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How to Choose Your Adjectives and Adverbs Judiciously?

Updated on May 24, 2020
Poonam-Malik profile image

Teaching English grammar to diverse students has honed my own skills of understanding and explaining.


At a very elementary level, we all know that an adjective describes a noun or a pronoun whereas an adverb describes a verb.

However, we may not be aware of all the different ways in which adjectives and adverbs are formed and function. This often leads to making mistakes, especially in writing.

Most of the adverbs we know are formed by adding ‘ly’ to adjectives such as silently, rudely, beautifully, neatly, shabbily, etc. Adjectives that end with ‘y’ are changed into adverbs, in the following manner: happy-happily, angry-angrily, and so on.

But all ‘ly’ ending words are not adverbs. Words like hardly, shortly, lately, nearly, likely, etc. are not adverbs. They have a totally different meaning.

  1. There is hardly any space in my cupboard. (no space)
  2. The plane will shortly arrive. (soon)

Now, which of the following sentences is incorrect?

  1. Apparently, the food cooked perfectly.
  2. She cooked the food perfectly.

Read on till the end to find out, if you don’t know the answer already.

Uses of Adjectives

There is a complete list of uses of adjectives, which includes descriptions for nouns as well.

i. Adjectives describe the nouns and pronouns in our sentences. As such, adjectives are placed just before the noun and pronoun they describe.

  1. She is a helpful girl.
  2. Show me the best phone you have.

ii. Adjectives are used as predicates of to be verbs and feeling verbs.

  1. The weather feels good at this place.
  2. The trees look very tall.
  3. I am unwell today.

iii. Some adjectives are present participle or past participle forms of verbs. These are placed just before the nouns they describe.

  1. The smiling girl over there is not my friend.
  2. She put the broken plate in the dustbin.

Uses of Adverbs

Here is a complete list of uses of adverbs, which includes descriptions for verb as well.

i. Adverbs describe or qualify verbs. These are placed after the verb they describe.

  1. Seema writes slowly.
  2. The sun is shining brightly today.

ii. Adverbs also describe adjectives.

  1. Dal lake is incredibly beautiful.
  2. The food at the table was simply mouth-watering.

iii. Adverbs describe other adverbs too.

  1. Our train moved very slowly at night, because of the heavy fog.
  2. The cheetah runs really fast.

iv. Adverbs are used to describe a clause or even a complete sentence.

  1. Funnily, there is no fun in this joke.

Practice Exercise

Now, correct these sentences to test your knowledge about adjectives and adverbs.

  1. Life in a hostel makes us independently.
  2. She sings loud.
  3. He can shout real loud when he wants to.
  4. He is an expertly at driving a car.
  5. Do you watch movies often?


  1. Life in a hostel makes us independent.
  2. She sings loudly.
  3. He can shout really loudly when he wants to.
  4. He is an expert at driving a car.
  5. Do you watch movies often?

I hope you scored a perfect 5.


Dealing with Confusion

What causes confusions and errors in using adjectives and adverbs? I have tried to pin-point certain facts about adjectives and adverbs that often cause confusion. Read below to know them. Knowing these might prevent errors creeping in your writing.

1. Some adverbs are the same as adjectives: early, late, far, short, long, weekly, yearly, monthly, daily.

  • He reached the office early. (Adverb - describing the verb, reached)
  • Early mornings are refreshing. (Adjective – describing the noun, morning)
  • Brunch is a weekly magazine. (Adjective – describing the noun, magazine)
  • He comes home weekly. (Adverb - describing the verb, comes)

2. Some ‘ly’ ending words function as adjectives: friendly, silly, lovely, lonely.

To use them as adverbs, we use the expression, in a …… manner/way/fashion

  • She posted a friendly note to her colleague. (Adjective, describing the noun, note)
  • She talked to everyone in a friendly manner. (Adverb, describing the verb, talked)

3. Correct use of participial adjectives.

Participial adjectives with ‘ing’ ending are used as adjectives to describe nouns and pronouns.

  • He is a boring person.
  • Participial adjectives with ‘ed’ ending are used as adjectives to describe feeling verbs or to be verbs.
  • He was bored in the class.

Bonus Practice Exercise

To end on a cheerful note, try identifying the adjectives or adverbs in the sentences below. But do not look at the answers before you have completed the task.

  1. “Leave me alone”, she said.
  2. She has been living alone since her room-mate left.
  3. This is a thoughtfully prepared speech.
  4. Everyone appreciated his thoughtful speech.
  5. Nia writes very slowly.
  6. Slow and steady wins the race.
  7. The rose is a beautiful flower.
  8. She arranged the roses beautifully in the big vase.
  9. What a lovely dress!
  10. Mother looked at her baby lovingly.

Answers. 1. Alone (adjective) 2. Alone (adverb) 3. Thoughtfully (adverb) 4. Thoughtful (adjective) 5. Slowly (adverb) 6. Slow (adjective) 7. Beautiful (adjective) 8. Beautifully (adverb) 9. Lovely (adjective) 10. Lovingly (adverb)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.



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