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Adjectives and Adverbs

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Adjectives describe or modify a noun or pronoun. They provide more information about a noun or pronoun, and they can provide additional meaning for a noun phrase.

  • Joseph is a famous guitar player.
  • The elderly couple slept at last.

The list of English adjectives is, of course, quite long. Here are some frequently used examples.

appropriategenerouslonelySpanish
beautifulgoodmodernspicy
bitterintelligentpoortall
brownlazyrichtasty
forgetfullocalscaryvintage

An English adjective has only one form, whether the noun or pronoun it modifies is masculine, feminine, or neuter, or singular or plural. This is true for predicate adjectives, as well as for adjectives that stand before a noun.

  • The new professor is quite intelligent.
  • Intelligent people don’t brag about their talents.
  • His youngest son is terribly lazy.
  • lazy person probably won’t go far in life.
  • Even the baby giraffe is tall.
  • That tall girl is the star of her basketball team.

A primary function of adverbs is to modify verbs. Many adverbs are formed by adding the suffix -ly to adjectivesquick ~ quickly, happy ~ happily, careful ~ carefully, bitter ~ bitterly.

  • She swims quickly.
  • He opened the window carefully.

Adverbs can also modify adjectives, thereby augmenting their meaning.

  • They are extremely sad.
  • The crowd soon became rather unruly.

Several adverbs express time, for example, tomorrow, today, never, soon, yesterday, yet.

  • My parents are supposed to arrive tomorrow.
  • Will you be off the phone soon?
  • Has Jimmy taken his shower yet?

Some adverbs can be placed in the middle of a sentence, and they generally have a set position there. Mid-sentence adverbs stand in front of verbs in the simple present and simple past tenses. They follow forms of be in simple present and simple past tenses, and they stand between an auxiliary verb and a main verb.

BEFORE SIMPLE PRESENT AND PAST TENSESFOLLOWING SIMPLE PRESENT AND PAST TENSES OF BEBETWEEN AN AUXILIARY VERB AND MAIN VERB
We seldom have dessert after dinner.Anna is always there on time.John can never face his parents again.
My brother often spent his free time playing his guitar.Bill was sometimes late for an appointment.Anna has always gotten there on time.
rarely talk on the phone for more than a few minutes.Her husband is never around when she needs him.They have often traveled abroad.
Tom frequently asks an embarrassing question.The children are apparently in very good health.Do you regularly shop in this store?

The word well can be used as an adverb or as an adjective. As an adverb, well means “in a good manner” or “capably” and describes how someone does something. As an adjective, well means “healthy.”

Some adverbs can modify not only verbs and adjectives, but other adverbs as well. The function of this small group of adverbs is to impart a quality or degree to the meaning of the adverb. A short list of these adverbs follows.

  • a bit
  • a little
  • exceptionally
  • extremely
  • quite
  • rather
  • somewhat
  • too
  • very

Consider the difference in meaning in the following pairs of sentences.

  • They were working fast.
  • They were working exceptionally fast.
  • The poor man wept bitterly.
  • The poor man wept quite bitterly.
  • She spoke rapidly.
  • She spoke too rapidly.
  • They approached the animal cautiously.
  • They approached the animal very cautiously.

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