In one of my recent columns, Spring has arrived in Toronto, I used some adverbs of comment, such as unfortunately and regrettably. So, for anyone studying English, here are some tips about using these adverbs in English!
Common adverbs of comment
Adverbs of comment help to express our opinion or viewpoint about something.
Ex. Unfortunately, it’s going to rain today. (= It’s going to rain today, and I think that’s unfortunate.)
Fortunately and unfortunately are very common adverbs of comment. Luckily and unluckily may also be used to express a similar meaning. Unfortunately is probably the most common of this group. Unluckily is awkward to say and not commonly used.
Clearly and obviously are also very common for stating that you think something is obvious.
Ex. He’s clearly very talented! (= It’s clear that he’s very talented.)
Certainly and definitely are great ways to express your certainty when you are 100% sure about something.
Ex. We certainly took on more work than we could handle! (= I’m certain that we took on too much work.)
These versatile words can also be used to give permission or express agreement.
A: Can I ask you a question?
B: Certainly! (= Of course! Go ahead!)
A: It’s too risky to hold the Olympics right now.
B: Yeah, definitely! (= Yes, I agree with you 100%.)
Wisely and its opposites, stupidly and foolishly, can be used to comment on whether you think something was a smart or stupid thing to do. Be careful with smartly because it has two meanings. It could mean that something was done intelligently, but it can also mean that something is done in a stylish manner (e.g. to dress smartly).
Ex. Stupidly, I locked my keys in my car.
To find more of these words, simply do a search for ‘adverbs of comment’. There are many lists out there.
There are many types of adverbs (manner, frequency, time, place, degree, etc.) and choosing the correct position for each type can be tricky. Fortunately, adverbs of comment are fairly flexible and we can use them in several different positions.
At the beginning - This position puts emphasis on the adverb. Use it when the comment is important and you want the listener or reader to consider it when listening to or reading your sentence. Use a comma after the adverb.
Ex. Fortunately, we got there in time.
Ex. Obviously, we don’t want to cause any trouble.
In the middle (after the subject) - This position puts more emphasis on the relationship between the verb and the adverb. Use it when you want to comment specifically on an action/verb. Place the adverb after a ‘be’ verb, between a modal auxiliary and a main verb, or after all other verbs.
Ex. B.C. is certainly warmer than Nunavut. (‘be’ + adv.)
Ex. She clearly knows what she’s doing! (adv. + v.)
Ex. We will definitely visit again next year. (modal aux. + adv. + v.)
At the end - This position treats the comment as an afterthought. Use it when the comment is not so important or when you’ve already said something and think to add a comment at the end. Use a comma before the adverb.
Ex. We arrived a few minutes too late, unfortunately.
Adverbs of comment are a great way to naturally express your opinion in your speaking and writing, and the best part is that it only takes one word!
I hope this will help you to use adverbs of comment in English!