Use 'Tom Swifty' Jokes to Teach Adverbs

Teaching adverbs is more fun when you do it using Tom Swifty jokes.

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read

teach adverbs with Tom Swifties

Tom Swifty jokes use adverbs to create puns related to the action of the sentence. For example, if a dog is chasing a ball, you could use the adverb "fetchingly" to create a pun:

"Rover went to get the ball," Tom said fetchingly

The jokes get their name from the "Tom Swift" series of children's science-fiction adventure novels first published in 1910 and created by the same publisher as the "Nancy Drew" and "Hardy Boys" books. 

The jokes are called "Tom Swifties" because the Tom Swift books were noticeably filled with adverbs.

Creating puns of your own is a fun way to reinforce the concept that adverbs (such as "fetchingly") modify verbs (such as "said").

Tom Swifty Adverb Exercises

Start with these fill-in-the-blank sentences.

1. "The fire __________________," Tom said hotly.

2. "The lamp _____________________," Tom said lightly.

3. "My gray mare _____________________," Tom said hoarsely. (Homophone puns are allowed!)

4. "The duchess _____________________," Tom said nobly.

5. "The air balloon _____________________," Tom said loftily

Adverb List

Now use some of these adverbs to make your own Tom Swifty puns from scratch.














(See the next page for Tom Swifty ideas for these adverbs.)

Extend Your Adverb Lesson

Now, to reinforce the idea that adverbs can modify verbs, use each of the adverbs above to modify a verb other than "said."

Example: Tom sorely missed his good hiking boots.


About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.