Adjective or Adverb - Which to Use?

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Adjectives and adverbs are parts of speech and are used to provide additional information about other words. Adjectives and adverbs are also known as content words — words that provide important information in sentences. Sometimes students are not sure when to use an adverb or an adjective. This short guide provides an overview and rules to using both adjectives and adverbs.


Adjectives modify nouns and can be used a few different ways in a sentence.

In their most simple form, adjectives are placed directly before a noun:

  • Tom is an excellent singer.
  • I bought a comfortable chair.
  • She's thinking about buying a new house.

Adjectives are also used in simple sentences with the verb "to be". In this case, the adjective describes the subject of the sentence:

  • Jack is happy.
  • Peter was very tired.
  • Mary'll be excited when you tell her.

Adjectives are used with sense verbs or verbs or appearance (feel, taste, smell, sound, appear and seem) to modify the noun which comes before the verb:

  • The fish tasted awful.
  • Did you see Peter? He seemed very upset.
  • I'm afraid the meat smelled rotten.


Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They are easily recognized because they end in "-ly" (with a few exceptions, of course!):

  • Adjective --> careful / Adverb --> carefully
  • Adjective --> quick / Adverb --> quickly

Adverbs are often used at the end of a sentence to modify the verb:

  • Jack drove carelessly.
  • Tom played the match effortlessly.
  • Jason complained about his classes constantly.

Adverbs are used to modify adjectives:

  • They seemed extremely satisfied.
  • She paid increasingly high prices.
  • I was suddenly surprised by Alice.

Adverbs are also used to modify other adverbs:

  • The people in the line moved incredibly quickly.
  • She wrote the report unusually neatly.

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Adjective or Adverb - Which to Use?" ThoughtCo, Sep. 28, 2017, Beare, Kenneth. (2017, September 28). Adjective or Adverb - Which to Use? Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Adjective or Adverb - Which to Use?" ThoughtCo. (accessed January 23, 2018).