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Adverbs and Adjectives Compared

1. What are Adverbs and Adjectives?

Adjectives tell us something about a person or a thing. Adjectives can modify nouns (driver) or pronouns (she).

Adverbs tell us in what way someone does something. Adverbs can modify verbs (drives), adjectives or other adverbs.

adjective adverb
Susan is a careful driver. Susan drives carefully.
She is beautiful. She drives carefully.

Susan is a careful driver. This sentence is about Susan, the driver, so use the adjective.

Susan drives carefully. This sentence is about how she drives, so use the adverb.

2. How do know whether to use an adjective or an adverb?

Compare the following:

  • Susan is a driver.

In this sentence we do not know what Susan is like as a driver. Driver is a noun.

  • Susan is a careful driver.

In this sentences we know what Susan is like as a driver – careful. The adjective careful describes Susan’s abilities as a driver. ( How is Susan as a driver?)

  • Susan drives her car.

In this sentence we know Susan drives her car but not how. Drive is a verb

If we want to say more about how Susan drives; we have to use the adverb:

  • Susan drives dangerously.

The adverb dangerously tells us more about the verb drive. ( How does Susan drive? )

Here is another example:

  • I am a slow talker. (How am I? → slowadjective)
  • I talked slowly. (How did I talk? → slowlyadverb)

3. Well and Good

These two words can be difficult for learners of English to use correctly as they have similar meanings. Well is the adverb of the adjective good.

Here are two examples:

adjective adverb
It is a good car.
(What is the car like?)
The car runs well.
(How does the car go?)
He is a good teacher.
(What is he like as a teacher?)
He teaches well.
(How is his teaching?)

But well can also be used as an adjective when talking about health.

  • The children are good. (How are the children? – Are they behaving?)
  • The children are well. (How are the children? – Are they are healthy?)
  • How are you? – I’m well, thank you.