Parts of Speech
Practice Distinguishing Adjectives & Adverbs

Is it an adjective or an adverb?

The following guidelines will help you distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, and identify what they modify.

Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns.

They answer questions such as:

         which?      how many?     what kind? 

    Some common suffixes added to nouns and verbs to create
    adjectives are:
          -able     -ful    -ish     -less     -y

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs, and sometimes whole sentences.

They answer questions such as:

          how?     where?     when?    to what extent?

    A common suffix of adverbs is -ly.
An adverb can often move around more freely within a sentence than can an adjective, which is closely tied to what it modifies. However, the best way to distinguish between adjectives and adverbs is to observe what they modify within the sentence.


One type of adjective, a predicate adjective, follows a linking verb. However, linking verbs can also sometimes be followed by adverbs, though usually not alone.


    He became sad. (adjective after a linking verb)
    He became sadly confused. (adverb after a linking verb)

A common error is to confuse adjectives and adverbs and use them incorrectly. The modifiers good/well, bad/badly and real/really are often problematic for English speakers.

GOOD is an adjective, and can be used alone after a linking verb. WELL can be either an adjective (meaning "in good health") or an adverb.
    correct   - That smells good. (used with a linking verb)
    incorrect - She sings good. (being used as an adverb)
    correct   - She sings well.
    correct   - He felt good. (used after a linking verb)
    correct   - He felt well. (well here is an adjective)
BAD is an adjective, and can be used after a linking verb. BADLY is an adverb, and should not be used after a linking verb.
    correct   - That smells bad. (used after a linking verb)
    incorrect - That smells badly.
    incorrect - She sings bad. (being used as an adverb)
    correct   - She sings badly.
REAL is an adjective. REALLY is an adverb.

    incorrect - He was real pleased with his final grade.
    (an adjective being used as an adverb)
    correct   - He was really pleased with his final grade.

Distinguishing Adjectives and Adverbs

By clicking on a bubble, identify whether the highlighted word is an adjective or adverb. If your response shows as "Incorrect" in the status bar, you can click on the other answers to find the correct one (which will give you "Correct" in the status bar).

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Copyright © 1998
English Department
University of Calgary

Last updated: July 26 1999