Adding Adjectives and Adverbs to the Basic Sentence Unit

Sentence Exercises

A sad clown posing with hands folded

 

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The addition of modifiers, words that add to the meaning of other words, is a common way of expanding and adding depth to a simple sentence. The most basic modifiers are adjectives and adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns, while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. See if you can identify the adjective and adverb in the sentence below and the words they modify.

  • The clown's sad smiles touched us deeply.

In this sentence, the adjective sad modifies the noun smile (the subject of the sentence) and the adverb deeply modifies the verb touched. Used properly, adjectives and adverbs can make writing clearer and more precise.

Arranging Adjectives

Adjectives most often appear directly in front of or before the nouns they modify. Occasionally, though, adjectives follow the nouns they modify. Placing adjectives after a noun is a way to add emphasis to a sentence. When two or more adjectives precede a noun, they are usually separated by commas.

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

In the third sentence, the commas appear outside the pair of adjectives, which are joined by the conjunction and.

Adjectives also sometimes appear 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, but they may also appear directly in front of the verb or at the very beginning of a sentence. The clearest arrangement will depend on the intended meaning of a sentence as adverbs are not always flexible.

  • I dance occasionally.
  • I occasionally dance.
  • Occasionally I dance.

When using adverbs in writing, try out a few different positions until you find the composition that makes the most sense.

Practice 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, check your answers.

  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 dog 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 _____.

Answers

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

Practice 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 common adverbs that are not formed from adjectives and therefore do not end in -ly.

Complete the following sentences with the adverb form of the italicized adjective. Check your answers below when you're finished.

  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

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