Tutorial for Adjective and Adverb Usage

What are they?

An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or pronoun. Adjectives provide information about the person, place, object, or idea named by the noun or pronoun. They answer the following questions:

Which one? The cutest puppy belongs to the neighbors.

The adjective cutest modifies the noun puppy.

What kind? Use only scholarly sources for the paper.

The adjective scholarly modifies the noun sources.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, entire sentences, or clauses by describing, qualifying, or limiting the meaning of the words they modify. They answer the following questions:

How? Andrea Bocelli performed brilliantly.

When? Later, they met to discuss the proposal.

Where? The taxi driver headed downtown.

Most adverbs end in -ly. Common adverbs that do not end in -ly include almost, never, quite, soon, then, there, and too.

How to find and correct errors

The two most common errors involving adjectives and adverbs occur when writers use (A) an adjective instead of an adverb (or vice versa) and (B) the wrong form of an adjective or adverb in a comparison.

A: Using an Adjective Instead of an Adverb or an Adverb Instead of an Adjective

  1. Use adverbs, not adjectives, to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

    Those pants are awful awfully expensive.

  2. Use adjectives, not adverbs, as a subject complement or object complement. If you are not sure whether a word should be an adjective or an adverb, determine how it is used in the sentence. If it modifies a noun, it should be an adjective.

    Adjective: Our waiter looked slow.

    Slow modifies the word waiter, a noun. In this sentence, looked is a linking verb.

    Adverb: Our waiter looked slowly for some menus.

    In this sentence, looked expresses an action and is not a linking verb. Slowly modifies looked.

  3. Use good as an adjective and well as an adverb.

    Adjective: Einstein was not a good student. Good modifies the noun student.

    Adverb: Einstein did not perform well in school. Well modifies the verb perform.

    He did bad badly in the leading role.
    The adverb badly modifies the verb did.

  4. When you are describing someone's health, well can also function as an adjective.

    Adjective: The disease was in remission, but the patients were not yet well. Well modifies the noun patients.

B: Using the Wrong Form of an Adjective or Adverb in a Comparison

  1. Use the comparative forms of adjectives and adverbs to compare two things; use the superlative form to compare three or more things.

  2. Check your comparisons to be sure they are complete when using comparative and superlative forms. An incomplete comparison can leave your reader confused about what is being compared.

    Incomplete: The Internet works more efficiently.

    Revised: For sending messages, the Internet works more efficiently than the postal service.

  3. Do not use more or most with the -er or -est form of an adjective or adverb.

    The hypothesis must be more clearer.