Adjectives and Adverbs
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.
Generally, if a word answers the question how, it is an adverb. If it can have an -ly added to it, place it there.
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.
- Adjectives: Adjectives fall into two categories: descriptive and limiting. Descriptive adjectives are those which describe the color, size, or quality of a person or thing (noun or pronoun). Limiting adjectives place restrictions on the words they modify (quantity, distance, possesion, etc). Note: Only these and those are plural forms. All others remain the whether the noun is singular or plural.
Beautiful cardinal numbers (one, two)
large ordinal numbers (first, second)
red posseives ( my, your, his)
interesting demonstratives ( this, that, these, those)
important quantity ( few, mny, much)
colorful articles ( a, an, the)
When descriptive adjectives modify a singular countable noun, they are usually preceded by a, an, or the.
A pretty girl an interesting story the red dress
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.
If a group of words containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb (modifying the verb of a sentence), it is called an Adverbs Clause:
- When this class is over, we’re going to the movies.
When a group of words not containing a subject and verb acts as an adverb, it is called an adverbial phrase. Prepositional phrases frequently have adverbial functions (telling place and time, modifying the verb):
- He went to the movies.
- She works on holidays.
- They lived in Canada during the war.
And Infinitive phrases can act as adverbs (usually telling why):
- She hurried to the mainland to see her brother.
- The senator ran to catch the bus.
But there are other kinds of adverbial phrases:
- He calls his mother as often as possible.
Adverbs can modify adjectives, but an adjective cannot modify an adverb. Thus we would say that “the students showed a really wonderful attitude” and that “the students showed a wonderfully casual attitude” and that “my professor is really tall, but not “He ran real fast.”
Like adjectives, adverbs can have comparative and superlative forms to show degree.
- Walk faster if you want to keep up with me.
- The student who reads fastest will finish first.
We often use more and most, less and least to show degree with adverbs:
- With sneakers on, she could move more quickly among the patients.
- The flowers were the most beautifully arranged creations I’ve ever seen.
- She worked less confidently after her accident.
- That was the least skillfully done performance I’ve seen in years.
The as — as construction can be used to create adverbs that express sameness or equality: “He can’t run as fast as his sister.”
A handful of adverbs have two forms, one that ends in -ly and one that doesn’t. In certain cases, the two forms have different meanings:
- He arrived late.
- Lately, he couldn’t seem to be on time for anything.
In most cases, however, the form without the -ly ending should be reserved for casual situations:
- She certainly drives slow in that old Buick of hers.
- He did wrong by her.
- He spoke sharp, quick, and to the point.
Kinds of Adverbs
Adverbs of Manner
She moved slowly and spoke quietly.
Adverbs of Place
She has lived on the island all her life.
She still lives there now.
Adverbs of Frequency
She takes the boat to the mainland every day.
She often goes by herself.
Adverbs of Time
She tries to get back before dark.
It’s starting to get dark now.
She finished her tea first.
She left early.
Adverbs of Purpose
She drives her boat slowly to avoid hitting the rocks.
She shops in several stores to get the best buys.
English for Business Module.