Adjectives and Adverbs

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Try an exercise about adjectives and adverbs here.


We use adjectives to describe nouns and pronouns. Adjectives can come before nouns or after linking verbs.

Before the noun: After a linking verb: (Linking verbs are verbs like 'be', 'become' and 'seem' which are not actions but instead link the subject to an adjective, noun or phrase that gives us more information about the subject. Read more about linking verbs here.)

We make the comparative and superlative of adjectives by adding either '-er / -est' or using 'more / most'. You can read more about comparatives and superlatives here. Adverbs

Adverbs are used to describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. They are often (but not always) made by adding 'ly' to the adjective. We make the comparative and superlative forms of adverbs by using 'more / most'. Adverb or adjective?

It's important to remember to use an adjective after a linking verb. However, this can be tricky as some verbs can be used as both normal verbs and as linking verbs. One test is to replace the verb with the same form of 'be' and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it does, the verb is being used as a linking verb and so needs an adjective, not an adverb. Irregular forms

Normally, we make an adverb by adding 'ly' to an adjective.
careful (adjective)
He is always careful.
carefully (adverb)
She put the glasses down carefully.
quiet (adjective)
This is a quiet room.
quietly (adverb)
She spoke quietly.
bad (adjective)
This coffee is bad!
badly (adverb)
He sings badly!
If the adjective ends in 'y', we change 'y' to 'i' and add 'ly'. If the adjective ends in 'le', we drop 'e' and add 'y'.
happy (adjective)
She looks very happy.
happily (adverb)
He sang happily.
gentle (adjective)
It's a gentle cat.
gently (adverb)
He stroked the cat gently.
However, there are some exceptions.
fast (adjective)
That's a fast car.
fast (adverb)
She walks fast.
early (adjective)
She was early for the meeting.
early (adverb)
He arrived early.
late (adjective)
He is always late!
late (adverb)
He got up late this morning.
('lately' is also an adverb but means 'recently'.)
good (adjective)
That is a good book.
well (adverb)
She did well on the exam.
('well' can also be an adjective, see below)
hard (adjective)
Maths is hard!
hard (adverb)
She tried hard.
('hardly' is also an adverb, but means 'almost none', see below)
There are also some adjectives that end in 'ly' and don't have an adverb form. Instead we use 'in a ---way'. These are friendly, lovely, lonely, lively, and silly. Good / well

'Well' can be confusing because it is both the adverb form of 'good', and an adjective that means 'healthy and fine'. Of course, we also use 'good' as an adjective. Hard / hardly

'Hard' is both an adjective and an adverb. 'Hardly' is also an adverb, but it means 'almost nothing' or 'almost none'. Late / lately

'Late' is an adjective and an adverb. There is also an adverb 'lately', which means 'recently'. Modern English and Adverbs

Many native English speakers are starting to use adjectives where traditionally we need an adverb. Some people think this is incorrect, but it's very common. This is especially common with comparatives and superlatives. Of course, it's your choice if you'd like to follow traditional grammar or use the more modern style. I'd suggest that if you're writing formally, it's probably better to use an adverb. In all my exercises here, I use the traditional style.

Try an exercise about adjectives and adverbs here.

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