Tackling Adverb Shortage at B2 level

What a coincidental train of events! 

A month or so ago, promising to investigate more on a linguistic matter, I was looking up an adverb and the various ways it is used in English. Rather than searching for it straight on Cambridge Dictionary, as I normally do, I simply typed, as key words, the word I was looking for, on my search engine, followed by adverb itself. Two rather intriguing articles have I came across, https://slate.com/human-interest/2016/06/abolish-the-adverb-you-seriously-must-be-joking.html and https://www.writingforward.com/writing-tips/avoid-adverbs. Below these articles, top-listing my search on the browser, there was hardly a single article with no such words like overuse, stop using, avoid, etc.

Never before have I pondered on the use of adverbs as such. Neither do I disagree with the pinpoint arguments from the articles above, which I strongly recommend you read. 

Then, some days later, I attended a webinar hosted by Ruth Heyns and Anne Robinson, Grammar Challenges at B2-C2 levels. Among the flurry of activities Anne has invited us to take part in, which I am grateful for, what Anne said was thought-provoking – ESL students barely use them in both written and spoken expression. Truth be told!

I wish English learners overused adverbs! If only I could tell them to keep an eye on these, at times, needless words. I cannot, though, as they hardly use them. 

For this very reason, there are two activities ready and waiting. The first exercise is a quiz, focused on the adverbs position in the English sentence. The second one invites learners to read a short text and try and add, where necessary, a list of adverbs.

Adverbs at B2 level

Activity 1 Adverbs and adverb phrases position

Do the quiz. It will help you brush up on the position of adverbs and adverb phrases in the English sentence.

Activity 2 Tints of color through adverbs

Read the text. It is an extract from part 6 of the Reading and Use of English paper in the B2 First Cambridge exam.

This text lacks adverbs. Try and insert, where possible, the adverbs below.


What we, ballet dancers do is instinctive, but instinct learnt through a decade of training. A dancer’s life is hard to understand, and easy to misinterpret. Many a poet and novelist have tried to do so, but even they have chosen to interpret all the hard work and physical discipline as obsessive. And so the idea persists that dancers spend every working hour in pain, bodies at breaking point, their smiles a pretence.

(Source: B2 First Handbook for Teachers, Paper 1)

Undoubtedly, what we, ballet dancers do is simply instinctive, but instinct learnt through roughly a decade of training. Honestly, a dancer’s life is hard to understand, and clearly, easy to misinterpret. Many a poet and novelist have tried to do so, but, sadly, even they have chosen to interpret all the hard work and physical discipline as simply obsessive. And so the idea persists that dancers spend virtually every working hour in pain, bodies at breaking point, their smiles merely a pretence.

Adverbs and the B2 First exam

The use of adverbs in the context of the B2 First exam is a must. The presence of adverbs and their correct usage could be a decisive matter in taking or failing this Cambridge examination.

Let’s therefore see where candidates must clearly make use of adverbs.

Do use and control adverbs and the adverb phrases in the following exam parts:

  1. Speaking paper
    • When asked about yourself, your routine, preferences, friends, etc in Part 1 – the interview.
    • When showing how far you agree or disagree in Part 3 – the collaborative task. E.g.  I partly agree; I totally agree; you’re probably right; I have a slightly different idea of …; I agree up to a point; possibly, but don’t you think … . When reaching agreement on a decision. E.g. So, we’ve definitely reached agreement on that. 
    • When adding ideas and developing a discussion in Part 4 – the discussion. E.g. That’s a really interesting point you’ve made. I completely agree with you. Obviously, it’s good if … .
  2. Reading and Use of English paper
    • Be able to transform different parts of speech, like nouns, adjectives or verbs, into adverbs, when required, in Part 3  – word formation. E.g. sing …♦… (QUIET); hold him …♦… responsible (PERSON); become … ♦… popular (INCREASE). (Answers: QUIETLY, PERSONALLY, INCREASINGLY)
  3. Writing paper
    • When structuring your essay in Part 1. E.g. firstly, secondly, last but not least, lastly/finally, etc
    • When using impersonal language in the essay. E.g. It is generally thought/believed that … ; it is considered to be an extremely valuable tool; teenagers regularly do exercise, etc
    • When making recommendation in the review, Part 2. E.g. I strongly advise you to … ; You should definitely give this book a try; I thoroughly recommend this place; You won’t regret seeing this play, as it will certainly make you think; I seriously consider this to be one of the best films I’ve ever seen so far.
    • When adding quantifiers to adjectives in the review. E.g. incredibly brilliant, totally outstanding, absolutely remarkable, etc
    • When describing the people, the events and the places in the story, Part 2, in an interesting way. E.g. miserably, peacefully, quickly, nervously, confidently, cheerfully, noisily, enthusiastically, excitedly, etc

Let’s call it a day! Later on, we will prepare some adverb formation practice for English learners, since B2 exam candidates struggle with it at times. They can’t afford losing a whole point because of not having written a double “L” when forming the adverb, can they?

Stay tuned for more words of advice and handy material!

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