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Adjectives vs. Adverbs: What Is the Difference?


Adjectives vs. Adverbs: What Is the Difference?

Adjectives vs. Adverbs: What's the Difference?


Adjectives and adverbs are two of the main parts of speech in English grammar. They are often confused by English language learners because they both modify other words in a sentence. However, there are some key differences between the two that can help you distinguish adjectives from adverbs.

What is an Adjective?

An adjective is a word that describes or modifies a noun or pronoun. Adjectives provide more detail about nouns and pronouns by answering questions like "What kind?" "How many?" or "Which one?" For example,
  • The small dog ran quickly.
  • Do you want the red or blue shirt?
  • I ate three cookies.
Adjectives can come before the noun they modify (attributive position) or after a linking verb like "to be" (predicate position). Most adjectives can be used in both positions.

What is an Adverb?

An adverb is a word that describes or modifies a verb, adjective, or other adverb. Adverbs typically answer questions like "How?" "When?" "Where?" "Why?" or "To what extent?" For example,
  • The dog ran quickly.
  • My roommate is extremely tall.
  • I rarely eat dessert.
Many adverbs in English end in "-ly," but some common adverbs do not (e.g. fast, hard, now).

Key Differences

Here are some key things to remember about the differences between adjectives and adverbs:

Common Mistakes

Some common mistakes involve using adjectives when an adverb is needed, and vice versa:
  • Wrong: She sings beautiful. (beautiful is an adjective but an adverb is needed here)
  • Right: She sings beautifully.
  • Wrong: She walks slow. (slow is an adverb but an adjective is needed here)
  • Right: She walks slowly.


How can I tell if a word is an adjective or adverb?

Look at what the word is modifying. If it modifies a noun/pronoun, it's an adjective. If it modifies a verb, adjective or adverb, it's an adverb. Adverbs frequently (but not always) end in -ly.

Where do adjectives go in a sentence?

Most adjectives go before the noun they modify (attributive position). They can also go after verbs like "to be" (predicate position).

Where do adverbs go in a sentence?

Adverbs can go at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence. Mid-sentence is most common, e.g. "She quickly ran up the stairs."

Can an adjective be graded but an adverb not?

Yes, adjectives can take comparative (-er) and superlative (-est) endings, but not adverbs. For example, fast, faster, fastest (adjective) vs. fast, fast, fast (adverb).

In Summary

I hope this overview on adjectives vs. adverbs has helped clarify the difference between these two parts of speech! Let me know if you have any other questions.


  1. Merriam-Webster dictionary entries for adjective and adverb
  2. Purdue Online Writing Lab article on Adjectives and Adverbs
  3. English Grammar Today by Cambridge University Press

Adjective or Adverb? (Interactive Quiz)

Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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