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Grammar and Punctuation Guidelines - Adjectives and Adverbs

ADJECTIVES An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun or a noun substitute. Adjectives also are used after linking verbs such as to be, to feel, to smell; these predicate adjectives or adjective complements modify the subject. Note that adjectives cannot be used to modify verbs, adverbs, or other adjectives. Therefore, you must be able to identify the function of the word being modified. Most adjectives tell which one, what kind, or how many about the words they modify or describe.

Four green leaves fell off my favorite plant. (adjectives modifying nouns) The cake in the oven smells delicious. (adjective after linking verb-adjective modifies subject) He was friendly and cheerful. (adjectives after linking verb-adjectives modify subject) Mary considered the movie sad. (adjective modifying noun)

ADVERBS An adverb is a word that describes or modifies a verb, an adverb, or an adjective. Most adverbs tell how, when, why, where, to what extent, or to what degree about the words they modify. Although many adverbs end with -ly, note that some words with that ending are actually adjectives, for example, friendly.

The ship sailed slowly along the river. (adverb modifying verb) The doctor performed the operation skillfully. (adverb modifying verb) Tomorrow we will study for the test. (adverb modifying verb) She wore a very pretty dress, but she wore it too often. (adverb very modifying adjective pretty; adverb too modifying adverb often)

Note that in some instances, the same word may function as either an adjective or an adverb, depending on what is being modified, for example, fast, late, well, much.

A fast train jumped the track late at night. The late train moved fast. Chris runs very fast. Pat usually arrives late.