G6: Using Adverbs and Adjectives

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Use general adverbs and adjectives correctly.
  2. Use comparatives and superlatives correctly.
  3. Recognize how incorrect usage of adverbs and adjectives can result in double negatives.
  4. Learn the correct use of good and well and bad and badly.

Many adverbs and adjectives are paired with slight changes in spelling (usually adverbs are formed by adding –ly to the adjective). A few adverbs and adjectives have the same spelling (like best, fast, late, straight, low, and daily), so it is only their use that differentiates them.

Adjectives

Adverbs

bad

badly

beautiful

beautifully

quick

quickly

quiet

quietly

slow

slowly

soft

softly

sudden

suddenly

Using Adverbs to Modify Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs

Adverbs tell when, how, why, where, under what condition, to what degree, how often, and how much. Many adverbs end in –ly, but certainly not all them. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

The following video from Khan Academy explains what adverbs are and how they function in sentences:

 
“Intro to Adverbs.” Created by Khan Academy.

In the following sentences, the adverbs are in bold font and the words they modify are in italic font.

  1. About a quarter million bats leave Carlsbad Caverns nightly.
  2. When do they leave? nightly; modifies a verb
  3. The bats flew above our heads.Where did they fly? above; modifies a verb
  4. The bats are incredibly dense.To what degree are they dense? incredibly; modifies an adjective
  5. Each little bat can change directions amazingly fast!How do they change directions? fast; modifies a verb AND To what degree do they change directions fast? amazingly; modifies an adverb

Using Adjectives to Modify Nouns and Pronouns

Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns and answer the questions what kind? how many? and which one?

The following video from Khan Academy explains adjectives in more depth:

 
“Intro to Adjectives.” Created by Khan Academy.

In the following sentences, the adjectives are in bold font and the words they modify are in italic font.

  1. It takes excited people to go to a cave at 4:00 a.m. to wait for the bats to leave! What kind of people? excited ones; modifies a noun
  2. A few bats seemed to circle above as the rest flew off. How many bats? a few; modifies a noun
  3. That one almost got in my hair. Which one? that one; modifies a pronoun

Using Comparatives and Superlatives

Most adjectives and adverbs have three levels of intensity. The lowest level is the base, or positive, level, such as tall. The second level is the comparative level (taller), and the top level is the superlative level (tallest). You use the base, or positive, level when you are talking about only one thing. You use the comparative level when you are comparing two things. The superlative level allows you to compare three or more things.

With short adjectives, the comparative and superlative are typically formed by adding –er and –est, respectively. If an adjective has three or more syllables, use the words more or less (comparative) and most or least (superlative) in front of the adjectives instead of adding suffixes. When you are unsure whether to add the suffix or a word, look up the word.

The following video from Khan Academy describes the comparative and superlative levels of description:

 
“Intro to the Comparative and Superlative.” Created by Khan Academy.

Sample Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Formed with –er and –est

big

bigger

biggest

old

older

oldest

wise

wiser

wisest

Formed by Using More or Less and Most or Least

ambitious

more ambitious

least ambitious

generous

less generous

least generous

simplistic

more simplistic

most simplistic

With adverbs, only a few of the shorter words form superlatives by adding the -er or -est suffixes. Rather, most of them use the addition of more or less and most or least.

Sample Comparative and Superlative Adverbs

Formed with –er and –est

early

earlier

earliest

fast

faster

fastest

late

later

latest

Formed by Using More or Less and Most or Least

happily

more happily

most happily

neatly

more neatly

most neatly

quickly

more quickly

most quickly

Some adjectives and adverbs form superlatives in irregular patterns instead of using the -er or -est suffixes or adding more or less and most or least.

Sample Adjectives That Form Superlatives Using Irregular Patterns

good

better

best

bad

worse

worst

far

farther

farthest

many

more

most

Sample Adverbs That Form Superlatives Using Irregular Patterns

badly

worse

worst

little

less

least

much

more

most

well

better

best

Avoiding Double Negatives

One negative word changes the meaning of a sentence to mean the opposite of what the sentence would mean without the negative word. Two negative words, on the other hand, cancel each other out, resulting in a double negative that returns the sentence to its original meaning. Because of the potential for confusion, double negatives are discouraged.

Example

Example of a sentence with one negative word: I have never been to Crater Lake National Park.

Meaning: Crater Lake is a place I have not visited.

Example of a sentence with two negative words: I have not never been to Crater Lake National Park.

Meaning: I have been to Crater Lake National Park.

Using Good and Well and Bad and Badly Correctly

Two sets of adverbs and adjectives that are often used erroneously are good and well and bad and badly. The problem people usually have with these two words is that the adverb forms (well and badly) are often used in place of the adjective forms (good and bad) or vice versa. In addition, well can be used as an adjective meaning “healthy.” If you have problems with these two sets of words, it could help to keep the following chart taped to your computer until you change your habits with these words.

Good is always an adjective—that is, a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. The second sentence is correct because well is an adverb that tells how something is done.

Incorrect: Cecilia felt that she had never done so good on a test.
Correct: Cecilia felt that she had never done so well on a test.

Well is always an adverb that describes a verb, adverb, or adjective. The second sentence is correct because good is an adjective that describes the noun score.

Incorrect: Cecilia’s team received a well score.
Correct: Cecilia’s team received a good score.

Bad is always an adjective. The second sentence is correct because badly is an adverb that tells how the speaker did on the test.

Incorrect: I did bad on my accounting test because I didn’t study.
Correct: I did badly on my accounting test because I didn’t study.

Badly is always an adverb. The second sentence is correct because bad is an adjective that describes the noun thunderstorm.

Incorrect: The coming thunderstorm looked badly.
Correct: The coming thunderstorm looked bad.


CC Attribution

The majority of the Grammar section is adapted from Chapter 20 “Grammar” in Writer’s Handbook v 1.0 used according to Creative Commons CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

“Using Good and Well and Bad and Badly Correctly” is adapted from The Saylor Foundation’s Business English for Success. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/).

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