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 the question How?, When?, or Where?
The only adverbs that cause grammatical problems are those that answer the question
How? so we will focus on these.
Example He speaks slowly.
Answers the question How?
Example He speaks very slowly.
Answers the question How slowly?
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
an ly attached to it.
We performed bad/badly.
Badly describes how we performed.
A special ly
rule applies when four of the sensestaste,
smell, look, feel
are the verbs. Do not ask the 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.
Are the roses actively smelling 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 was added.
She feels bad/badly about the news.
She is not feeling with fingers, so no ly.
The word good
is an adjective while well
Examples You did a good job. Good describes the
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
You smell well for someone with a cold.
You are actively smelling with a nose, so follow with the adverb.
When referring to health, always use well.
Example I do not feel well.
A common error in using adjectives and adverbs arises from using
the wrong form for comparison. For instance, to describe one thing we would
, 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."
||Three or More
||*Usually with words of three or more syllables,
-er or -est. Use more or most
in front of the words.
Never drop the ly
from an adverb when using the comparison
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.
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