You are on page 1of 14

Adjectives and Adverbs

Definitions:
Adjectives are words that describe nouns or pronouns. They may come before the word they describe (That is a
cute puppy.) or they may follow the word they describe (That puppy is cute.).
Adverbs are words that modify everything but nouns and pronouns. They modify adjectives, verbs, and other
adverbs. A word is an adverb if it answers how, when, or where.
The only adverbs that cause grammatical problems are those that answer the question how, so focus on these.

Rule 1
Generally, if a word answers the question how, it is an adverb. If it can have an -ly added to it, place it there.
Examples:
She thinks slow/slowly.
She thinks how? slowly.
She is a slow/slowly thinker.
Slow does not answer how, so no -ly is attached. Slow is an adjective here.
She thinks fast/fastly.
Fast answers the question how, so it is an adverb. But fast never has an -ly attached to it.
We performed bad/badly.
Badly describes how we performed.

Rule 2
A special -ly rule applies when four of the senses - taste, smell, look, feel - are the verbs. Do not ask if these
senses answer the question how to determine if -ly should be attached. Instead, ask if the sense verb is being
used actively. If so, use the -ly.
Examples:
Roses smell sweet/sweetly.
Do the roses actively smell with noses? No, so no -ly.
The woman looked angry/angrily.
Did the woman actively look with eyes or are we describing her appearance? We are only describing
appearance, so no -ly.
The woman looked angry/angrily at the paint splotches.
Here the woman did actively look with eyes, so the -ly is added.
She feels bad/badly about the news.
She is not feeling with fingers, so no -ly.

Good vs. Well


Rule 3
The word good is an adjective, while well is an adverb.
Examples:
You did a good job.
Good describes the job.
You did the job well.
Well answers how.
You smell good today.
Describes your odor, not how you smell with your nose, so follow with the adjective. You smell well for someone
with a cold.
You are actively smelling with a nose here, so follow with the adverb.

Rule 4
When referring to health, use well rather than good.
Example:
I do not feel well. You do not look well today.
Note: You may use good with feel when you are not referring to health.
Example:
I feel good about my decision to learn Spanish.

Rule 5
A common error in using adjectives and adverbs arises from using the wrong form for comparison. For instance,
to describe one thing we would say poor, as in, "She is poor." To compare two things, we should say poorer, as
in, "She is the poorer of the two women." To compare more than two things, we should say poorest, as in, "She is
the poorest of them all."
Examples:
One Two Three or More

sweet sweeter sweetest

bad worse worst

efficient* more efficient* most efficient*

*Usually with words of three or more syllables, don't add -er or -est. Use more or most in front of the words.
Rule 6
Never drop the -ly from an adverb when using the comparison form.
Correct:
She spoke quickly.
She spoke more quickly than he did.
Incorrect:
She spoke quicker than he did.
Correct:
Talk quietly.
Talk more quietly.
Incorrect:
Talk quieter.

Rule 7
When this, that, these, and those are followed by nouns, they are adjectives. When they appear without a noun
following them, they are pronouns.
Examples:
This house is for sale.
This is an adjective here.
This is for sale.
This is a pronoun here.

Rule 8
This and that are singular, whether they are being used as adjectives or as pronouns. Thispoints to something
nearby while that points to something "over there."
Examples:
This dog is mine.
That dog is hers.
This is mine.
That is hers.

Rule 9
These and those are plural, whether they are being used as adjectives or as pronouns.These points to something
nearby while those points to something "over there."
Examples:
These babies have been smiling for a long time.
These are mine. Those babies have been crying for hours. Those are yours.

Rule 10
Use than to show comparison. Use then to answer the question when.
Examples:
I would rather go skiing than rock climbing.
First we went skiing; then we went rock climbing.
ADJECTIVE OR ADVERB

THE DIFFERENCE

An adjective tells us more about a noun. Example: an expensive car, a


clever girl

An adverb tells us more about a verb. Example: He talked nervously.

Wie ist eine Person (Sache)? »»» adjective.

Wie tut eine Person etwas? »»» adverb.

THE ADVERB

HOW TO FORM

Adjective + ly

sad sadly quiet quietly


nervous nervously soft softly

Adjectives ending in -y »»» ily

happy happily angry angrily

Adjectives ending in le »»» ly

terrible terribly capable capably


Adjectives ending in ly

in a
friendly
friendly daily daily
way /
manner
in a
lively
lively early early
way /
manner
in a
lonely
lonely monthly monthly
way /
manner
in a
lovely
lovely weekly weekly
way /
manner
in a silly
silly way / yearly yearly
manner

Irregular forms

good well low low


fast fast straight straight
hard hard extra extra
long long doubtless doubtless

Double forms

hard hard hardly = kaum


near near nearly = beinahe
lately = in letzter
late late
Zeit

HOW TO USE THE ADVERB

Verb + adverb
The adverb describes a verb ( eine Tätigkeit wird näher
beschrieben).

Example: He drove carefully.


verb adverb
She sold her house quickly
verb adverb

Adjective + adverb

The adverb describes an adjective (ein Adjektiv wird näher


beschrieben).

Example: Her necklace was horribly expensive.


adverb adjective
She was terribly sorry.
adverb adjective

Adverb + adverb

The adverb describes an adverb (ein Adverb wird näher


beschrieben).

Example: They played terribly badly.


adverb adverb
He did his absolutely correctly.
homework
adverb adverb

No adverb with the following verbs

forms of to am, is, are, was, were,


be: will be, have been, had
been
seem get turn grow sound
look feel taste become smell
(aussehen)
Rule #1: Adjectives modify nouns; adverbs modify verbs,
adjectives, and other adverbs.

You can recognize adverbs easily because many of them are formed by adding -ly to an adjective.

Here are some sentences that demonstrate some of the differences between an adjective and an
adverb.

Richard is careless.

Here careless is an adjective that modifies the proper noun Richard.

Richard talks carelessly.

Here carelessly is an adverb that modifies the verb talks.

Priya was extremely happy.

Here happy is an adjective that modifies the proper noun Priya and extremely is an adverb that
modifies the adjective happy.

Adverbs can't modify nouns, as you can see from the following incorrect sentences.

He is a quietly man.

The correct sentence above should say, "He is a quiet man."

I have a happily dog.

The correct sentence above should say, "I have a happy dog."

Rule #2: An adjective always follows a form of the verb to be


when it modifies the noun before the verb. Here are some
examples that show this rule.
I was nervous.

She has been sick all week.

They tried to be helpful.

Rule #3: Likewise an adjective always follows a sense verb or a


verb of appearance — feel, taste, smell, sound, look, appear, and
seem — when it modifies the noun before the verb.
Sharon's cough sounds bad.

Here bad is an adjective that modifies the noun cough. Using the adverb badly here would not
make sense, because it would mean her cough isn't very good at sounding.
Castor oil tastes awful.

Here awful is an adjective that modifies the noun oil. Using the adverb awfully here would not
make sense, because it would mean that castor oil isn't very good at tasting.

The ocean air smells fresh.

Here fresh is an adjective that modifies the noun air. Using the adverb freshly here would not
make sense, because it would mean that the air has a sense of smell that it uses in a fresh
manner.

She seems unhappy today.

Here unhappy is an adjective that modifies the pronoun she. Using the adverb unhappily here
would not make sense, because it would mean that she isn't very good at seeming.

Be careful to notice whether the word modifies the subject or the verb in the sentence. If the word
modifies the subject, you should use an adjective. If the word modifies the verb, you should use
an adverb. The difference is shown in the following pair of sentences.

This apple smells sweet.

Here sweet is an adjective that modifies the noun apple. Using the adverb sweetly here would not
make sense, because it would mean that the apple can smell things in a sweet manner.

Your dog smells carefully.

Here carefully is an adverb that modifies the verb smells. Using the adjective careful here would
not make sense, because it would mean that the dog gives off an odor of carefulness.

Avoiding Common Errors

Bad or Badly?

When you want to describe how you feel, you should use an adjective (Why? Feel is a sense
verb;see rule #3 above). So you'd say, "I feel bad." Saying you feel badly would be like saying
you play football badly. It would mean that you are unable to feel, as though your hands were
partially numb.

Good or Well?

Good is an adjective, so you do not do good or live good, but you do well and live well. Remember,
though, that an adjective follows sense-verbs and be-verbs, so you also feel good, look good,
smell good, are good, have been good, etc. (Refer to rule #3 above for more information about
sense verbs and verbs of appearance.)

Confusion can occur because well can function either as an adverb or an adjective. When well is
used as an adjective, it means "not sick" or "in good health." For this specific sense of well, it's OK
to say you feel well or are well — for example, after recovering from an illness. When not used in
this health-related sense, however, well functions as an adverb; for example, "I did well on my
exam."

Double-negatives
Scarcely and hardly are already negative adverbs. To add another negative term is redundant,
because in English only one negative is ever used at a time

They found scarcely any animals on the island. (not scarcely no...)

Hardly anyone came to the party. (not hardly no one...)

Sure or Surely?

Sure is an adjective, and surely is an adverb. Sure is also used in the idiomatic expression sure to
be. Surely can be used as a sentence-adverb. Here are some examples that show different uses of
sure and surely. Adjectives are in blue and adverbs are in red.

I am sure that you were there.

Here sure is an adjective that modifies the pronoun I.

He is surely ready to take on the project.

Here surely is an adverb that modifies the adjective ready.

She is sure to be a great leader.

Here sure to be is an idiomatic phrase that functions as an adjective that modifies the pronoun
she.

Surely, environmental destruction has been one of the worst catastrophes brought

about by industrial production.

Here surely is an adverb that modifies the verb has been.

Real or Really?

Real is an adjective, and really is an adverb. Here are some examples that demonstrate the
difference between real and really.

She did really well on that test.

Here really is an adverb that modifies the adverb well.

Is she really going out with him?

Here really is an adverb that modifies the verb phrase going out.

Popular culture proposes imaginary solutions to real problems.

Here real is an adjective that modifies the noun problems.

Near or Nearly?
Near can function as a verb, adverb, adjective, or preposition. Nearly is used as an adverb to
mean "in a close manner" or "almost but not quite." Here are some examples that demonstrate
the differences between various uses of near and nearly.

The moment of truth neared.

Here neared is a verb in the past tense.

We are nearly finished with this project.

Here nearly is an adverb that modifies the verb finished.

The cat crept near.

Here near is an adverb of place that modifies the verb crept.

First cousins are more nearly related than second cousins.

Here nearly is an adverb that modifies the verb related.

The detective solves the mystery in a scene near the end of the movie.

Here near is a preposition. The prepositional phrase near the end of the movie modifies the noun
scene.
What are adjectives?
Adjectives are descriptive words which are used to add detail to a sentence. They can
give important or necessary information (e.g. Please hand me the blue paper), or they can
just make the sentence more interesting or detailed (e.g. A frigid, icy, painfully cold wind
blew around the town). Adjectives modify (describe) nouns.

Adjectives can usually be identified by asking what:

The girl is beautiful .

What is the girl? She’s beautiful.

Uses of adjectives
Adjectives can tell the reader how much – or how many – of something you’re talking
about, which thing you want passed to you, or which kind you want.

Please use three white flowers in the arrangement.

Three and white are modifying flowers.

If you are using multiple adjectives which are commonly put together, there’s no need for a
comma between the adjectives.

Look at that sweet little puppy!

If the adjectives aren’t usually used together, separate them with a comma or conjunction.

I’m looking for a small, good-tempered dog to keep as a pet.


My new dog is small and good-tempered .
Adjectives usually go before the noun (e.g. small child) unless one of the following verbs
are involved: be, feel, taste, smell, sound, look, appear, seem. In these cases, the adjectives
work more like adverbs.
The child is small .
The child seems small.

For more examples using to be and sense verbs with adjectives, go to Adjectives and Verbs.

Adjectives modify nouns


Adjectives are words which modify (describe) a noun… not verbs or adverbs or other
adjectives.

The girl is beautiful .

Beautiful is modifying the noun girl.

Tom Longboat was not a bad runner. (adjective)


It’s easy to identify the adjective in this sentence.

The foundation seems good . (adjective used as adverb)


This descriptive word is a little more difficult. Even though good is usually an adjective, it’s
modifying seems (How does the foundation seem? It seems good.) so it’s an adverb. We
can’t answer the question “what is the foundation” because we haven’t shaken it around
and tested it yet, so we don’t know if it’s good foundation or bad foundation… we’ll find out
for sure if the building falls down.

N.B. Sometimes it may look like an adjective is modifying another adjective, as in the case
of dark blue or bright yellow, but this is because modern writing has removed the hyphen
from a compound adjective. The proper form is dark-blue and bright-yellow. The evolution
of English will eventually change the rules so an adjective can modify another adjective,
but formal writing standards don’t allow it yet.

Adjectives and Verbs


There are two things to consider when contemplating the relationship between adjectives
and verbs. The first is that adjectives can come after the verb:

The rock star was crazy .


The cat’s tail is long .
I am furious with my business partner.
The cookies smell awesome !
That shirt looks great on you.

Note that these are forms of to be or “sense” verbs: to look, to seem, to appear, to taste, to
sound, to feel, to smell, etc. If these verbs are modifying the noun in front of them, an
adjective will always be required so the noun is properly modified.

The second thing to consider is verbs that turn into adjectives; these are calledparticiples.
Usually, the verb has -ing tacked onto the end of the root form, or it’s the past tense. The
adjective can be placed before the noun or after the verb.

The smiling baby is really cute .

Smiling is used as an adjective here, as is cute.

This is my new washing machine.

Washing is acting like an adjective for machine.

This is my broken washing machine.


This washing machine is broken .

Broken is an adjective which is modifying washing machine.

In the summer, frozen popsicles are refreshing.


The secretary handed the boss the translated document.
After washing all the teacups, she found a forgotten one in the living room.

What are adverbs?


Adverbs are descriptive words which are used to add detail to a sentence. They can give
important or necessary information (e.g. Please hand me the scalpel now), or they can just
make the sentence more interesting or detailed (e.g. A wind
blew violently andunceasingly around the town). Adverbs usually modify verbs, and they
frequently end in -ly.

Adverbs can be identified by how or where or when:

The dog ran quickly .

How did the dog run? It ran quickly.

Uses of adverbs
Adverbs answer the question how (e.g. How is the dog running?), as well
as when, andwhere.
The dog ran quickly .

Quickly is modifying the verb ran.

The adverb doesn’t have to go after the verb; feel free to vary the sentence structure to
make it more interesting for your reader:

Silently , the girl snuck past her parents’ room.

Adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs.

The dog ran fairly quickly .

The adverb fairly is modifying the other adverb quickly.

The weather report is almost always right.

The adverb almost is modifying the adverb always.

The woman is quite pretty .

The adverb quite is modifying the adjective pretty.

This book is more interesting than the last one.

The adverb more is modifying the adjective interesting.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other


adverbs
Adverbs are words which modify (adds description to) a verb. Often – but not always –
they end in -ly.

Tom Longboat did not run badly . (adverb)

It’s easy to identify the adverb in this sentence.

That cake looks good . (adjective used as adverb)


My elderly neighbor looks well . (adverb)

These two descriptive words are a little more difficult. Even though good is usually an
adjective, it’s modifying looks (How does the cake look? It looks good.) so it’s an adverb.
We can’t answer the question “what is the cake” because we haven’t tasted it yet, so we
don’t know if it’s good cake or bad cake.

Adverbs can also modify adjectives and other adverbs.

The woman is quite pretty.


This book is more interesting than the last one.
The weather report is almost always right.

The adverb almost is modifying the adverb always, and they’re both modifying right.

Adverbs and Nouns


Adverbs can occasionally modify nouns. The effect is creative and informal, and is best
not used in formal writing.

I have lots of homework.

The adverb lots is modifying homework, telling the reader how much you have.

However, breaking grammar rules does wonders for adding emphasis:

This book is altogether madness.

Altogether is an adverb. There’s no argument here as to what the speaker thinks of the
book.

I’m feeling more like myself after a hot bath.

More like myself is an adverb phrase which is modifying feeling, even though it looks
likemore is modifying the pronoun myself.

You should assess your own writing based on the audience: would your reader find this
sentence structure interesting or disconcerting?