Grammar Yammer: Adjectives vs. Adverbs

2019-03-04

Today we are going to answer one of the most common questions we get from students: "What is the difference between an adjective and an adverb?" Let's begin with the definitions an adjective and an adverb followed by some examples.

 


Adjective 


An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun.


Modifying a noun: I sat down on the blue chair.


The noun here is "chair", which is described to be "blue", which means that "blue" is the adjective. The word "blue" here is giving us more details about the chair.

 


Adverb


An adverb is a word that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb. As adverbs are more versatile, we will look at three different examples:

 

  1. Modifying a verb: The girl ran happily toward her best friend.
    The word "happily" is the adverb, as it modifies the verb "ran". "Happily" is giving details on how the girl ran.

  2. Modifying an adjective: Sian was a highly skilled pianist.
    The word "highly" is the adverb, as it modifies the adjective "skilled". "Highly" gives the reader an idea of how skilled Sian is.

  3. Modifying another adverb: The leopard ran surprisingly slowly toward its prey.
    The word "surprisingly" is an adverb that modifies the other adverb "slowly". "Surprisingly" is giving more details to how slowly the leopard was running.



Converting between Adjectives and Adverbs


Often, words can be converted from an adjective to an adverb by simply adding "ly" to the end of an adjective. For example, the adjective "smooth" can be converted to the adverb "smoothly" by adding "ly".

 

Here are some more examples:


AdjectiveAdverb
SoftSoftly
CarefulCarefully
HappyHappily
ExtremeExtremely



Errors in Adjective and Adverb Use

 

As adjectives and adverbs look very similar, many people get confused about which one to use. In this situation, the two rules to go by are:


 

  1. An adjective cannot modify a verb.

    Let's look at an example of this error:

    X: The Queen started to wave elegant to the crowds at the event.

    The word "elegant" should be describing the verb "wave", which means that the word "elegant" should be in its adverbial form "elegantly". However, "elegant" is used incorrectly here as it is an adjective. The correct version of the sentence should be:

    ✔: The Queen started to wave elegantly to the crowds at the event.


  2. An adverb cannot modify a noun.

    Let's look at an example of this error:

    X: As the event started, the elegantly Queen waved to the crowds.

    The word "elegantly" should be describing the noun "Queen". However, "elegantly" is an adverb, which is incorrect. Thus, the correct version should use the adjectival version of the word which is "elegant". The correct version of the sentence should be:

    ✔: As the event started, the elegant Queen waved to the crowds.



If you would like to learn more about grammar, see the rest of our Grammar Yammer series.



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