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What's the difference between an adjective and an adverb?



Hi Wallace,

First, let's talk about how adjectives and adverbs are alike, then we can talk about how they're different.  Adjectives and adverbs are parts of speech, and they are both words that are used to describe other words.  For example, if you say "That's a good question," good is a describing word, so it's either an adjective or an adverb.  Can you find the describing words in the following sentences?

  • I ran very slowly.
  • I saw a blue balloon.
  • The extraordinarily ugly monster ate the burnt toast.

How did you do?  In the first sentence, "slowly" is a describing word; it describes how you were running, and "very" is also a describing word, because it helps to explain just how slowly you were running.  In the second sentence, "blue" is a describing word, and it describes the balloon.  In the third sentence, there are three describing words: "extraordinarily," "ugly," and "burnt."

Now let's talk about how adjectives and adverbs are different.  The difference can be described quite easily as follows: if a word is describing a noun, it is an adjective.  If it's describing anything else (a verb, an adjective, or another adverb), then it's an adverb.

So, with that in mind, can you go back through those three sentences above and determine which are adjectives, and which are adverbs?

Here are the answers:

  • adjectives: blue, ugly, burnt
  • adverbs: very, slowly, extraordinarily

By the way, sometimes people will tell you that you can recognize adverbs because they end in "ly," but that's not always true.  For example, in this sentence, always is an adverb, but it definitely doesn't end in "ly!"

I hope that helps, and thanks for asking!
Professor Puzzler


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