Posted by: Idioma Extra | November 18, 2010

Thursday Tidbits

Adverb or Adjective?

One common error made by English language learners is when to use an adjective or an adverb. Look at the examples and identify the correct one in each pair:

Is that a really story?

(or) Is that a real story?

I gave him the exact answer.

(or) I gave him the exactly answer.

Most English language learners know that many adverbs end in –ly, but become confused as to how to use them properly. Understanding the difference between the two and when to use each one will help you with your accuracy. Let’s look at the difference between adjectives and adverbs.


Adverbs are used to describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Here we are just focusing on verbs. When used with verbs, adverbs help describe “how” or “to what degree.” Here are some examples:

He ate the food quickly. (“quickly” describes how he ate the food)

I need you to tell me exactly what happened. (“exactly” describes how it needs to be told)

She responded to the question nervously. (“nervously” describes how she responded)


Adjectives, on the other hand, are used to describe nouns and pronouns. They are used to help explain “which,” “what kind,” or “how many/much.” Here are some examples:

Are you sure that is a real story? (“real” describes what kind of story)

I need you to tell me an exact date. (“exact” describes which date)

She seemed* nervous at the party. (“nervous” describes the person)

* While most adverbs come after a verb, there are a few verbs that are followed by an adjective. These are called “verbs of perception” (taste, smell, feel, seem, look, etc.) and are always followed by an adjective. Another example: The roses smell good this morning.

Check Yourself

Underline either the adjective or adverb to complete the sentence. Then write the word in the space provided that the adverb or adjective is describing. For example:

This is a (serious/seriously) matter that needs attention. __matter__

I want everyone to read the book (quiet / quietly). _read__

1. She was very (fortunate / fortunately) not to get sick because of the rain. __________________

2. He finished the job (correctly / correct). _____________________

3. The mix up in the accounting department was (accidental / accidentally). ___________________

4. We (regular / regularly) meet in the conference room on Wednesdays. _____________________

5. She asked for a raise very (polite / politely). _____________________

6. Do you think the story is (really / real)? _____________________

7. The hamburger I ate last night tasted (awful / awfully). ____________________

8. He is very (successfully / successful) in everything he does. ______________________

9. Mark finished the test (easily / easy) before everyone else. ______________________

10. He seems to be a very (honest / honestly) person. ___________________

Answers to last week’s Check Yourself:

Look at the following sentences and underline the correct verb form or auxiliary verb. Finally, indicate what the context is (NS-Non-specific moment, RE- Repeated events, PP-Past to present, or ST-Specific time (simple past)).

1. I have never (seen / saw) the Eiffel tower. _NS_

2. Our boss (has / have) given all of us a raise. _NS_

3. I (wore / have worn) glasses since I was in high school. _PP_

4. They (went / have gone) to that beach many times. _RE_

5. My doctor (has told / told) me last week that my condition was getting worse. _ST_

6. (Has/Did) your father (sell / sold) the car last weekend? _ST_

7. Where (did / have) you put your keys this morning? _ST_

8. I (have bought / bought) several cars in the past, but the one I ( bought / have bought) last month was the most expensive. 1)_NS_    2)_ST_

9. I (have called / called) in sick several times this month. _RE_

10. A: Did you attend the conference last month?

B: Yes. I (have gone / went) with some of my colleagues. _ST_

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