Adverbs and Adjectives in English (…or how to speak good English well)

Almost all languages have adjectives. Adjectives are words that describe things or people.  Almost all languages have adverbs. English and Catalan and Spanish have adjectives and their use is very similar in all three languages.  However, there are some important differences.

For example:

A tall man…un home alt/un hombre alto

A tall woman…una dona alta/una dona alta

As you can see, adjectives in English do not change,  They use the same form with masculine and feminine nouns.  They also don’t change forms for singular or plural nouns.

For example:

Three tall men…tres homes alts/tres hombres altos

Several tall women…diverses dones altes/varias mujeres altas

Adverbs, on the other hand, tell us how something is done. They do the same to verbs that adjectives do to noun.

For example:

John’s father is a slow worker

El pare del John és un obrer lent

El padre de John es un trabajador lento

John’s father works slowly

El pare de John treballa lentament

El padre de John trabaja lentamente

The adverb is usually formed by adding -ly to the adjective.  This is exactly like in Catalan and Spanish with -ment or -mente.

For example:





 Be Careful!!!  Not all words ending in -ly are adverbs:

There are adjectives ending in -ly:

For example:

friendly, silly, lonely, ugly

There are nouns, that end in -ly:

For example: ally, bully, Italy, melancholy

And there are verbs, ending in -ly:

For example: apply, rely, supply

(There is no adverb for an adjective ending in -ly)

 Some adverbs have special spelling forms.

For example: If the last letter of the adjective is “y” then the “y” is changed to “i” before adding -ly-

For example:  easy…easily

But: The adverb form of shy (tímid/tímido) is shyly.

If the adjective ends in le, the adverb ends in ly

For example…terrible changes to terribly

If the adjective ends in e, then add ly:

For example…safe changes to safely

And like in Catalan and Spanish, there are some irregular adverbs.

For example, the adjective is “good” (bo/bueno) but the adverb is “well” (bé/bien).

But you say “The pizza tastes good.”

There is also a difference in meaning with some adverbs. If you say, “It smells bad” or “It tastes bad,” this means that the thing has a bad smell or a bad taste.

However, if you say, “They smell badly.”  This means that they are not able to smell well.  Another example is hard.  A student has to study hard.

(The word “hardly” means “tot just” or “apenas.”)

So, the secret to learning to use adverbs correctly is studying hard instead of hardly studying!


Written by Mike Dean Alger for Aston School

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