Adding Adjectives and Adverbs to the Basic Sentence Unit

Sentence Exercises

A clown


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A common way of expanding a simple sentence is with modifiers--words that add to the meanings of other words. The simplest modifiers are adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. For instance, in the sentence below, the adjective sad modifies the noun smile (the subject of the sentence).

The clown's sad smile touched us deeply.

In this same sentence, the adverb deeply modifies the verb touched. Used carefully, adjectives and adverbs can make our writing clearer and more precise.

Arranging Adjectives

Adjectives most often appear just in front of the nouns that they modify:

The old, cranky caretaker refused to answer our questions.

Notice that when two (or more) adjectives precede a noun, they are usually separated by commas. But occasionally adjectives follow the nouns they modify:

The caretaker, old and cranky, refused to answer our questions.

Here the commas appear outside the pair of adjectives, which are joined by the conjunction and. Placing the adjectives after the noun is a way of giving them added emphasis in a sentence.

Adjectives sometimes appear in a third position in a sentence: after a linking verb such as am, are, is, was, or were. As their name implies, these verbs link adjectives with the subjects they modify. See if you can identify the adjectives in the sentences below:

His voice was rough.
Your children are cruel.
This seat is wet.

In each of these sentences, the adjective (rough, cruel, wet) modifies the subject but follows the linking verb (was, are, is).

Arranging Adverbs

Adverbs usually follow the verbs they modify:

I dance occasionally.

However, an adverb may also appear directly in front of the verb or at the very beginning of a sentence:

I occasionally dance.
Occasionally I dance.

Because not all adverbs are this flexible in all sentences, you should try them out in different positions until you find the clearest arrangement.

Practice in Adding Adjectives

Many adjectives are formed from nouns and verbs. The adjective thirsty, for example, comes from thirst, which may be either a noun or a verb. Complete each sentence below with the adjective form of the italicized noun or verb. When you're done, compare your answers with those on page two.

  1. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina brought great destruction to the Gulf coast. It was one of the most _____ hurricanes in recent decades.
  2. All of our pets enjoy good health. Our collie is exceptionally _____, despite its advanced age.
  3. Your suggestion makes a great deal of sense. You have a very _____ idea.
  4. Google made record profits last year. It is one of the most _____ companies in the world.
  5. Dr. Kraft's job requires patience and skill. He is a _____ negotiator.
  6. All through high school, Giles rebelled against his parents and teachers. Now he has three _____ children of his own.
  7. Telling jokes that will not offend others can be difficult. Some comedians are deliberately _____.

Practice in Adding Adverbs

Many adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective. The adverb softly, for instance, comes from the adjective soft. Note, however, that not all adverbs end in -ly. Very, quite, always, almost, and often are some of the common adverbs that are not formed from adjectives. Complete each sentence below with the adverb form of the italicized adjective. When you're done, compare your answers with those on page two.

  1. The exam was easy. I passed _____.
  2. Leroy's careless act set the warehouse on fire. He _____ tossed a cigarette into a tank of gasoline.
  3. Paige is a brave little girl. She fought _____ against the poltergeists.
  4. Howard is a graceful dancer. He moves _____.
  5. Tom's apology sounded quite sincere. He said that he was _____ sorry for misusing the tax funds.
  6. Paula made a generous contribution to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. She gives _____ every year.
  7. The lecture was brief. Dr. Legree spoke _____ about the importance of flossing after every meal.

Answers to the Exercise: Practice in Adding Adjectives

1. destructive; 2. healthy; 3. sensible; 4. profitable; 5. patient; 6. rebellious; 7. offensive

Answers to the Exercise: Practice in Adding Adverbs

1. easily; 2. carelessly; 3. bravely; 4. gracefully; 5. sincerely; 6. generously; 7. briefly