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Adverbs & Adjectives: What's the Difference?

What words would you use to describe your surroundings right now? Perhaps you’re in a large bedroom, or a beautifully designed library. When you think about describing your surroundings, a specific adverb or adjective will probably come to mind. This is because using an adverb or adjective in your speaking or writing enables you to describe things clearly. But when do you use an adverb vs adjective, and how are the two different? Let’s look at how these phrases of speech are similar and how to tell them apart. Before you begin, learn about APA format and more styles of making citations for your next writing assignment!

What are Adjectives and Adverbs?

The former describes a noun, while the latter describes a verb. But what exactly does that mean? Well, noun describing words give your audience more information about a person, place, or thing.

For example, take an average sentence like:

  • That is an energy drink.

It becomes:

  • That is a tasty and refreshing energy drink.

As you can tell, your choice of language can give more meaning to the noun you’re describing.

  • The building next door

Vs.

  • The stunning and extravagant building next door.

Basically, you’re able to add more detail and description with noun modifying words.

There are also verb describing words to choose from. These words explain how an action is done, or describe a state of being. Without them, you’ll have a standard and rather plain sentence. One example is:

  • Stephanie won her doubles tennis match.

With verb modifying words however, you’re able to provide additional information. Compare the example above with the sentences:

  • Stephanie single-handedly won her doubles tennis match.

  • Stephanie narrowly won her doubles tennis match.

The addition of one word in both sentences dramatically changes the actions being described in both sentences. That’s why, for clarity's sake, it’s great to use an adjective and adverb whenever it’s appropriate.

Now that you understand a bit more about these descriptive words, get more info about the differences by following the link.

So, How Are They Different Exactly?

Even though you know a bit more about descriptive words, it doesn’t mean it’s any easier to tell the two apart. So, what is the difference between an adjective and an adverb? Well, you can learn certain rules around the differences between adjectives and adverbs. These rules will help you properly use both types of descriptive words without getting mixed up.

Rule #1 for Using an Adjective or Adverb Properly: Look at the Ending of a Descriptive Word

Words that describe verbs often end with -ly. A few examples include awkwardly, carefully, gracefully, and quietly. Therefore, if you see that a describing words ends in -ly, then it’s probably modifying a verb.

However, there are a always exceptions to the rules. Some words blur the lines by causing an adverb and adjective to look alike. Here are a few words that look like verb modifying verbs, but actually modify nouns:

Brotherly Costly Cowardly Deadly Gentlewomanly
Friendly Elderly Ghostly Leisurely Lively
Motherly Poorly Timely Ugly Saintly

Likewise, there are also noun modifying words that don’t end in -ly and can easily be confused with verb modifiers. Here are a few:

Never Together Hard Clear Fine
Far Deep Straight Fast Quick

Adjectives and Adverbs Rule #2: Determine the Context

What are you trying to describe? If you’re describing a person, place, or thing, then you use noun modifying words. However, if you’re explaining an action or state of being, you use a different set of words. Additionally, if something tells you how, when, or where something took place, you need verb modifying words. For instance:

  • She rides crazily on her bike.

In this sentence, crazily explains the action someone takes while riding. Yet, when you’re talking about what you have or how many things you have, then you use noun modifying words. For example:

  • He rides an old, dusty bike.

You should be able to identify which word works correctly by identifying what’s happening in a sentence.

Adjective and Adverbs Rule #3: There Are a Few Words That Are Easy to Mix Up

Good and Well

When it comes to the words good and well, you might face uncertainty when deciding which one is right in a sentence. Good modifies nouns. Thus, you can feel good, but you cannot do good.

Instead, to describe actions or states of being, you use the word well. For example:

  • I did well on the test.
  • You chose well.

When it comes to the word well, you should connect it to a verb, like you would in the sentence, “he sings well.”

Bad and Badly

How do you decide whether to use the adverb or adjective bad or badly? That's a great question! Here’s how to guarantee that you don’t mix up the two.

You should match state of being words like feel, sound, taste, and appear with noun modifying words. For example:

  • Correct: You look bad.
  • Incorrect: You look badly.

What you’re actually suggesting by telling someone, “you look badly” is that they cannot see very well. When in fact, you probably mean that someone does not look their best. It’s simple to confuse words like bad and badly, or poor and poorly, but it’s not too difficult to get it right once you learn some simple grammar rules.

Next, you’re going to learn answers to common questions about adjectives and adverbs. Before you do, get ready to turn in your next homework assignment by reviewing this plagiarism check. Need help proactively creating citations for your sources? Try Citation Machine's tools for MLA format!

Which Kind of Clause Modifies Adjectives, Verbs, or an Adverb?

This is one common English question that’s particularly popular in school. To modify an adverb or adjective, use an adverbial clause. An adverbial clause contains a predicate and a subject which all work as a group of verb modifying words. Use this useful link to learn more.

What Are Adjective and Adverb Phrases?

Both type of phrases are groups of words which act to modify nouns and verbs respectively. Instead of being only a single word, a phrase is made two or more words to modify another word. So, what’s an example of an adverbs and adjectives phrase? Try to determine which of the following phrases can modify verbs, and which can modify nouns.

Adjective vs Adverb Phrases: Can you tell which is which?

  • My food wasn’t too bad.
  • I’m going to the park in two hours.
  • My neighbors always blast painfully bad music.
  • Meet me at the store, okay?
  • We ate our food in silence.