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Forming Adverbs in Spanish

written by: djthyberg • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 8/2/2012

Teaching students how to form adverbs in Spanish is fairly simple if you show them some basic guidelines. Taking common adjectives and turning them into adverbs can be done by following a formula. This class activity outlines some easy steps for introducing adverb formation to your Spanish class.

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    Here, we are looking at "la formación de los adverbios" (the formation of adverbs). Beginnining Spanish students should understand that adverbs serve as modifiers. They can modify the meaning of a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a preposition, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence. Adverbs are used for expressing some relation of manner or quality, place, time, degree, number, cause, opposition, affirmation, or denial.

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    Formation Guidelines

    Explain to your students that forming adverbs is not as complicated as it may seem. There is a simple formula that will help them to turn adjectives into adverbs.

    In English, adverbs generally take an "-ly" ending as in "gently, slowly, and easily." Adverbs may be formed in Spanish by adding the ending "–mente" to the feminine form of practically any adjective. For instance, the adjective "directo/a" (direct) is converted into the adverb "directamente" (directly).

    If the adjective has only one form rather than both masculine and feminine forms, the same rule applies. Simply add "-mente" to the end of the word to construct the adverb. For example, the adjective "feliz" (happy) is converted into the adverb "felizmente" (happily).

    Note that if the adjective has a written accent, the adverb retains it. For example, the adverb "fácilmente" (easily) has an accent on the -a-, just as there is an accent on the -a- of the adjective "fácil" (easy).

    Adverbial phrases are also very common and often become necessary if the ending "-mente" with the adjective forms a compound that is disagreeable to the Spanish ear. When the adverb sounds strange, native speakers often form an adverbial phrase to replace it. This is done by using the word "con" (with) and the noun that is the root of the adverb being replaced. For example, watch how the following sentence with an adverb can be changed to an adverbial phrase:

    • "Cumplió su trabajo prudentamente." (He prudently finished his work.)
    • "Cumplió su trabajo con prudencia." (He finished his work with prudence.)
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    Adjective to Adverb Examples

    Give your students some examples of conversion from masculine/feminine adjectives to adverbs so they understand the concept. Here are some samples:

    • Adjective: "rápido, -a" (rapid). Adverb: "rápidamente" (rapidly, quickly).
    • Adjective: "lento, -a" (slow). Adverb: "lentamente" (slowly).
    • Adjective: "obvio, -a" (obvious). Adverb: "obviamente" (obviously).
    • Adjective: "sincero, -a" (sincere). Adverb: "sinceramente" (sincerely).
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    Examples with One Adjective Form

    Go over a few conversions with your students that include adjectives with only one form, that is to say, those that do not show gender. For instance:

    • Adjective: "feliz" (happy). Adverb: "felizmente" (happily).
    • Adjective: "fácil" (easy). Adverb: "fácilmente" (easily).
    • Adjective: "triste" (sad). Adverb: "tristemente" (sadly).
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    Putting It into Context

    Use some of the adverbs you have just covered in samples sentences to illustrate how the sentence is modified. Here are some ideas:

    • Yo manejaba rápidamente. (I was driving quickly.)
    • Sabemos precisamente lo que está pasando. (We know exactly what is happening.)
    • Ella habla inglés maravillosamente. (She speaks English wonderfully.)
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    Review the information you have introduced to your students with a quick verbal quiz. Call on students one by one and either ask them to convert a given adjective into an adverb (i.e. lento = lentamente) or ask them to define a given adverb (i.e. precisamente = precisely). This will help them to review the formation and understand the meaning of adverbs in Spanish.