Using Adjectives and Adverbs


Adjectives are words that modify nouns and pronouns.
Adjectives answer the following questions: What kind? Which one(s)? How many? How much?

  1. Generally, adjectives appear right before the nouns they modify.
    EXAMPLE: The new owner gave free samples to every customer.
  2. However, adjectives used as subject complements come after the nouns they modify.
    EXAMPLE: The sky is cloudy.
    Cloudy follows the linking verb is and describes the subject sky.
  3. Some words can be used as either adjectives or nouns. Remember that an adjective modifies a noun or pronoun and a noun names a person, place, thing, or idea.
    • Our paper came late. (Paper is a noun.)
    • We used paper plates. (Paper is an adjective, modifying the word plates.)


Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.
Adverbs answer the following questions: When? Where? How? How much? How often?

  1. Many adverbs end in –ly. Some words have two forms: the adjective form without –ly and the adverb form with –ly.
    • eager (adjective)
    • eagerly (adverb)
  2. Adverbs can be shifted from one position in the sentence to another.
    • Suddenly the door opened.
    • The door suddenly opened.
    • The door opened suddenly.
  3. Most adjectives and adverbs have three degrees of power. The second degree is called the comparative, and the third degree is called the superlative.
    First Degree Second Degree Third Degree
    high higher highest
    intelligent more intelligent most intelligent
  4. Never use both the –er and more or the –est and most.
    INCORRECT: The tomato is more riper.
  5. Remember that good is an adjective and well is an adverb.
    • The soup smelled good.
    • She could not smell very well with her cold.
    Notice that good is used as the subject complement following the linking verb smell while well is used when smell is an action verb.
  6. A few adverbs have two forms — one with the –ly and one without. This shorter form is
    frequently used in brief commands and on traffic signs.
    • Drive slow!
    • Please come quick!
    • Talk loud.
    • Play fair.
    • Buy furniture cheap. (advertisement)
  7. Be sure to use really and surely as adverbs, not the words real and sure.
    INCORRECT: He did a real fine job.
    CORRECT: He did a really fine job.
  8. When words already end in –ly, you must make a prepositional phrase rather than add an –ly to form a modifier.
    EXAMPLES: friendly, neighborly, fatherly, orderly
    INCORRECT: The class walked orderly down the hall.
    CORRECT: The class walked down the hall in an orderly manner.
  9. In formal writing, use rather or somewhat instead of kind of or sort of.
    INCORRECT: She was sort of angry.
    CORRECT: She was somewhat angry.