Adjectives and adverbs Lecture Notes

Anna University

Technical English

Adjectives and adverbs Lecture Notes


Adjectives (beautiful, tired, typical, old, complete, surprising etc.)

tell you what something is or seems like. They can be used in two ways:

a) before nouns, i.e. in attributive position: John is a nice boy

b) after verbs like be, seem, look, appear etc., i.e. in predicative position: the boy is nice

Adjectives describe nouns, pronouns or clauses:

The man is happy – the adjective happy describes the noun man

She made him happy – the adjective happy describes the pronoun him

Driving a bus isn’t easy – the adjective easy describes the clause driving a bus

Adjectives are gradable: good – better – best

old – older – oldest

beautiful – more beautiful – most beautiful

They may be used as nouns: the old and the young


Adverbs (beautifully, tiredly, typically, completely, surprisingly etc.)

are used to give more information about the action, f.ex. to say how, where or when something is done. The describe the verb; Latin: ad verbum.

She sang beautifully – the adverb beautifully describes how the singing was.

I’m coming soon – the adverb soon gives an indication of when.

They are upstairs – the adverb upstairs gives an indication of where.

Adverbs may also modify (= affect the meaning of) adjectives or other adverbs:

I’m terribly tired – the adverb terribly modifies (makes stronger) the adjective tired.

He drove awfully slowly – the adverb awfully modifies the adverb slowly.

Finally, adverbs may modify a whole sentence, in which case they convey the speaker’s comment:

Actually, I don’t like him – these adverbs are set off by a comma.

Fortunately, they never showed up.

Adverbs can also be graded, by adding more and most.

It may be confusing that some adjectives end in –ly:

A lovely cottage, a lonely man, a friendly reception, a likely candidate, a sickly child, a lively performance, elderly people, cowardly behaviour, deadly weapons, silly questions etc.

They cannot be used as adverbs:

* She sings lovely – her singing is lovely

* He spoke to me friendly – he spoke to me in a friendly way

Other words that end in –ly can be both adjectives and adverbs:

daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, early

A daily (adjective) paper is published daily (adverb)

We got up early (adverb) to catch an early (adjective) train

Sometimes adjectives and adverbs have the same form (without –ly at the end):

A fast (adjective) car goes fast (adverb)

In other cases the adverb may have two forms: late – lately, one like the adjective and the other with –ly. There is usually a difference in meaning and use between the two forms:

They came late (sent) / have you seen them lately? (i det siste)

They had very high expectations / I can jump really high / I can highly recommend it

Right or wrong answers / You have to turn right here / I rightly assumed he wouldn’t come

This material is hard / you work too hard / I could hardly believe my eyes

With verbs we usually use adverbs, not adjectives, but with certain verbs (be, seem, appear, look, sound, taste, feel, smell) adjectives may be used. This happens when we are really describing the subject of the sentence and not the verbal action:

You look good – good describes you

The soup tastes wonderful – wonderful describes soup, but: He tasted the soup carefully

You look angry tonight, but Don’t look so angrily at me

Some adjectives have different predicative and attributive forms:

Something/somebody is afloat a/an floating something/somebody

afraid frightened

alive live

alone lonely

asleep sleeping

ill sick

well healthy

E.g.: A live fish is alive.

Elder and eldest are attributive only: my elder/eldest sister. Older and oldest can be used both attributively and predicatively. Sometimes the meaning differs:

The students present (those who are there) / my present students (those who are my students now). And an old friend of mine is not necessarily old