Adjectives modify nouns, and they are usually placed either immediately before or immediately after the word they modify. Adjectives qualify meaning by indicating "what kind of" about the words they modify.

Our local doctor told me I probably needed new glasses.

Blurred vision was giving me headaches too severe to treat with aspirin alone.

Adverbs normally modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs, although they may sometimes modify whole sentences. When they modify adjectives or other adverbs, they are adjacent to the words they modify. When they modify verbs, they are frequently, but not always, adjacent to the verbs. Adverbs qualify the meaning of the words they modify by indicating such things as when, where, how, why, in what order, or how often.

The office closed yesterday. (Yesterday indicates when.)

Deliver all mail here. (Here indicates where.)

She replied quickly and angrily. (Quickly and angrily describe how she replied.)

Consequently, I left. (Consequently describes why.)

He seldom did any work. (Seldom indicates how often.)

Most adverbs are distinguished from their corresponding adjectives by the ending -ly:

strong - strongly

happy - happily

doubtful - doubtfully

hasty - hastily

mad - madly.

But the -ly ending isn't a dependable indication of the adverb since some adverbs have two forms (quick, quickly; slow, slowly). Others have the same form as adjectives (fast, much, late, well).

In today's use of informal English, it's better to find a more dynamic verb than to use too many adverbs. Instead of "He ran quickly." You might say "He sprinted." Likewise, using a more concrete noun is better than using too many adjectives. Instead of "she looked up at the tall building." You might say "She gazed up at the skyscraper."

Use an adverb, not an adjective, to modify a verb.

POOR He writes careless.

BETTER He writes carelessly. (The adverb carelessly is needed tomodify the verb writes.)

Use an adverb, not an adjective, to modify another adverb or an adjective.

POOR I am terrible nearsighted.

BETTER I am terribly nearsighted. (The adverb terribly is needed to modify the adjective nearsighted.)

Use an adjective to modify the subject after a linking verb. The common linking verbs are be, become, appear, seem, and the verbs pertaining to the senses: look, smell, taste, sound, feel.

Predicate adjectives after such verbs refer to the subject and should be in adjective form. In each of the following sentences, for example, the predicate adjective modifies the subject. The verb simply links the two.

You look tired tonight. (Tired modifies you.)

The milk smells sour. (Sour modifies milk.)

Use an adverb after the verb if the modifier describes the manner of the action of the verb.

The cat looked slyly at the canary. (The adverb slyly modifies the verb looked.)


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