Modifiers are usually placed next to the word they modify. Placed too far from the word it describes, the modifier can end up as misplaced modifier, which is explained later. Adjectives as modifiers come more often before the noun than after it. Adverbs as modifiers occur immediately before or after the verb, and before an adjective or another adverb.


Adjective as modifier


(1) Adjective modifying noun


  • It was a dark and stormy night.
    (Dark is an adjective, so is stormy; they both modify the noun night.)
  • There was a red kite in the cloudless sky.
    (Red and cloudless are adjectives, and they modify the nouns kite and sky.)



(2) Adjective modifying pronoun


  • He was happy with the way things went.
    (Happy as an adjective modifies pronoun he.)
  • They were tired after a hard day at the worksite.
    (Adjective tired modifies pronoun they.)



Adverb as modifier
Adverb modifies verbadjective, and adverb.

(1) Adverb modifying verb


  • She breathes heavily.
    (The adverb heavily modifies the verb breathes.)
  • He often sees dragons in his dreams.
    (Adverb often modifies verb sees.)
  • He did not feel hungry and ate sparingly.
    (Adverb sparingly modifies verb ate.)



(2) Adverb modifying adjective


  • He is really funny. 
    (The adverb really modifies the adjective funny.)
  • The water is hot enough to make a drink.
    (The word enough is an adverb and it modifies the adjective hot.)
  • She felt her pulse; it's abnormally fast.
    (Adverb abnormally modifies adjective fast.)



(3) Adverb modifying adverb


  • We whisper very softly to each other.
    (The adverb very modifies the adverb softly.)
  • He now gets home more quickly with his new car.
    (More is an adverb and it modifies another adverb quickly.)
  • After her illness, she gets tired exceptionally easily.
    (Adverb exceptionally modifies adverb easily.)



(4) Adverb modifying whole sentence


  • Hopefully, the weather will be good enough for a picnic tomorrow.
    (The adverb hopefully modifies an entire statement/sentence rather than just a single word or phrase.)



Verb Adverb modifying verb
He works on his own. He works efficiently on his own.
They dig to get at the roots. They dig deep to get at the roots.
We ate lots of food. We ate up lots of food.



Adjective Adverb modifying adjective
I was still awake at 4 a.m. I was still wide awake at 4 a.m.
We have been patient with him. We have been quite patient with him.
It was dark inside the cave. It was completely dark inside the cave.



Adverb Adverb modifying adverb
He finished his homework quickly. He finished his homework very quickly.
She ran fast in the race. She ran really fast in the race.
The dog came immediately when he called. The dog came almost immediately  when he called.



To be able to distinguish between an adjective and an adverb does help as the following show. Most adverbs end in -ly. Only a few words ending in -ly are adjective.


The word certain is an adjective; certainly is an adverb.

  • Incorrect: Not smoking has certain made a real difference to him.
    (Certain is an adjective and an adjective does not modify a verb [made].)
  • Correct: Not smoking has certainly made a real difference to him.
    (Certainly is an adverb and it modifies the verb made.)
  • Incorrect: Are you quite certainly about what happened? 
  • Correct: Are you quite certain about what happened? 
Real is an adjective; really is an adverb. 
  • Incorrect: The government is aware of the really problems that these people face. 
    (It is incorrect because an adverb does not modify a noun. The word really is an adverb.)
  • Correct: The government is aware of the real problems that these people face.
    (The word real is an adjective and it correctly modifies a noun, problems.)
  • Incorrect: We don't know what real happened.
    (An adjective real does not modify a verb happened.)
  • Correct: We don't know what really happened. 
    (An adverb really modifies a verb happened.)