Spanish Adverbs: An Easy Guide for Beginners | My Daily Spanish
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Spanish Adverbs: An Easy Guide for Beginners

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spanish adverbs

Welcome to this article where we’ll talk about how Spanish adverbs work.

What is an adverb? 

When we think of adverbs, we usually think of words that modify verbs. But did you know they can actually also modify participles, adjectives, and even other adverbs?!

Spanish adverbs of manner

The main type of adverb that people think of is adverbs of manner. They describe how something is being done. In English, they often end in ‘-ly,’ e.g. ‘quickly,’ ‘gently,’ ‘noisily,’ ‘smoothly,’ ‘tactfully.’ In Spanish, they often end in -mente.

The general rule for forming adverbs is this:

  1. 1
    Start with an adjective.
  2. 2
    Put it in its feminine form (if it has separate masculine and feminine forms).
  3. 3
    Add the suffix -mente.

These examples show you how it’s done.

perfecto (m) --> perfecta (f) --> perfectamente

rápido (m) --> rápida (f) --> rápidamente

suave (m) --> suave (f) --> suavemente

Here are some sentences with adverbs in them:

Te entiendo perfectamente.I understand you perfectly.
Bailas exquisitamente. You dance exquisitely.
El periodista escribe que, económicamente, el país está en peligro.The journalist writes that, economically, the country is in danger.
¡Vamos inmediatamente a la playa!We’re going to the beach immediately!
Si cantáis ruidosamente por la noche, no puedo dormir.If you sing noisily at night time, I can’t sleep.
Los niños están leyendo silenciosamente.The children are reading silently.

Not all adverbs end in -mente. Two of the adverbs that you’ll use the most are bien and mal. It is possible but very very uncommon to say “buenamente” or “malamente.” Imagine it being as unnatural as a native English-speaker saying “goodly.”

AdjectiveAdverb
Bueno/a (good)Bien (well)
Malo/a (bad)Mal (badly)

Check out these sentences:

Soy un cantante bueno.I am a good singer.
Canto bien.I sing well.
Es una cocinera mala.She’s a bad cook.
Cocina mal.She cooks badly.

Here are some other important ones:

mejorbetter
peorworse
muchomuch/a lot
pocolittle/not much

Now in context:

Hoy me siento mejor que ayer.Today I feel better than yesterday.
Te ves peor.You look worse.
Gano mucho dinero.I earn a lot of money.
Gasto poco dinero.I spend little money.

Adverbial phrases of manner

Sometimes, it may sound more natural to use an adverbial phrase than to add -mente to an adjective. For example, in an earlier example, we could have said:

Los niños están leyendo en silencio. (The children are reading in silence.)

The more Spanish you read, the more of these phrases you’ll pick up! They’re great alternatives to use when you’ve already used a lot of -mente in your writing! Here are a few more examples to get you started:
a diariodaily
Practico el español a diario.I practice Spanish daily.
a escondidassecretly
Los niños comieron los caramelos a escondidas. Sus padres no sospechaban nada.The kids ate the candies secretly. Their parents suspected nothing.
a manoby hand
No voy a comprarlo. Voy a hacerlo a mano.I’m not going to buy it. I’m going to make it by hand.
a menudooften
Ceno a menudo con Phoebe.I often have dinner with Phoebe.
a oscurasin the dark
Tenemos que salir a oscuras para que nadie nos vea.We have to leave in the dark so nobody sees us.
a propósitodeliberately
¡Mamá, Tomás me pegó a propósito!Mummy, Tomás hit me on purpose!
a regañadientesreluctantly
Fui a regañadientes al trabajo.I went to work reluctantly.
con frecuenciafrequently
Es normal orinar con frecuencia.It’s normal to urinate frequently.
de prisahurriedly
Escribí el poema de prisa.I wrote the poem hurriedly.
de verdadgenuinely
Te amo de verdad.I genuinely love you.
en confianzaconfidentially
Te digo esto en confianza, ¿vale?I’m telling you this in confidence, okay?
en seguidaright away
Ven aquí en seguida.Come here immediately.
en serioseriously
No bromeaba. Hablaba en serio.He wasn’t joking. He was talking seriously.

Spanish adverbs of place

Adverbs of place tell us where something is. Think of them as modifying the verb estar.

aquíhere
ahíthere (where the listener is)
allíthere (further away, not near the speaker or the listener)
Mi libro está aquí/ahí/allí.My book is here/there/way over there.
acáhere (used in much of Latin America)
alláover there (used in Latin America more than in Spain)
El gato está acá/allá.The cat is here/over there.
dentro (de)inside (of)
fuera (de)outside (of)
Estamos dentro de/fuera de la estación.We’re inside/outside the station.
delante (de)in front (of)
detrás (de)behind
Están fumando delante de/detrás de la biblioteca.They are smoking in front of/behind the library.
arribaupstairs
abajo downstairs
Vete arriba/abajo.Go upstairs/downstairs.
cerca (de)near (to)
lejos (de)far (from)
Estamos cerca de/lejos de la peluquería.We are close to/far from the salon.

Adverbs of time and frequency

Lots of the words we use to denote time and frequency are adverbs.

hoytoday
Hoy voy a bailar.Today I’m going to dance.
mañanatomorrow
Lo haré mañana.I’ll do it tomorrow.
ayeryesterday
¿Con quién estuviste ayer?Who were you with yesterday?
antesbefore
Él había terminado antes.He had finished earlier/before.
despuésafter
Después cenaremos.We’ll have dinner after.
ya now/already
Llegaron ya.They arrived already.
todavía/aúnstill/yet
Harold todavía no me ha devuelto el dinero.Harold still hasn’t returned the money to me.
reciénrecently (Spain)
just now/only now (Latin America)
Es un bebé recién nacido.It’s a newborn baby.
prontosoon/quickly
El Papá Noel vendrá pronto.Santa Claus is coming soon.
luegonext/afterwards
A las ocho fui al gimnasio. Luego fui al supermercado.At eight I went to the gym. Then I went to the supermarket.
entoncesthen/at that moment
Ayer mi novia me miró a los ojos y prometió apoyarme durante mi enfermedad, y entonces supe que la quería.Yesterday my girlfriend looked me in the eye and promised to support me through my illness, and at that moment I knew that I loved her.
siemprealways
April siempre ayuda a los demás.April always helps others.
nuncanever
No me escuchas nunca.You never listen to me.

Intensifiers

These four words are some of the most common adverbs in Spanish. They can be used to increase or reduce the intensity of something.

muyvery
bastantesomewhat, i.e. pretty (US) or quite (UK)
casialmost
demasiadotoo

Here they are in context.

Estoy muy emocionada.I’m very excited.
El edificio es bastante viejo.The building is pretty old.
Hablas casi perfectamente el francés.You speak French almost perfectly.
Es demasiado grande.It’s too big.

Top tip: to avoid using muy all the time, try a substitute. Let’s take the following sentence as an example:

Mi hermano es muy listo. (My brother is very intelligent.)

The word muy here is modifying the adjective listo. It could be replaced with pretty much anything from the following list, and still make sense. It’s a case of choosing the one that fits best, without sounding over the top!
excepcionalmenteexceptionally
extraordinariamenteextraordinarily
fenomenalmentephenomenally
increíblementeincredibly
sumamenteextremely
tremendamentetremendously
sinceramentetruly

Muy bien...

Well done for making it to the end of this lesson, whether you did it felizmente or a regañadientes! We look forward to seeing you next time!

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About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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