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Adjectives and Adverbs

Believe me, most learners think that adjectives and adverbs are scary and complex. It does take time to understand both, but once you get a knack of the basic concept, you will enjoy using them everywhere. In this article, let us explore few commonly used adjectives and adverbs and how they are used in tandem.

  Ramya Shankar  —  Grammar Tips
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Simply put,

Adjectives describe nouns. Remember this. Always.

What does it mean to say ‘describe’?

Let us take an example

“My brother is a good student.”

There are different parts of speech in this sentence, the adjective here is ‘good’ which describes the person (noun).

“The shirt is blue.” – The colour of shirt (noun) is the adjective here because it tells about (describes) the shirt.

How about adverbs?

Adverbs work on a verb or adjective.

“He slept peacefully.” – if you want to know the adverb in this, easy way is to convert this to a question – how did he sleep? The answer is ‘peacefully’ – the adverb. It doesn’t describe the noun, but describes the action.

“He played nicely” – nicely describes how this person plays.

As a general rule, when we add ‘ly’ to adjectives, they become adverbs because they work on an action. Remember that ‘ly’ works on action. For example

The painting is nice. (nice is the adjective here)

You have drawn the painting nicely. (adverb – tells how you have drawn the painting).

That’s quite easy! So, what is the confusion?

It is not always that we add -ly to make an adverb. For examples, the adverbs high, low, fast do not have the suffix -ly.

Sometimes, adjectives and adverbs use the same form. For example


The peacock is real. – adjective that means something is not imaginary.

My foot hurts real bad – adverb, means more or extremely (this is an informal sentence)

In the above sentence, we can also say really, but with “really” we should use badly and not bad, in which case the word ‘really’ becomes redundant.

It is really bad that Sam couldn’t join us for dinner. – really, the adverb here means truly or in reality.


Fast is both adjective and adverb. There is no word called as “fastly”. In this case, to find out whether fast is used as adjective or adverb, one needs to follow the definition.

The car is fast and powerful.

He runs fast.

Did you figure out which one is adjective and which one is adverb?


She works hard. – here hard is adverb because it describes how a person works (action = verb).

This nut is hard to break. – hard is an adjective here, because it talks about the quality of the nut!

Well, the word hardly is a valid word, though it is totally opposite in meaning when compared with hard.

“He hardly works” means he works rarely or very little whereas “She works hard” means she works a lot, puts in a lot of effort.

There are many more adverbs where-in the meaning changes if we add -ly. Examples –


Why would you sit so close to a stranger? (near)

I closely followed the project details. (carefully)


Each person should get fair share of their meals. (justified)

Your handwriting is fairly neat. (quite)


The digital copy of this book is free of cost. (not chargeable)

You can roam around freely in this city. (no restrictions)


She scored high in the game. (a lot)

He regards her highly. (with great respect)


Don’t be late to school. (behind time)

Lately, I have been receiving a lot of attention for the product launch. (in recent times)


You should walk right up (close) to him and apologize right now (immediately).

As you rightly mentioned, we have to remove one of them. (correctly)

This is not the complete list, but gives you a good start.

But wait….

If you think you understood it all, let me tell you that some words that end with -ly are adjectives.

Here is the good news –

They are easy to spot – don’t go by the -ly rule and you should be good. Just think about what they describe. Examples

My new teacher is very friendly.

Your shoes are lovely.

Oh, don’t be silly.

All the above talk about a person (noun).

That’s all that is for basic understanding of adjectives and adverbs. After reading this article, you should be able to appreciate the difference between both and identify each when a sentence is given. Let’s try few simple ones –

1. The soup is good. (good describes _____)

2. Your fingers are soft. (what does soft describe)

3. My friend plays football very nicely. (nicely is ____)

4. I feel so lonely. (It is a feeling... so what is lonely?)

5. My brother is tall, handsome and friendly. (Spot the adjectives here)

6. You have written the essay wrongly. (Wrongly is _____)

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