Grammar Topics

Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives are words or groups of words that modify—that is, describe—nouns and pronouns.

The senator addressed the huge crowd in a loud voice.

In this sentence, huge and loud are adjectives because they describe the nouns crowd and voice.

Various kinds of other words—including infinitives (the “to” forms of verbs), participles (the
-ing or -ed forms of verbs), and nouns—can function as adjectives.

The opera singer went to increasing lengths to escape the press, even buying an island to provide her with total seclusion.

While opera, increasing, and to provide are different parts of speech—opera is a noun, increasing is a participle, and to provide is an infinitive—they all function as adjectives in this sentence because they all modify nouns. Opera modifies singer, increasing modifies lengths, and to provide modifies island.

Adverbs are words or groups of words that primarily modify verbs, as well as other modifiers and sometimes entire sentences. They usually answer the questions How? Where? When? Why? or To what extent?

Keisha frantically cleaned her room before school.

The adverbs in this sentence, frantically and before school, are both adverbs because they modify the verb cleaned. They describe how (frantically) and when (before school) Keisha cleaned her room.

Although one of the engines completely failed, the pilot safely landed her plane on a golf course.

Here, the adverb completely modifies the verb failed, and the adverbs safely and on a golf course modify the verb landed. These adverbs tell us to what extent (completely) the engine failed and how (safely) and where (on a golf course) the pilot landed her plane.

Akiko was too tired to attend the notoriously long opera.

In this sentence, the adverbs too and notoriously do not modify verbs. Instead, they modify other modifiers. Too modifies the adjective tired, and notoriously modifies the adjective long.

Luckily, Veena decided to bring an umbrella to work.

Here, luckily does not modify any single word or part of speech. Rather, it modifies the whole sentence. What’s lucky is the complete circumstance described by the sentence—the fact that Veena decided to bring an umbrella to work.

Finally, a sentence can contain any possible combination of adjectives and adverbs.

In fact, the math test was so difficult that some students began to sweat profusely before it started.

In this sentence, the adverb in fact describes the whole sentence, the adverb so modifies the adjective difficult, and the adverbs profusely and before it started describe the verb began to sweat. The adjectives math and difficult modify test, and the adjective some modifies students.