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Introduction To Adverbs

Types Of Adverbs

Confusing Cases

Formation Of Adverbs

Spelling Of Adverbs

Other Information About Adverbs

Quiz On Adverbs
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Adverbs are words used to describe or modify verbs. Adverbs give more information about a verb. Use adverbs to make your writing more interesting.
Adverbs are words that modify a verb (He drove slowly. How did he drive?) an adjective (He drove a very fast car. How fast was his car?) another adverb (She moved quite slowly down the aisle. How slowly did she move?) As we will see, adverbs often tell when, where, why, or under what conditions something happens or happened. Adverbs frequently end in -ly; however, many words and phrases not ending in -ly serve an adverbial function and an -ly ending is not a guarantee that a word is an adverb. The words lovely, lonely, motherly, friendly, neighborly, for instance, are adjectives: That lovely woman lives in a friendly neighborhood.

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Adverbs are words like tomorrow, daily, badly, once and too. They tell us more about other words, especially verbs.
The child smiled sweetly. (The adverb sweetly modifies the verb smiled.) She walked slowly. (The adverb slowly modifies the verb walked.) He talked politely. (The adverb politely modifies the verb talked.)

Sometimes adverbs modify adjectives.

It was a very important question. (The adverb very modifies the adjective important.) You are so sweet. (The adverb so modifies the adjective sweet.)

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Adverbs can also modify other adverbs.

He walked very slowly. (The adverb very modifies the adverb slowly.)

She sang extremely well. (The adverb extremely modifies the adverb well.)

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Kinds of Adverbs

Adverbs of Manner

Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of Frequency

Focusing Adverbs
Adverbs of Purpose Adverbs of Time

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Formation of Adverbs

Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to their corresponding adjectives. Examples are: kindly (kind), slowly (slow), hardly (hard), sweetly (sweet) etc.

She is very beautiful (adjective). She is beautifully (adverb) dressed.

He is a strange (adjective) person.

He behaved strangely (adverb).

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Points to be noted
1. If the adjective ends in -y, replace it with -i and then add -ly.
Adlective Happy Angry Lucky Adverb Happily Angrily Luckily

2. If the adjective ends in -able, -ible, or -le, replace the -e with -y.
probable gentle humble
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probably gently humbly

3. If the adjective ends in -ic, add -ally.

Adlective basic economic

Adverb basically economically

This rule, however, has an exception. The adverb formed from public is publicly, and not publically.

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Adverbs of Manner

Explanation. Position. Points To Be Noted

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Adverbs of manner say how something happens or is done.

Examples are: happily, angrily, slowly, carefully, fast etc. She walked slowly. John drove carefully. The soldiers fought bravely.

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Adverbs of manner normally go in end position (at the end of a clause). She sang well. He talked loudly. She walked slowly. He managed it skillfully. She speaks English well.

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An adverb of manner modifying an adjective or another adverb normally goes before it.

She is seriously ill. I was terribly busy.

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Points To Be Noted

1. Adverbs of manner can come in mid position if the adverb is not important to the meaning of the verb.
She angrily tore up the letter. (The manner in which she tore up the letter is not important.) His health slowly began to improve.

2. If there is a preposition before the object, we can place the adverb either before the preposition or after the object.
The man walked happily towards his home.

The man walked towards his home happily.

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Points To Be Noted - Continued

3. To emphasize the point, sometimes, an adverb of manner is placed before the main verb.
He gently woke up the woman.

4. Some writers put adverbs of manner at the beginning of a sentence to catch our attention.
Happily Tom went home. Slowly he walked away.

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Adverbs of Place

Adverbs of Place tell us where something happens.

Examples are: upstairs, here, there, nearby, everywhere, in, out etc. She looked for him everywhere. Please come in. They bought a house nearby. He lives here. The boss has gone out. He was seen nowhere.

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Certain adverbs of place express both movement and location. Examples are: ahead, abroad, overseas, uphill, downhill, sideways, indoor, outdoors etc.

My parents live abroad. They climbed uphill. She fell backwards.

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They are normally placed at the end of a clause.

She took him out. They all went away. We went ahead. The children were playing upstairs. He jumped out.

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They can also come at the beginning of a clause. This is common in literary writing. On the hilltop an old castle stood majestically.

At around the corner there is a big banyan tree.

Out he jumped. Upstairs the children were playing.

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Adverbs of Indefinite Frequency

Explanation Position Points To Be Noted

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Adverbs of indefinite frequency tell us how often something happens.

Common examples are: always, ever, usually, normally, often, frequently, seldom, never etc.

I am never late for office. Have you ever been to the US? I often work late.

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Adverbs of indefinite frequency go in mid position. They are normally placed after the auxiliary verbs and before other verbs. When there are two auxiliary verbs, the adverb goes after the first.

I always get up early. (adverb + main verb)

I am seldom late for work. (is/am/are/was/were + adverb) We frequently visit them. (adverb + main verb) I often read comics. (adverb + main verb) I have never seen a dolphin. (auxiliary verb + adverb + main verb)

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Points to be noted

1. Usually, normally, often, frequently, sometimes and occasionally can also go at the beginning or end of a clause.

We visit them occasionally. Often we trust the wrong person.

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2. Always, ever, rarely, seldom and never can go only in mid position.
They never admitted their fault.

You can always trust him.


However, always and never can begin imperative clauses.

Always look before you leap. Never ask her about her age.

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Focusing Adverbs
Focusing adverbs point to a particular part of a clause.
Most common examples are: also, just, even, only, mainly, mostly, either, neither etc.

As focusing adverbs point to a particular part of a sentence, the meaning conveyed often depends upon their position. It is best to place them in front of and next to the word or words modified by them.

Only John helped me to buy the house. (= Only John and no one else helped me.)
John only helped me to buy the house. (= John helped me to buy the house, but didn't actually buy it for me.)

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Too and as well are exceptions to this rule. They normally go in end position.

She not only speaks English; she speaks French as well. He not only sings; he plays the piano too.

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Adverbs of Purpose

Adverbs of Certainty Adverbs of Degree

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Adverbs of Degree

Adverbs of Degree tell us about the degree or extent of an action, quality or manner. Examples are: almost, little, enough, much, too, partly, fully, so, rather, quite, nearly, just, too, hardly, scarcely, very etc. She is very beautiful. I am extremely sorry. She is quite strong. They are fully prepared.

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Position Adverbs of degree normally come in mid position with the verb. They are placed after the auxiliary verbs and before other verbs. If there are two auxiliary verbs, the adverb comes after the first.

He had hardly begun. (auxiliary verb + adverb + main verb)

My work is almost finished. (is/am/are/was/were + adverb) I just asked. (adverb + main verb) She hardly realized what she was doing. (adverb + main verb) He is entirely right. (is/am/are/was/were + adverb) She was rather busy. (is/am/are/was/were + adverb)

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An adverb of degree qualifying an adjective or another adverb normally goes before it. She is very beautiful. Those mangoes were very sweet.

I am extremely sorry.
Enough is an exception to this rule. It is placed after the adjective or adverb it qualifies. You are not old enough to marry. This is good enough to be true.
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Adverbs of Certainty

Adverbs of certainty express how certain or sure we feel about an action or event.

Common examples are: certainly, definitely, probably, undoubtedly, clearly, obviously etc. He is undoubtedly a great leader.

There is clearly something wrong.

She is definitely taller than you.

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Adverbs of certainty usually go in mid position. They are placed after auxiliary verbs and before other verbs. When there are two or more auxiliaries, the adverb goes after the first. He is undoubtedly a great leader. (is/am/are/was/were + adverb) She will probably come. (auxiliary verb + adverb + main verb) It will certainly rain this evening. (auxiliary verb + adverb + main verb) I certainly feel better today. (adverb + main verb)

You have definitely been working too hard. (first auxiliary + adverb + second auxiliary + other verb)

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Perhaps and may be are exceptions to this rule. They usually go at the beginning of a clause.

Perhaps she will come.

May be you are right.

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Adverbs of Time and Definite Frequency

Adverbs of time and definite frequency tell us when something happens.

Examples are: today, yesterday, later, now, all day, not long, for a while, since, last year, sometimes, frequently, never, often, yearly etc.
shall go there tomorrow. You must get up early. I have seen him before. Let us start now.
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Most of them go in end position. I met him yesterday. He died last year. They are leaving for England tomorrow. He visits us daily. I haven't seen him lately. Initial position is also common. Yesterday I met him. Tomorrow I am leaving for the US.

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Exceptions Finally, already, soon, and last can also go in mid position. She has finally got a job. They soon realized their mistake. Still and just can only go in mid position. I just asked. He is still working for the same firm. Note that a mid position adverb is placed after the auxiliary verbs and before other verbs. When there are two auxiliary verbs, the adverb normally comes after the first.

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Adjectives or Adverbs? Confusing cases

Some words ending in -ly are adjectives, and not normally adverbs.
Common examples are: costly, cowardly, deadly, friendly, likely, lively, lonely, lovely, silly, ugly and unlikely. She has a lovely daughter.

Don't be silly.
It was a lively discussion.

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Some adverbs and adjectives have the same form. Examples are: fast, hard, high, late, near, straight, wrong, daily, early, leisurely etc.
It is a fast (adjective) car. A fast (adjective) car goes fast (adverb).

He drove fast (adverb).

Hard (adjective) work pays. You must work hard (adverb). He is an early (adjective) riser. I got up early (adverb) today. It is easy (adjective). Take it easy (adverb)
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Spelling of Adverbs
Most of adjectives can be converted to adverbs, just adding -ly, to the end of the adjective.
correct - correctly easy - easily

Adjectives that end in -y, change the -y to -i, and add -ly.
lucky - luckily happy - happily

Adjectives that end in -ble, drop the -e, and -add -ly.
respectable - respectably comfortable - comfortably

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Adjectives that end in -ic, change the -ic to -al, and add -ly.
problematic - problematically hectic - hectically

There are exceptions to the rule.

public - publicly

Adjectives that end in -e, just add -ly.

rude - rudely live - lively

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Adjectives that end in -le, drop the -e, and add -ly.
accountable - accountability predictable - predictablbly


Please note not all words that end in -ly, are not adverbs.
elderly friendly

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Other Information About Adverbs

Position Of Adverbs Numbered Lists & Do Without Order Of Adverbs

More Notes On Adverb Order

Adjuncts, Disjuncts, and Conjuncts

Inappropriate Adverb Order

Some Special Cases

Viewpoint, Focus, and Negative Adverbs

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Using Adverbs in a Numbered List

Within the normal flow of text, it's nearly always a bad idea to number items beyond three or four, at the most. Anything beyond that, you're better off with a vertical list that uses numbers (1, 2, 3, etc.). Also, in such a list, don't use adverbs (with an -ly ending); use instead the uninflected ordinal number (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, etc.). First (not firstly), it's unclear what the adverb is modifying. Second (not secondly), it's unnecessary. Third (not thirdly), after you get beyond "secondly," it starts to sound silly. Adverbs that number in this manner are treated as disjuncts.

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Adverbs We Can Do Without

Here is some advice on adverbs that we can eliminate to the benefit of our prose: intensifiers such as very, extremely, and really that don't intensify anything and expletive constructions ("There are several books that address this issue.")

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Positions of Adverbs

One of the hallmarks of adverbs is their ability to move around in a sentence. Adverbs of manner are particularly flexible in this regard. This is something I have always stressed to my students, adverbs do not always go in one position only.

Solemnly the minister addressed her congregation. The minister solemnly addressed her congregation. The minister addressed her congregation solemnly.

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The following adverbs of frequency appear in various points in these sentences:

Before the main verb: I never get up before nine o'clock.

Between the auxiliary verb and the main verb: I have rarely written to my brother without a good reason.
Before the verb used to: I always used to see him at his summer home.

Indefinite adverbs of time can appear either before the verb or between the auxiliary and the main verb:
He finally showed up for batting practice. She has recently retired.

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Order of Adverbs
There is a basic order in which adverbs will appear when there is more than one. It is similar to The Royal Order of Adjectives, but it is even more flexible.

Verb Beth swims Dad walks Tashonda naps

Manner enthusiastically impatiently

Place in the pool into town in her room

Frequency every morning every afternoon every morning

Time before dawn

Purpose to keep in shape.

before supper to get a newspaper. before lunch.

In actual practice, of course, it would be highly unusual to have a string of adverbial modifiers beyond two or three (at the most). Because the placement of adverbs is so flexible, one or two of the modifiers would probably move to the beginning of the sentence: "Every afternoon before supper, Dad impatiently walks into town to get a newspaper." When that happens, the introductory adverbial modifiers are usually set off with a comma.
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More Notes on Adverb Order

As a general principle, shorter adverbial phrases precede longer adverbial phrases, regardless of content. In the following sentence, an adverb of time precedes an adverb of frequency because it is shorter (and simpler):
Dad takes a brisk walk before breakfast every day of his life.

A second principle: among similar adverbial phrases of kind (manner, place, frequency, etc.), the more specific adverbial phrase comes first:
My grandmother was born in a sod house on the plains of northern Nebraska. She promised to meet him for lunch next Tuesday.

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Bringing an adverbial modifier to the beginning of the sentence can place special emphasis on that modifier. This is particularly useful with adverbs of manner:

Slowly, ever so carefully, Jesse filled the coffee cup up to the brim, even above the brim. Occasionally, but only occasionally, one of these lemons will get by the inspectors.

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Inappropriate Adverb Order

Review the section on Misplaced Modifiers for some additional ideas on placement. Modifiers can sometimes attach themselves to and thus modify words that they ought not to modify.

They reported that Giuseppe Balle, a European rock star, had died on the six o'clock news.

Clearly, it would be better to move the underlined modifier to a position immediately after "they reported" or even to the beginning of the sentence so the poor man doesn't die on television.

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Misplacement can also occur with very simple modifiers, such as only and barely:
She only grew to be four feet tall

It would be better if "She grew to be only four feet tall."

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Adjuncts, Disjuncts, and Conjuncts

Regardless of its position, an adverb is often neatly integrated into the flow of a sentence. When this is true, as it almost always is, the adverb is called an adjunct. (Notice the underlined adjuncts or adjunctive adverbs in the first two sentences of this paragraph.) When the adverb does not fit into the flow of the clause, it is called a disjunct or a conjunct and is often set off by a comma or set of commas. A disjunct frequently acts as a kind of evaluation of the rest of the sentence. Although it usually modifies the verb, we could say that it modifies the entire clause, too. Notice how "too" is a disjunct in the sentence immediately before this one; that same word can also serve as an adjunct adverbial modifier: It's too hot to play outside. Here are two more disjunctive adverbs:
Frankly, Martha, I don't give a hoot. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

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Conjuncts, on the other hand, serve a connector function within the flow of the text, signaling a transition between ideas.
If they start smoking those awful cigars, then I'm not staying. We've told the landlord about this ceiling again and again, and yet he's done nothing to fix it.

At the extreme edge of this category, we have the purely conjunctive device known as the conjunctive adverb (often called the adverbial conjunction):
Jose has spent years preparing for this event; nevertheless, he's the most nervous person here. I love this school; however, I don't think I can afford the tuition.

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Some Special Cases

The adverbs enough and not enough usually take a postmodifier position: Is that music loud enough?

These shoes are not big enough.

In a roomful of elderly people, you must remember to speak loudly enough.

Notice, though, that when enough functions as an adjective, it can come before the noun:
Did she give us enough time? The adverb enough is often followed by an infinitive:

She didn't run fast enough to win.

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The adverb too comes before adjectives and other adverbs:

She ran too fast.

She works too quickly.

If too comes after the adverb it is probably a disjunct (meaning also) and is usually set off with a comma:
Yasmin works hard. She works quickly, too.

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The adverb too is often followed by an infinitive:

She runs too slowly to enter this race.

Another common construction with the adverb too is too followed by a prepositional phrase for + the object of the preposition followed by an infinitive:
This milk is too hot for a baby to drink.

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Relative Adverbs
Adjectival clauses are sometimes introduced by what are called the relative adverbs: where, when, and why. Although the entire clause is adjectival and will modify a noun, the relative word itself fulfills an adverbial function (modifying a verb within its own clause).
The relative adverb where will begin a clause that modifies a noun of place:

My entire family now worships in the church where my great grandfather used to be minister.

The relative pronoun "where" modifies the verb "used to be" (which makes it adverbial), but the entire clause ("where my great grandfather used to be minister") modifies the word "church."

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A when clause will modify nouns of time:

My favorite month is always February, when we celebrate Valentine's Day and Presidents' Day

And a why clause will modify the noun reason:

Do you know the reason why Isabel isn't in class today?

We sometimes leave out the relative adverb in such clauses, and many writers prefer "that" to "why" in a clause referring to "reason":
Do you know the reason why Isabel isn't in class today? I always look forward to the day when we begin our summer vacation.

I know the reason that men like motorcycles.

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Viewpoint, Focus, and Negative Adverbs

A viewpoint adverb generally comes after a noun and is related to an adjective that precedes that noun:
A successful athletic team is often a good team scholastically. Investing all our money in snowmobiles was probably not a sound idea financially.

You will sometimes hear a phrase like "scholastically speaking" or "financially speaking" in these circumstances, but the word "speaking" is seldom necessary.

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A focus adverb indicates that what is being communicated is limited to the part that is focused; a focus adverb will tend either to limit the sense of the sentence ("He got an A just for attending the class.") or to act as an additive ("He got an A in addition to being published." Although negative constructions like the words "not" and "never" are usually found embedded within a verb string "He has never been much help to his mother." they are technically not part of the verb; they are, indeed, adverbs. However, a so-called negative adverb creates a negative meaning in a sentence without the use of the usual no/not/neither/nor/never constructions:
He seldom visits. She hardly eats anything since the accident. After her long and tedious lectures, rarely was anyone awake.
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Quiz Time

1. My grandfather walks extremely slowly. a) Modifies a verb

b) Modifies an adverb c) Modifies a noun

Wrong, try again! Very good!!

2. Your roommate is quite shy, isn't she? a) Modifies a verb b) Modifies an adjective c) Modifies an adverb

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3. We rarely go to the movies on the weekends. a) Modifies an adverb

b) Modifies a pronoun c) Modifies a verb

Wrong, try again! Very good!!

4. Our house is practically on the highway. a) Modifies sentence b) Modifies prepositional phrase c) Modifies a verb

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5. We rarely go to the movies on the weekends. a) adjective

b) adverb

Wrong, try again! Very good!!

6. Our house is practically on the highway. a) adjective b) adverb

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7. We rarely go to the movies on the weekends. a) preposition

b) adverb

Wrong, try again! Very good!!

8. Our house is practically on the highway. a) often friends and I b) friends and I often c) friends often and I

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9. ..bake a batch of cookies. a) Later, we will

b) We later will c) We will later

Wrong, try again! Very good!!

10. Please..so that we can go shopping. a) Finish your homework quickly b) Finish your quickly homework c) Your quickly finish homework

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