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  1. "I always do my homework." Does the adverb always modify do or do my homework?
  2. "I went to the movies quietly." Does the adverb quietly modify went or went to the movies?
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    The textbook answer is that an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. "Do" in the first case and "went" in the second. (Whether it does this quietly I can't say.) When an adverb modifies a verb then any attached phrase is indirectly modified, as appropriate. – Hot Licks Apr 1 '17 at 1:41
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    There are many types of adverbs like adverbs of place, time, manner, frequency, degree, etc. In your first sentence always is an adverb of frequency which will answer the question how often do you do your homework? In the second sentence, quietly is an adverb of manner which will answer the question how did you go to the movies? So, the adverbs here modify the actions denoted by the verbs. – mahmud koya Apr 1 '17 at 1:45
  • so you're saying it modifies the verb as well as the other phrase – Jim Apr 1 '17 at 1:47
  • Here the adverbs modify the verbs; not the objects. The focus is on the action only. In place of the homework or the movies, you can have any other nouns which are not included in the manner how the actions are done. – mahmud koya Apr 1 '17 at 1:56
  • "Always" modifies the verb phrase "do my homework" and "quietly" modifies the verb phrase "went to the movies". – BillJ Apr 1 '17 at 7:28
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Well, you already know that the adverb modifies the verb. Your question is whether do-~'s-homework and go-to-the-movies are elaborate verbs?

Well, yes and no.

If you were going to algorithmically translate from English to other languages, you would need to treat do-~'s-homework as a single verb separate from do because not every language phrases this the way English does. For example, in Chinese, students "write" their "obligatory work" (写作业) and you'd need to understand that all as a phrase and not try to do it piecemeal.

Within English, no, do and go are the verbs, the others aren't, and you already know that.

The thing that's confusing you is the difference between the grammatical and the semantic content. Semantically, yes, the phrases describe two actions that are separate from do and go but, owing to English vocabulary, those actions are expressed as verbs modified by their object or a prepositional phrase.

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Put simply, there are no other choices.

Adverbs can modify a whole host of grammar constructs. In either example you gave the verb is the only thing they could modify. Not the entire phrase or sentence.

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