Adverbs in Spanish Grammar

What is an adverb?

In Spanish, adverbs (los adverbios) are words that describe a verb, an adjective or another adverb. Adverbs do not agree in terms of gender or number.

Examples:
El gato duerme plácidamente en el sillón. (verb + adverb)The cat sleeps peacefully in the armchair.
El gato está muy tranquilo. (adverb + adjective)The cat is very quiet.
El gato ronronea bastante fuerte. (adverb + adverb)The cat purrs quite loudly.

Adverb can give information about the degree or manner in which an action occurs as well as the time and place. Read more about the different types of adverbs in Spanish grammar.

Example

El gato de Lucía duerme plácidamente en el sillón.

Normalmente, duerme en el sofá junto a la ventana.

Ronronea muy fuerte mientras está dormido cuando sueña con un buen tazón de leche.

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Position of adverbs

Normally, adverbs come after a verb or before an adjective or adverb. However, they can also come at the beginning of the sentence. Learn more about the position of adverbs in Spanish sentences.

Examples:
El gato de Lucía duerme plácidamente en el sillón.Lucía’s cat is sleeping peacefully in the armchair.
Normalmente, el gato duerme en el sofá junto a la ventana.Normally, the cat sleeps on the sofa next to the window.

Comparative adverbs

Like adjectives, adverbs can be used in comparative and superlative forms to express different degrees of intensity (e.g. more, the most, etc.).

Example:
El gato de Marta ronronea más fuerte que el gato de Lucía.Marta’s cat purrs more loudly than Lucía’s cat.

Learn how to form and use the comparative and superlative forms of Spanish adverbs.

What’s the difference between adverbs and adjectives?

Sometimes it is difficult to tell if the word following a verb is an adjective or an adverb. This happens because Spanish has some adjectives and adverbs that are written in an identical way.

Examples:
El gato come rápido. (adverb)The cat eats quickly.
El gato es rápido. (adjective)The cat is quick.

There are two key things that tell us if a word is an adverb or an adjective.

  • Adverbs refer to verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Adjectives only refer to nouns.
    Examples:
    El gato come rápido.The cat eats quickly.
    The adverb rápido refers to the verb comer.
    El gato come muy rápido.The cat eats very quickly.
    The adverb muy refers to the adverb rápido.
    El gato es rápido.The cat is quick.
    The adjective rápido refers to the noun gato.
    El gato es muy rápido.The cat is very quick.
    The adverb muy refers to the adjective rápido.
  • Adjectives change their endings to agree with the noun they modify in terms of gender and number, while adverbs never change.
    Examples:
    El gato come rápido. / La gata come rápido. / Los gatos comen rápido. → adverbThe cat eats quickly. / The (female) cat eats quickly. / The cats eat quickly.
    El gato es rápido. / La gata es rápida. / Los gatos son rápidos. → adjectiveThe cat is quick. / The (female) cat is quick. / The cats are quick.

Another reason why adverbs and adjectives are often confused in Spanish is that adverbs are formed using an adjective as their base. In Spanish these two types of adverbs are known as adverbios derivados and adverbios adjetivales.

Adverbs that end in -mente

The Spanish adverbs that are easiest to recognise are those that end in -mente. These adverbs are formed using the feminine form of the adjective as a base plus the ending -mente. Learn more about how to form Spanish adverbs.

Examples:
tranquilo → tranquila → tranquilamentequiet → quietly
El viajero camina tranquilamente.The traveller is walking quietly.

Short adverbs

Short adverbs (adverbios adjetivales) are those that look the same as adjectives. They are formed using the masculine singular form of the adjective. These adverbs are usually abbreviations of adverbs that end in -mente.

Examples:
rápido, limpioquick, clean
Las niñas corren rápido. (Las niñas corren rápidamente).The girls run quickly.
In this example, rápido is not an adjective because it does not agree in gender and number with the noun it describes (niñas).

Verbs and adverbs that go together

The table below gives an overview of verbs and adverbs that most frequently appear together.

Verb Adverb Example
arrojar, colocar, poner, volarthrow, place, put, fly alto, bajohigh, low La avioneta vuela muy bajo.The small plane is flying very low.
cantar, conversar, decir, hablar, llamar, pronunciarsing, chat, say, speak, call, pronounce alto, bajo, fuerte, recio, claroloudly, quietly, harshly, clearly Mi vecina canta muy alto.My neighbour sings very loudly.
comprar, venderbuy, sell barato, carocheaply/affordably, expensive(ly) Nunca he comprado tan barato.I’ve never shopped so cheaply.
pasar(lo), sentirsespend time, feel bárbarogreat Nos lo hemos pasado bárbaro.We had a great time.
oír, verhear, see claroclearly Yo lo veo claro.I see it clearly.
caminar, continuar, ir, salir, seguir, venirwalk, continue, go, leave, keep, come derecho, recto, rápido, despaciostraight (on), quickly, slowly Después de trabajar iré derecho a casa.After work I’m going straight home.
pensar, opinarthink, believe distintodifferently Sobre ese tema, ella piensa distinto.She thinks differently about this topic.
trabajarwork duro, fuertehard Los empleados trabajan muy duro.The employees work very hard.
dar, pegarstrike, hit durohard Dale duro al clavo con el martillo para meterlo bien.Hit the nail hard with the hammer to get it right.
ir, pasar, oírgo, spend time, hear fatalbadly Mis abuelos oyen fatal.My grandparents hear badly.
mirarlook fijointently, carefully Es difícil mirar fijo a los ojos de alguien.It’s difficult to look intently into someone else’s eyes.
pisarstep fuerte, firmehard, firmly Pisa fuerte para no resbalarte.Step hard so that you don’t slip.
granizar, llover, nevar, tronarhail, rain, snow, thunder fuerteheavily, hard Hoy nieva muy fuerte.Today it’s snowing heavily.
calar, clavar, enterrar, respirar, herirtouch/make an impression, nail, bury, breathe, injure hondodeeply Esa película me ha calado muy hondo.That film touched me deeply.
conversar, hablarchat, talk largo (y tendido)long He hablado largo y tendido con mi jefe.Today I had a long talk with my boss.
abrir, conocer, enterarse (de), escribir, hablar, levantarse, llegar, pensar, poseer, trabajar, subiropen, know, find out, write, talk, get up, arrive, think, own, work, go up primero, rápido, pronto, tempranofirst, quickly, early Todos se han enterado rápido de la noticia.Everyone learned of the news quickly.

More about Spanish adverbs

The following pages offer more information about adverbs as well as exercises where you can test your knowledge.