Adverbs or Adjectives? Confusing English

Adjectives and Adverbs That Have Similar Forms in English

House on a hill in Tuscany
Can you think of adjectives to match this picture?. Weerakarn Satitniramai/Getty Images

Adverbs and adjectives are important parts of speech. Adjectives describe how something is or appears, while adverbs describe how, where or when something is done. Here are some examples for review:


  • They live in an expensive mansion on the hill.
  • The students took the difficult test.
  • My father watched a boring film.


  • Tom drove the car very quickly.
  • I told the students to do their homework carefully.
  • Anna walked home slowly.

How Are Adjectives Used?

Adjectives are usually placed before the nouns they modify or at the end of a sentence with a stative verb.

Before the noun:

  • It's a beautiful house.
  • She has an expressive voice.

Adjectives can also be placed at the end of sentence with a stative verb. Stative verbs are verbs that express a state rather than an action. These include: be, appear, feel, seem, etc.

  • Tom is really intelligent.
  • The children are impatient.

How Are Adverbs Used?

Adverbs of manner are often placed at the end of a phrase. 

  • Mary drove her car quickly towards the city.
  • I ate my breakfast quickly and went to work.

Adverbs of frequency are usually placed before the verb.

  • We don't often take vacations abroad.
  • Peter sometimes goes bowling in the evening.

Confusing Adjectives and Adverbs

As you may have noticed, adverbs often end in "-ly". In fact, you can often change an adjective into an adverb by simply adding "-ly".

For example, slow - slowly, careful - carefully, patient - patiently

He drove a slow car. -> He drove the car slowly.
She's a very careful student. -> She does her work very carefully.
That patient man has been waiting in line for two hours. -> The man waited patiently in line for two hours. 

However, there are a number of adjectives that end in "-ly" which can be confusing.

Here are some of the most common:

  • Chilly - It was a chilly afternoon in the country.
  • Costly - He made a costly mistake.
  • Cowardly - The cowardly man refused to help his neighbors.
  • Curly - Alice has curly red hair.
  • Deadly - The agent was not afraid to use deadly force.
  • Friendly - There are many friendly people in Portland.
  • Jolly - Peter's a very jolly fellow.
  • Likely - I'm sure he's a likely candidate for the position.
  • Lively - We'll have a lively evening and then spend the weekend relaxing on the beach.
  • Lonely - Some lonely people are not really lonely, but like being alone.
  • Lovely - What a lovely surprise to see you again!
  • Manly - Manly behavior has changed greatly compared to fifty years ago.
  • Silly - The silly boy got in trouble for bothering the people with his laughter.
  • Stately - The stately house sits upon a hillside.
  • Ugly - The ugly dog is actually very nice.
  • Unlikely - In the unlikely event of an emergency, the system will sound an alarm.
  • Womanly - Her womanly figure attracted many a man.

Adjectives and Adverbs With the Same Form

There are a number of adjectives and adverbs that have the same form. The two most common are "hard" and "fast." 

  • She had a hard time at school. - Adjective
  • She works very hard at her job. - Adverb
  • Jack has a fast car. - Adjective
  • Anna ran to the store fast. - Adverb

Here are some of the more uncommon adjective/adverb words that are the same, or can be used in informal English with the same meaning.


Alan is a very clean man. - Adjective
Make sure to play clean. No cheating allowed. - Adverb


He has a clear chance of winning the election. - Adjective
He drove clear to Los Angeles. - Adverb


He said it was an easy test. - Adjective
Please take it easy and relax. - Adverb


She has fair skin and blonde hair. - Adjective
Play fair and the most deserving will win. - Adverb 


He is a just man. - Adjective
I just missed the bus. - Adverb


The late report speaks about problems in the south. - Adjective
Hurry up or you'll arrive late. - Adverb


The sharp stick hurt his hand. - Adjective
Make sure to be there at eight o'clock sharp. 

- Adjective

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "Adverbs or Adjectives? Confusing English." ThoughtCo, Sep. 28, 2017, Beare, Kenneth. (2017, September 28). Adverbs or Adjectives? Confusing English. Retrieved from Beare, Kenneth. "Adverbs or Adjectives? Confusing English." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 23, 2018).