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Adjectives and Adverbs

by Brian December 14, 2021

If you’re reading this, you probably know that when we learn a second language (or third, or fourth!) we have to learn some technical things about the language that we normally don’t have to learn about our mother tongue.

We come across words that are used to describe the grammar of the language like noun, adjective, verb, adverb, clause and preposition. Teachers and writers of language books often assume that the learners understand these grammar terms. But that is not always the case! For example, many students have difficulty remembering the differences between adjectives and adverbs. In this blog post, I will try to explain the differences between adjectives and adverbs as clearly as possible. Let’s get down to business!

Adjectives

Adjectives are words we use to describe people, things, places or anything else! In the following sentences, the adjectives are in bold.

They live in a big, old house.
That book is long and boring.
Are you single or married?
The meal was delicious but quite expensive.

Position of adjectives

The most common positions for adjectives are before a noun or after the verb to be.

Before a noun

It is very common to use one or more adjectives before a noun. The adjective tells us something about the noun.

Adjective Noun
fast car
spacious apartment
tall building
amazing view
tiny insect

 

After the verb to be

It is also common to use an adjective after the verb to be

Subject Verb ‘to be’ Adjective
The sky is blue
My bicycle was electric
This bed is comfortable
John will be late
The weather has been great
Her clothes are elegant

Order of adjectives

We often use two or more adjectives to describe something. In English, we cannot use adjectives in any order we like. For example, we say:

The fast red car.
not
The red fast car.

So how do we know what order to place adjectives in? There are rules!
Native English speakers naturally use the correct order. Unfortunately, non native speakers have to learn the order. The order is know as The Royal Order of Adjectives.

 

Quantity/Determiner Opinion Size Age Shape Colour Origin/Material Qualifier/Purpose Noun
one small green delivery car
a spacious modern apartment
an old wooden farm building
the beautiful sea view
a creepy little round insect

Adjectives

    • Adjectives describe things
    • Adjectives normally come before nouns or after the verb ‘to be’
    • Adjective order follows rules (The Royal Order of Adjectives)
Bring a friend to school

Adverbs

Adverbs add information to a word or a clause. There are many types of adverb. In this article, we will focus on the most common types of adverb. These are adverbs of manner, place, time, degree and frequency.

Adverbs of manner

Adverbs of manner tell us how an action is done. They are normally formed by adding -ly to an adjective. Here are some examples:

She walks quickly.
Dave drives dangerously.
Suddenly I felt afraid.

There are some exceptions which are not formed by adding -ly to an adjective:

Adjective           Adverb

fast                        fast
good                      well
hard                       hard

Adverbs of place

Adverbs of place tell us where something is or where something happens. Here are some examples:

They have lived there all their lives.
The flat upstairs in very large.
I don’t like ithere.

Adverbs of time

Adverbs of time tell us when something happens. Here are some examples:

He’s not working now.
Sue is moving to London soon.
They have bought a new car recently.

Adverbs of degree

Adverbs of degree tell us ‘how much’. Here are some examples:

It was very hot yesterday.
Carol is so smart.
I’m feeling quite tired.

Adverbs of frequency

Adverbs of frequency tell us how often something happens.
Here are some examples:

We usually eat fish on Fridays.
She has never played tennis.
I rarely go to the cinema.

For more information on adverbs of frequency check out this blog post

Position of adverbs

The table below shows the most common positions for adverbs.

Type of adverb Position Example
manner end We walked slowly.
place end She doesn’t livehere.
time end They went to the zoo yesterday.
degree middle It was quite cold this morning.
frequency middle We have never been to Denmark.

Adverbs

    • Adverbs describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs
    • Adverbs of manner normally end in-ly
    • Adverbs can come at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence, depending on the type of adverb

Comparing adverbs and adjectives

It is quite common for English language learners to use adjectives when they should use adverbs. This mistake normally happens with adverbs of manner. As a rule of thumb, try to remember:

Adjectives describe a noun.
Adverbs describe a verb, an adjective or another adverb

Let’s compare some sentences using adjectives and adverbs.
Notice that we generally put an adjective before a noun whereas we put an adverb after a verb.

Adjective                                     Adverb

He is a slow walker.                    He walks slowly.
She speaks perfect English.      She speaks English perfectly.
Their work is good.                     They work well.

Test Yourself

Adjectives and Adverbs

1 / 12

Adverbs describe ___________.

2 / 12

Adjectives describe _______.

3 / 12

Which word is an adverb of degree?

4 / 12

Which word is an adverb of manner?

5 / 12

Which word is an adverb of frequency?

6 / 12

Adverbs of manner normally come __________.

7 / 12

Adjectives often come _____________.

8 / 12

Freddie was a _________ singer.

9 / 12

She speaks French very _______.

10 / 12

The word 'fast' is __________.

11 / 12

The word 'good' is ____________.

12 / 12

The word 'slowly' is _________.

Your score is

Vocabulary

Mother tongue: The first language we learn; our native language

Idioms

To get down to business: Start talking about a particular subjectExample: Let’s get down to business. What’s on the agenda of today’s meeting?

Rule of thumb: A general guideline that is not an official rule As a rule of thumb, save your work before logging off your computer.

Want more? There’s more about using ‘will’ and ‘going to’ to talk about the future in Part 2 of this post.

Thank you for reading our post. You’ll find more English grammar tips elsewhere on our site and if you’d like information on our English courses in Dublin, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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