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Contributors:Paul Lynch, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This worksheet discusses the differences between adjectives and adverbs. It defines adjectives and adverbs, shows what each can do, and offers several examples of each in use. Click here for some examples.

The Difference between Adjectives and Adverbs

The Basic Rules: Adjectives

Adjectives modify nouns. To modify means to change in some way. For example:

Adjectives usually answer one of a few different questions: "What kind?" or "Which?" or "How many?" For example:

So, generally speaking, adjectives answer the following questions:

The Basic Rules: Adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. (You can recognize adverbs easily because many of them are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, though that is not always the case.) The most common question that adverbs answer is how.

Let's look at verbs first.

Adverbs also modify adjectives and other adverbs.

So, generally speaking, adverbs answer the question how. (They can also answer the questions when, where, and why.)

Some other rules:

Most of the time, adjectives come before nouns. However, they come after the nouns they modify, most often when the verb is a form of the following:

Some examples:

Be sure to understand the differences between the following two examples:

"The dog smells carefully." Here, carefully describes how the dog is smelling. We imagine him sniffing very cautiously.

But:

"The dog smells clean." Here, clean describes the dog itself. It's not that he's smelling clean things or something; it's that he's had a bath and does not stink.

Contributors:Paul Lynch, Allen Brizee.
Summary:

This worksheet discusses the differences between adjectives and adverbs. It defines adjectives and adverbs, shows what each can do, and offers several examples of each in use. Click here for some examples.

Avoiding Common Errors

  1. Bad or Badly?

    When you want to describe how you feel, you should use an adjective So you'd say, "I feel bad." Saying "I feel badly" would be like saying you play football badly. "I feel badly" would mean that you are unable to feel, as though your hands were numb. Here are some other examples:

    • "The dog smells badly." Here, badly means that the dog does not do a good job of smelling.
    • "The dog smells bad." Here, "bad" means that dog needs a bath.

    N.B. Sometimes people say "I feel badly" when they feel that they have done something wrong. Let's say you dropped your friend's favorite dish, and it broke into a million pieces. You might say, "I feel really badly about what happened."

  2. Good or Well?

    Good is an adjective, so you do not do good or live good, but you do well and live well. Remember, though, that an adjective follows sense-verbs and be-verbs, so you also feel good, look good, smell good, are good, have been good, etc. So:

    "My mother looks good." This does not mean that she has good eyesight; it means that she appears healthy.

    "I feel really good today." Again, this does not mean that I touch things successfully. It means rather that I am happy or healthy.

    N.B. Many people confuse this distinction in conversation, and that's okay. You will hear people say, "I feel well" when they mean that they feel good. However, if you're talking about action verbs, you'd say "well." "I did well on my exam." "She plays tennis well."

  3. Sure or Surely?

    Sure is an adjective, and surely is an adverb. For example:

    • "He is sure about his answer." Sure describes he.
    • "The Senator spoke out surely." Here, surely describes how the senator spoke.

    N.B. Surely can also be used as a sentence-adverb. For example, "Surely, you're joking." Here, surely describes the entire sentence "you're joking." The sentence more or less means, "You must be joking."

  4. Near or Nearly?

    Near can function as a verb, adverb, adjective, or preposition. Nearly is used as an adverb to mean "in a close manner" or "almost but not quite." Here are some examples that demonstrate the differences between various uses of near and nearly.

    • "I'll be seeing you in the near future." Here, near describes the noun "future."
    • "The cat crept near." Near is an adverb that describes where the cat crept.
    • "Don't worry; we're nearly there." Here, nearly describes how close we are.

    Near can also be used as a verb and a preposition.

    • "My graduation neared." Here, neared is the verb of the sentence.
    • "I want the couch near the window." Near is a preposition at the head of the phrase "near the window."