Japanese Grammar

Japanese Adverbs

Japanese Adverb

Last time, you learned relative clauses in order to give nouns more contexts. Thereby, you can express “Bob will study Japanese” by means of a noun clause: ほんべんきょうするボブ (Bob who will study Japanese). Then, what should you do if you’d like to say “Bob will study Japanese very hard?” In this lesson, you will learn how to use Japanese adverbs.

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Explanation for How Japanese Adverbs Work

Adverbs basically modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Unlike English adverbs, Japanese ones can be placed anywhere in sentences if they appear before verbs. Let’s go over how it works for each function.

Adverbs of Manner

When you swim in the sea, you can swim fast, slowly, well, very hard, etc. These types of adverbs give such contexts and thus they are generally used for verbs.

 [わたしは / が]  いっしょう懸命けんめい ほん 勉強べんきょう する / します
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Direct Object Verb 
 [I will] study Japanese very hard.

In the above example, “いっしょう懸命けんめい : very hard” modifies “べんきょうする: to study.” Regardless of where the adverb is placed, the meaning won’t change. The followings have the same meanings.

いっしょう懸命けんめい [わたしは / が] ほん勉強べんきょう(する / します)。
 [わたしは / が] ほんいっしょう懸命けんめい べんきょう(する / します)。

Adjectives Treated as Adverbs

You can let adjectives work as adverbs of manner. Almost all of the adjectives can become adverbs. Here are the inflection rules.

I-adjectives: To Replace い with く
Words Adjectives Adverbs
strong つよ つよ
weak よわ よわ
early, quick はや はや
fast, quick はや はや
cute, pretty かわいい かわい
Na-adjectives: To Add に instead of な
Words Adjectives Adverbs
well, good じょう じょう
poor 下手へた 下手へた
eager, enthusiastic 熱心ねっしん 熱心ねっしん
serious 真面目まじめ 真面目まじめ
healthy, lively げん げん

That’s very simple and useful, isn’t it? One point you should know is that some adverbs that are not related to adjectives end with に. The following is a list for general adverbs. You need to remember each vocabulary term, however, the usage remains the same.

Adverbs Not Related to Adjectives
いっしょう懸命けんめい very hard
ゆっくり slowly
のんびり quietly, freely, leisurely
だんだん gradually, little by little
徐々じょじょ gradually, little by little
次々つぎつぎ(に) in succession

Here, let’s take some more sentence examples. 

彼女かのじょはかわいく(わらう / わらいます)。
[My] girlfriend cutely smiles.
うたげんに(うたう / うたいます)。
[I will] sing songs lively.
ほんをゆっくり(はなす / はなします)。
[I will] speak Japanese slowly.
のんびり温泉おんせんに(はいる / はいります)。
[I will] leisurely go into a hot spring.

Adverbs of Degree

These type of adverbs can express degree, however they will not necessarily be used only for adjectives. For example, the noun: じん means “good-looking woman” and the verb: つかれる means “to be tired.” You can express how beautiful and tired she is by using adverbs.

とうさん は / が とても きれい(だ / です)
Topic / Subject Adverb Predicate (Adjective)
Sato-san is very beautiful.
とうさん は / が とても じん(だ / です)
Topic / Subject Adverb Predicate (Noun)
Sato-san is a very good-looking woman.
バスケットボールは とても つかれる / つかれます
Topic Adverb Verb
As for basketball, [I will] be very tired.

Again, since Japanese adverbs can be placed anywhere in sentences if they appear before verbs, the following is also correct and has the same meaning as the examples above.

とてもとうさんはきれい(だ / です)。
とてもとうさんはじん(だ / です)。
とてもバスケットボールは(つかれる / つかれます)。

Vocabulary List

We have made this in descending order and put English translations if similar ones are available. Note: Translation between languages cannot be perfect, e.g. “very” appears several times.

きわめて extremely
じょう very much
*本当に is colloquial
とても very
大変たいへん very
ずいぶん very
かなり fairly
相当そうとう considerably
だいぶ quite
なかなか quite
まあまあ passably
そこそこ reasonably
たいして* not very
あまり* not very
ぜんぜん* not at all

*They have to be with negative forms.

Other Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of degree can be further subdivided. We have listed them here for your reference. Since the usage remains the same, you can use them in the way you have learned so far.


 [わたしは / が]  よく  書館しょかん  く / きます
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Destination Verb
 [I] often go to the library.
明日あした は / が ときどき あめ(だ / です)
Topic / Subject Adverb Predicate
As for tomorrow, [it will] sometimes rain.
Vocabulary List in Descending Order
いつも always
ときどき sometimes
たまに occasionally
あまり* rarely
めったに* hardly

*They have to be with negative forms.

Level of Certainty

 [わたしは / が]  絶対ぜったい ほん べんきょう する / します
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Direct Object Verb
 [I will] definitely study Japanese.
明日あした は / が かなら れ(だ / です)
Topic / Subject Adverb Predicate
As for tomorrow, [it] will be sunny without exception.
Vocabulary List in Descending Order
絶対ぜったい definitely
かなら without exception
たしかに certainly
きっと surely
おそらく probably
たぶん maybe


 [わたしは / が]  ごはんを たくさん  べる / べます
[Topic / Subject] Direct Object Adverb Verb
 [I] eat meals a lot.
 [わたしは / が]  あまり さけ まない / みません
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Direct Object Verb
[I] don’t drink alcohol very much.
Vocabulary List in Descending Order
entirely, completely, wholly
すっかり completely, thoroughly
たくさん a lot, many
じゅうぶん enough, sufficiently
あまり* not very
すこ a little
ちょっと just a little
ほとんど* mostly, nearly, almost [zero]
全然ぜんぜん* not at all

*They have to be with negative forms.


There are adverbs which cannot be categorized. The usage won’t change and hence we think you will use it properly. Here, we will pick up some of them.

 [わたしは / が]  やっぱり 学校がっこうには かない / きません
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Destination + Contrast Verb
 [I will] not go to school after all.
*Implies that he/she will go to another place.
 [わたしは / が]  ついに ほん  旅行りょこう する / します
[Topic / Subject] Adverb Direct Object Verb
 [I will] finally travel in Japan.

Vocabulary List

なるべく as much as possible, if possible
一応いちおう more or less, though not quite satisfactorily
at last (for good things)
finally (for good and bad things)
むしろ rather
ますます increasingly, more and more
too, also, likewise
still, as before
even so, either way, in any event
as expected
after all


  1. Adverbs basically modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs
  2. Adverbs can be placed anywhere in sentences if they appear before verbs
  3. I-adjectives can be treated as adverbs by replacing い with く
  4. Na-adjectives can be treated as adverbs by adding に instead of な

You have learned a lot of adverbs so far. What you have to memorize here is how to use adverbs, not all of the vocabulary. Please memorize words step by step. Now, you know how to modify verbs, adjectives, and nouns by using adverbs. Next, you will tackle advanced topics involving adjectives.

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