a that-clause in apposition to the anticipatory pronoun it.
Example – It is seldom that we get such an opportunity as this

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