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Background to the Study

English language is an international language used all over the world as a means of communication. It plays an important role for the people all over the world for political, commercial purposes and event tourism matters. English is a compulsory school subject. Mastering good English is very important thing in learning English grammar. Grammar is the study of words and their functions; one of its aspects in learning is adverbial. According to Douglas (2004) explains that ‘’adverbs and adverbials are similar but not the same. Though they share the same modifying function, their characters are different. An adverbial is a sentence element or functional category. It is a part of sentence that performs a certain function.

An adverb on the other hand, is a type of a word or part of speech. An adverb may serve as an adverbial, but an adverbial is not necessarily an adverb.’’ In a similar View Endley (2010) differentiates between adverbs and adverbials as ‘’ the former term is a label for syntactic category, covering familiar single word items such as quickly, happily and spontaneously. The latter term refers to a function. Linguistic elements that have this function include adverbs plus other linguistic elements such as phrases (on the other hand, at the bookstore, next week, last year, etc,) and clause e.g (after he saw the movie).

’’Basically, most adverbs tell you how, where, or when something is done. In other words, they describe the manner, place or time of an action. Most of adverbs are created by adding ly to the end of an adjective, like slow (adjective) slowly (adverb) hopeless (adjective) hopelessly (adverb). However, this is not a reliable way to find out whether a word is an adverb or not, for two reasons; many adverbs do not end in -ly, some are the same as the adjective form and many words which are not adverbs do end in -ly such as kindly, friendly, elderly and lonely, which are adjectives. Here are examples of adverbs which are the same as adjectives; fast, late, early’’. (http;//www.keepandshare.com/ doc/3270332/complete list of adverbs docx).

However,’’ the possible variation between the fixed and shift placement of adverb makes adverbs more difficult to teach, with this fact, learners have difficulty in learning and using them correctly. The complexity of adverbs is as a result of its syntactical and semantic behavior which is determined by its position in the sentence. The position of the adverbs possibly makes a sentence grammatical or ungrammatical or changes the meaning of the sentence. ‘’adverbs are difficult for students to identify.

The -ly trick is helpful, but as with everything else in the English language, there are exceptions (ugly, friendly and family). Plus, the adverbs that do not end in -ly are the hard ones to recognize.’’(https;//pinterest.com/pinning teacher/teaching). Despite the important of adverbs and adverbials students still take them to mean nothing. This can be as the result of problematic areas in the use of adverbs and adverbials.

According to the chief examiner report Eguridu (2015), states that “in Nigeria, 1593442 candidates sat for the may/June 2015 West African Senior Certificate Examination (WASSCE) in Nigeria. Only 38.68% obtained credits in five subjects and above including English Language and Mathematics”. The major cause of students’ poor performances is wrong use of adverbs and adverbials. Furthermore, a trick problem for students learners of English is to be conversant with  the words that go with -ly, as can be seen in these examples taken from Nwagu (2009),’’ she expected everybody to take them serious (wrong).

She expected everybody to take them seriously (correct). Outright is both adjective and adverb. As an adjective, the word outright means complete and clear without any doubt. E.g. an outright ban, rejection/victory.  She was the outright winner. As an adverb, the word outright means (a) openly and honestly, without hiding anything; I told him outright what I thought of his behavior. (b) Not gradually or immediately; most of the crash victims were killed outright. (c) Clearly and completely; she denied outright having been there. There is no English word as out rightly. Thus the correct expression should be;’ the principal often tells us outright that delay in life is dangerous’. And not … outrightly tells us … she behaves friendly (wrong). She behaves in a friendly manner. (Correct). Friendly is an adjective but has been made to function as if it were an adverb. He allows them to pay my school fees instalmentally (wrong). He allows them to pay my school fees in instalments (correct). There is no word as instalmentally in the English language. Payment spread over a period of time is said to be made in instalments. Hunston (2000) rules out adverbial modifiers in lexical patterns, stating that ‘’on the whole … patterns of adverbs are hard to capture … and since there is no parallel to complementation patterns adverbs can be better described in positional terms.’’

Regarding meaning, adverbs express ideas such as place, time, manner and location. Some adverbs of manner have a noticeable form that is they end in -ly. Most other adverbs can not be easily noticed by their form because they do not have a specific suffix. According to Agwu and Nweke (2000), describe adverb as a word that describes or modifies a verb, an adjective and another adverb. It adds to the meaning of the words it modifies.

Finch (2000), notes that an adverb may modify a verb by given circumstantial information about the time, place or manner in which an action, process takes place. In addition to the characteristic of modifying verbs, adverbs can modify adjective, a verb or another adverb. Such adverbs can answer the questions where, when, how, how often, how much, etc.  However, Orji (2001), posits that ‘’adverbials include not only single word adverbs but also particles and phrases.’’ The position of adverb can be found in the beginning, middle or at the end of the sentence. Ekechi (2006), explains that adverbials may be a single word adverb, adverbial phrase or adverbial clause. He went further to explain that adverbs are divided into three classes in relation to their functions. The three classes of adverbs are explained below; (a) adjuncts; these are adverbs whose functions indicate place, time, manner, condition, reason, degree etc

(B) Disjuncts: these adverbs indicate the state of mind of a speaker. For instance;

  1. Sincerely speaking, I never stole any money.
  2. Frankly speaking, the man loves his wife.
  • To be candid, I never knew we would lose the match

(c) Conjuncts; these are words or phrases that are used to link ideas. They play the role of conjunctions or linkers. Examples; the patient came to the hospital but he never saw the doctor. (But is used as a linker).


Though the students came late, the lecturer was absent. Conjuncts are also used to introduce new ideas. These conjuncts are transitional words or phrases like; in the first place, secondly, also, furthermore, before I proceed, in addition to the above, finally, in conclusion, etc.

Quirk (2000), also adds that adverbials may be integrated to some extent into the structure of the clause or they may be peripheral to it. If integrated, they are termed adjuncts. If peripheral, they are termed disjuncts and conjuncts, the distinction between the two beings that conjuncts have primarily a connection function. An adverbial is integrated to some extent in clause structure if it is affected by such clausal processes as negation and interrogation.

Ogbulogu (2004), defines adverbials as particles of adverbs used especially after verbs to show position, direction and movement. E.g. come back, break down, fall off, off down, back, etc. he went further to maintain that adverbs refer to all those words ending in -ly and which are mainly derived from adjectives. There are other structures that do not end in -ly or which are not just one word structures, but which are used as adverb. They are referred to as adverbials. According to Awa (2013) defines an adverb as “any word that modifies any part of language except noun, which is primarily modified by adjectives and determiners” that is adverb can modify verbs, adjectives, clauses, sentences and other adverbs, but most often they modified verbs.

Adverbs answer such questions as ‘how’, ‘which’ where’ to what extent and in what way. Obasikene (2001) maintains that adverbs exhibits three degree of comparison, the positive, the comparative and the superlative.  He further classified the comparison of adverb into: “regular and irregular adverbs”. The regular adverbs take the suffixes “–er” and “–est” to add to the basic adverbs to form their comparative and superlative form. The wrong use of adverbs and adverbials affect the students performance in the external examinations and in their construction of English language grammar. According to the chief examiner report, Mr. Eguridu (2015) states that in Nigeria, 1593442 candidates sat for the May/June 2015 West Africa senior certificate examination WASSCE in. only 38.68% obtained credits in five subjects and above including English language. This failure might be as the result of poor construction of grammar by students.

The competence of the students in the English language is challenged as a result of several problems in the construction and use of grammatical structures especially adverbs and adverbials. This may be as the result of non English language teachers teaching English language in some schools. According to little word (1984: 250) in Odoemenam (2007: 7) states that the learner uses his previous mother tongue experience as means of organizing the second language data. However Obeka (2011) says that most English language textbooks in our schools are too stereotyped. That is written as if they for learners of English as a native speaker.   Hence there is need to access problems with teaching and learning the use of adverbs and adverbials in secondary schools in Ezza North Local Government Area.


Statement of the Problem

A problem with the use of adverbs and adverbial is a problem in the construction of grammatical structures which mars proficiency competence in use 0f second language. The inability of the students to identify or use adverbs adverbials correctly gave rise to this study as errors in the use of adverbs in writing and speaking are clearly identified. It is obvious that the expressions of the students in English language are not worth listening to. This study sets out to identify the problems and prospects with the use of adverbs and adverbials among students of secondary schools in Ezza North Local Government Area, and to find out the extent to which the problems influence competence in the English language.


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