Adjectives and Adverbs

Using Adjectives and Adverbs

Though most people know what an adjective is, there is frequently confusion over the use of the adverb; in fact, most might not even know what an adverb is. Basically, both of these words are used to describe or qualify:

  • Adjectives describe nouns e.g. the pretty girl. The adjective, 'pretty', is describing the noun, 'girl'.
  • Adverbs describe or qualify verbs e.g. the man walked quickly. The adverb, 'quickly', is describing the verb, 'walked'. (Note that the adverb here ends in 'ly' as adverbs often do.)

Adjectives are frequently used in poetry and novels to help create a mood, describe a character or set a scene. It is not a good idea to use adjectives excessively, however, and certainly not in a long list as this almost always seems like padding, telling the reader very little and adding nothing to the essay. Instead, try to use adjectives sparingly and well, and they will add immeasurably to your writing.

Adverbs are slightly different because they not only describe the verb, they qualify it. Another words, they tell the reader when or how something happened. For example, the sentence quoted above tells us how the man walked i.e. 'quickly'. Sentence where the adverb tells you when something happened might be: The train arrived late. Here, the adverb, 'late', tells us when the train ‘arrived'.

It is particularly important to use and recognise adjectives and adverbs when writing an essay requiring linguistic analysis, in a literature essay, for example. These two descriptive devices are used very frequently by writers and your ability to identify and examine exactly how a writer is making use of adverbs and adjectives will gain you higher grades. Similarly, your own use of adjectives and adverbs, correctly applied, will assist you to write better, more developed sentences, aiding the construction of your writing as a whole. Adjectives and adverbs are amongst the most common grammatical terms and therefore it is important to use them appropriately.

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