3.5 Adjectives and Adverbs

Preview

This section of Ch. 3 will cover the following topics:

  • the jobs of adjectives and adverbs
  • avoiding common errors

Adjectives and adverbs are fun. Their job is to modify, or add detail, to other words. Adjectives and adverbs make writing more interesting.

Tip

To “modify” means to change or improve something by adding to it. Notice “adjective” and “adverb” begin with “ad“?

For example, “cat” is a good, solid noun and “ran” is a simple verb, but “The silky spotted cat ran swiftly and silently.” is much more interesting than “The cat ran.” “Silky” and “spotted” are adjectives; “swiftly” and “silently” are adverbs.

Adjectives

Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. An adjective answers questions such as which one, what kind, what color, or what shape.

To find an adjective, first find the nouns and pronouns. Then, look around to see if any words add information to those nouns and pronouns.

Here is an example of adjectives modifying nouns:

The head librarian helped me find a history book on famous writers. (“librarian,” “book” and “writers” are all nouns. “head” tell us which librarian; “history” tell us what kind of book; “famous” tells us what kind of writers. “head,” “history,” and “famous” are all adjectives.)

Here is an example of an adjective modifying a pronoun:

She is tall. (“tall” is an adjective that describes the size of the pronoun “She.”)

Articles

The words “a,” “an” and “the” are special types of adjectives called articles. They modify nouns and pronouns, just like regular adjectives, and tell us which one or how many. For example:

The dog barked at a woman on the street. (“The” tells us which dog, “a” tells us how many women, and “the” tells us which street.)

Some people are confused about when to use “the” and when to use “a” or “an.” The answer depends on whether we are referring to a specific noun (“the dog”) or a general noun (“a woman”).

Placement

In English, adjectives usually come before the noun or pronoun (Asian elephant, small table, long journey). But not always. For example:

The organic farm has oranges that are ripe and juicy. (“The” and “organic” are adjectives that modify the noun “farm.” But “ripe” and “juicy” are adjectives too; they modify “oranges” even though they come after the noun.)

Changing Jobs

When nouns or pronouns modify another noun or pronoun, they turn into adjectives. For example:

worker’s schedule, dog’s bed, her book, their house, your homework

These adjectives answer the question “which one?”

It is important to find nouns and pronouns in a sentence before trying to identify their adjectives. Look at the whole sentence, not just individual words.

Capitalizing

We capitalize proper nouns. When proper nouns work as adjectives, they are still capitalized. For example:

Oregon → Oregon beers

Catholic → Catholic church

Obama → Obama presidency

Graphic Materials

Watch this video to reinforce what you’ve learned about adjectives:

Exercise 1

In your notebook, copy the following sentences. Leave space between them so you have room to work.

  1. Lily works seven shifts every week at the clinic.
  2. The book is new, but it is damaged.
  3. Flowers make a special gift.
  4. He is my favorite musician.
  5. That little black dog is noisy.

Then, do the following:

  • Find the nouns. If the noun is proper, put “np” above it. If the noun is common, put “nc” above it.
  • Then, look for pronouns. Put “pro” above them.
  • Find any and put “adj” above them.
  • Then draw an arrow from the adjective to the noun or pronoun it is modifying.

Adverbs

Adverbs and adjectives do the same kind of work: they other words.  The difference is which types of words they modify.  Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Adverbs answer questions such as how, to what extent, why, when, and where. For example:

  • Adverb modifying a verb: Bertrand sings horribly. (“horribly” modifies the verb “sings”; it tells how.)
  • Adverb modifying an adjective: Sarah was very nervous about the date. (“very” modifies the adjective “nervous”; it tells how much.)
  • Adverb modifying another adverb: Students study really hard before finals. (“hard” is an adverb that modifies the verb “study”; it tells to what extent. “really” is also an adverb; it modifies the adverb “hard”; it also tells to what extent.)

To find adjectives, we started by finding nouns and pronouns. To find adverbs, we must first find the verbs and adjectives in the sentence.

ly Adverbs

Many adverbs are formed by adding “ly” to an adjective. For example:

peaceful (adj) → peacefully (adv)

rude (adj) → rudely (adv)

happy (adj) → happily (adv)

However, other words end in “ly.” For example:

The early bird gets the worm. (“early” is an adjective that modifies the noun “bird.”)

And many adverbs don’t end in “ly.”  For example:

next, not, often, then, seldom.

But many adverbs do end in “ly,” so it is a good clue.

Placement

Unlike adjectives, which usually appear in front of the noun or pronoun they modify, adverbs move around. In the following sentences, the adverb “now” modifies the verb “have” by saying when, but it can appear in many locations:

Now I have enough money for a vacation.

I now have enough money for a vacation.

I have enough money now for a vacation.

Adverbs can also appear in the middle of a , but that doesn’t mean they are part of the verb. They are still adverbs. For example:

I do not have enough money for a vacation. (“not” is an adverb that modifies the verb “do have.”)

Other adverbs that often interrupt verbs are “also” and “never.”

Caution

Don’t overuse adverbs. Unlike adjectives, which often add interesting information, too many adverbs can actually weaken writing. For example:

It was a very, very cold night. (The word “very” already means “excessively” so don’t say it twice.)

Also, don’t use an adverb to modify a verb if a stronger, one-word verb is better. For example, use “gulp” rather than “drink quickly” or “ravenous” rather than “very hungry.”

Graphic Materials

To reinforce what you’ve learned about adverbs, watch this video:

Exercise 2

Go back to these sentences from Ex. 1.

  1. Lily works seven shifts every week at the clinic.
  2. The book is new, but it is damaged.
  3. Flowers make a special gift.
  4. He is my favorite musician.
  5. That little black dog is noisy.

You found the nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verbs.  Now look for adverbs:

  • First, see if any words modify the verbs you found. Label them “adv” for “adverb.”
  • Then, see if any words modify the adjectives you found. Label them “adv” for “adverb.”
  • Finally, see if any words modify the adverbs you just found. Label them “adv” too.
  • Then draw an arrow from the adverbs to the words they modify.

If you are unsure about your answers, go back and re-read the earlier sections of this chapter. Don’t move on until you feel comfortable identifying nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Don’t Confuse Adverbs and Adjectives

You may hear someone say, “Anthony is real smart” or “The pizza is real salty.” That is not correct grammar, but it is a common error.

The word “real” is an adjective. For example:

It was a real event, something that actually happened to me.

Tip

A dictionary will tell you what part of speech a word is. If the word can work as several parts of speech, a dictionary will tell you that too.

In that sentence, “real” modifies the noun “event” so “real” is an adjective. The word “real” cannot modify “smart” or “salty” because they are adjectives and a word that modifies an adjective has to be an adverb.

The correct way to say the above sentences is “Anthony is really smart” and “The pizza is really salty.” “really” is an adverb that modifies the adjectives “smart” and “salty.”

People also have difficulty differentiating between “good” and “well” or “bad” and “badly.” For example:

Cecilia is a good person. (“good” is an adjective that modifies the noun “person.”)

Cecilia did well on a test. (“well” is an adverb that modifies the verb “did.”)

I performed badly on my accounting test. (“badly” is an adverb that modifies the verb “performed.”)

The coming thunderstorm looked bad. (“bad” is an adjective that modifies the noun “thunderstorm.”)

“Good” and “bad” are adjectives.  “Well” and “badly” are adverbs.

Exercise 3

In your notebook, write the following sentences, adding an appropriate adjective or adverb. Write “adj” or “adv” above it. Then draw an arrow to the word it modifies.

  1. Zdravko choked on the ____________ piece of chicken when he saw Maureen walk through the door.
  2. Although Stefan took the criticism ____________ , he remained calm.
  3. A child develops a ____________ imagination if he reads a lot.
  4. Crystal spoke ____________ while she was visiting her grandmother in the hospital.
  5. Jose’s ____________ possession is his father’s bass guitar from the 1970s.
  6. She eyed her new coworker and wondered ____________ if he was single.

Takeaways

  • Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns.
  • Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

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