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The Difference between Adjectives and Adverbs


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.

Contributors: Paul Lynch, Allen Brizee, Maryam A. Ghafoor
Last Edited: 2018-02-07 04:04:48

The Basic Rules: Adjectives

Adjectives modify nouns. By modifying, adjectives give a more detailed sense of the noun. For example:

Adjectives clarify the noun by answering one of the following different questions: "What kind?" or "Which?" or "How many?" For example:

Adjectives cannot modify verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

So, generally speaking, adjectives answer the following questions:

Some Other Rules for Adjectives

Most of the time, adjectives come before nouns. However, some adjectives actually come after the nouns they modify. An adjective follows a sense verb or verb of appearance when it modifies the noun before the verb. These adjectives will most often follow a verb form of the following:

Some examples:

Likewise, an adjective always follows a form of the verb, “to be.” Here are some examples of “to be” verbs: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.

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.

Adverbs answer the question how. They can also answer the questions whenwhere, and why.

Adverbs cannot modify nouns, as you can see from the following incorrect sentences.

In general, adverbs answer the following questions:

Examples of Differences between Adjectives and Adverbs

The following examples explain the differences between adjectives and adverbs:

Be sure to note the differences between the following examples:

"The dog smells clean." Here, clean describes the dog itself. It's not that he smells something clean; rather, he's had a bath and does not stink. Clean describes what kind of smell comes from the dog making it an adjective.

"The dog smells carefully." Here, carefully describes how the dog smells, making it an adverb. We imagine the dog sniffing cautiously.


“Kai dressed for the quick recital.” Here, quick describes the noun, recital, making it an adjective. What kind of recital? A quick one.

 “Kai dressed quickly for the recital.” Quickly describes the way Kai dressed, making it an adverb because it modifies the verb, dressed. How did Kai dress? Quickly.


“Look at the nice bed.” Nice modifies the noun, bed, in this sentence, making it an adjective.

“Look at the nicely made bed.” Nicely modifies the adjective, made, in this sentence, making it an adverb.


“Richard is careless.” Here, careless is an adjective that modifies the proper noun, Richard. What kind of person is Richard? A careless one.

“Richard talks carelessly.” Here, carelessly is an adverb that modifies the verb, talks. How does Richard talk? Carelessly.

In general, when a word has the ending “-ly,” it will act as an adverb. Pay close attention to how the noun is modified, as this is the final criteria when deciding between an adjective and adverb.

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