By the end of this section, you will be able to:
- Identify adjectives and adverbs.
- Use adjectives and adverbs correctly.
Adjectives and adverbs are descriptive words that bring your writing to life.
Adjectives and Adverbs
An adjective is a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. It often answers questions such as which one, what kind, or how many?
- The green sweater belongs to Iris.
- She looks beautiful.
- In sentence 1, the adjective green describes the noun sweater.
- In sentence 2, the adjective beautiful describes the pronoun she.
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs frequently end in -ly. They answer questions such as how, to what extent, why, when, and where.
- Bertrand sings horribly.
- My sociology instructor is extremely wise.
- He threw the ball very accurately.
- In sentence 3, horribly describes the verb sings. How does Bertrand sing? He sings horribly.
- In sentence 4, extremely describes the adjective wise. How wise is the instructor? Extremely wise.
- In sentence 5, very describes the adverb accurately. How accurately did he throw the ball? Very accurately.
Comparative versus Superlative
Comparative adjectives and adverbs are used to compare two people or things.
- Jorge is thin.
- Steven is thinner than Jorge.
- Sentence 1 describes Jorge with the adjective thin.
- Sentence 2 compares Jorge to Steven, stating that Steven is thinner. So thinner is the comparative form of thin.
Form comparatives in one of the following two ways:
- If the adjective or adverb is a one syllable word, add -er to it to form the comparative. For example, big, fast, and short would become bigger, faster, and shorter in the comparative form.
- If the adjective or adverb is a word of two or more syllables, place the word more in front of it to form the comparative. For example, happily, comfortable, and jealous would become more happily, more comfortable, and more jealous in the comparative.
Superlative adjectives and adverbs are used to compare more than two people or two things.
- Jackie is the loudest cheerleader on the squad.
- Kenyatta was voted the most confident student by her graduating class.
- Sentence 1 shows that Jackie is not just louder than one other person, but she is the loudest of all the cheerleaders on the squad.
- Sentence 2 shows that Kenyatta was voted the most confident student of all the students in her class.
Form superlatives in one of the following two ways:
- If the adjective or adverb is a one-syllable word, add -est to form the superlative. For example, big, fast, and short would become biggest, fastest, and shortest in the superlative form.
- If the adjective or adverb is a word of two or more syllables, place the word most in front of it. For example, happily, comfortable, and jealous would become most happily, most comfortable, and most jealous in the superlative form.
Remember the following exception: If the word has two syllables and ends in -y, change the -y to an -i and add -est. For example, happy would change to happiest in the superlative form; healthy would change to healthiest.
Irregular Words: Good, Well, Bad, and Badly
Good, well, bad, and badly are often used incorrectly. Study the following chart to learn the correct usage of these words and their comparative and superlative forms.
Good versus Well
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 versus Badly
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.
Better and Worse
The following are examples of the use of better and worse:
Tyra likes sprinting better than long distance running.
The traffic is worse in Chicago than in Atlanta.
Best and Worst
The following are examples of the use of best and worst:
Tyra sprints best of all the other competitors.
Peter finished worst of all the runners in the race.
Remember better and worse compare two persons or things. Best and worst compare three or more persons or things.
Writing at Work
The irregular words good, well, bad, and badly are often misused along with their comparative and superlative forms better, best, worse, and worst. You may not hear the difference between worse and worst, and therefore type it incorrectly. In a formal or business-like tone, use each of these words to write eight separate sentences. Assume these sentences will be seen and judged by your current or future employer.
- Adjectives describe a noun or a pronoun.
- Adverbs describe a verb, adjective, or another adverb.
- Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective.
- Comparative adjectives and adverbs compare two persons or things.
- Superlative adjectives or adverbs compare more than two persons or things.
- The adjectives good and bad and the adverbs well and badly are unique in their comparative and superlative forms and require special attention.
1. Complete the following sentences by adding the correct adjective or adverb from the list in the previous section. Identify the word as an adjective or an adverb (Adj, Adv).
- Frederick ________ choked on the piece of chicken when he saw Margaret walk through the door.
- His ________ eyes looked at everyone and everything as if they were specimens in a biology lab.
- Despite her pessimistic views on life, Lauren believes that most people have ________ hearts.
- Although Stefan took the criticism ________, he remained calm.
- The child developed a ________ imagination because he read a lot of books.
- Madeleine spoke ________ while she was visiting her grandmother in the hospital.
- Hector’s most ________ possession was his father’s bass guitar from the 1970s.
- My definition of a ________ afternoon is walking to the park on a beautiful day, spreading out my blanket, and losing myself in a good book.
- She ________ eyed her new coworker and wondered if he was single.
- At the party, Denise ________ devoured two pieces of pepperoni pizza and a several slices of ripe watermelon.
2. Edit the following paragraph by correcting the errors in comparative and superlative adjectives.
Our argument started on the most sunny afternoon that I have ever experienced. Max and I were sitting on my front stoop when I started it. I told him that my dog, Jacko, was more smart than his dog, Merlin. I could not help myself. Merlin never came when he was called, and he chased his tail and barked at rocks. I told Max that Merlin was the most dumbest dog on the block. I guess I was angrier about a bad grade that I received, so I decided to pick on poor little Merlin. Even though Max insulted Jacko too, I felt I had been more mean. The next day I apologized to Max and brought Merlin some of Jacko’s treats. When Merlin placed his paw on my knee and licked my hand, I was the most sorry person on the block.
Share and compare your answers with a classmate.
3. Write good, well, bad, or badly to complete each sentence. Copy the completed sentence onto your own sheet of paper.
- Donna always felt ________ if she did not see the sun in the morning.
- The school board president gave a ________ speech for once.
- Although my dog, Comet, is mischievous, he always behaves ________ at the dog park.
- I thought my back injury was ________ at first, but it turned out to be minor.
- Steve was shaking ________ from the extreme cold.
- Apple crisp is a very ________ dessert that can be made using whole grains instead of white flour.
- The meeting with my son’s math teacher went very ________.
- Juan has a ________ appetite, especially when it comes to dessert.
- Magritte thought the guests had a ________ time at the party because most people left early.
- She ________ wanted to win the writing contest prize, which included a trip to New York.
4. Write the correct comparative or superlative form of the word in parentheses. Copy the completed sentence onto your own sheet of paper.
- This research paper is ________ (good) than my last one.
- Tanaya likes country music ________ (well) of all.
- My motorcycle rides ________ (bad) than it did last summer.
- That is the ________ (bad) joke my father ever told.
- The hockey team played ________ (badly) than it did last season.
- Tracey plays guitar ________ (well) than she plays the piano.
- It will go down as one of the ________ (bad) movies I have ever seen.
- The deforestation in the Amazon is ________ (bad) than it was last year.
- Movie ticket sales are ________ (good) this year than last.
- My husband says mystery novels are the ________ (good) types of books.
Using the exercises as a guide, write your own ten-sentence quiz for your classmate(s) using the concepts covered in this section. Try to include two questions from each subsection in your quiz. Exchange papers and see whether you can get a perfect score.