Adjectives and Adverbs as Modifiers

When we communicate, we often need to add more details or further clarify our message. This is particularly important in writing, where we don't have additional cues like tone or body language to aid understanding. Two grammatical tools that help us do this are adjectives and adverbs. Understanding how these modifiers work can greatly improve your written communication skills.

What are Modifiers?

Simply put, modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that provide descriptive information about other words or groups of words. They enhance, limit, or explain the elements they accompany, adding depth and clarity.

The Role of Adjectives and Adverbs as Modifiers

While multiple word types can function as modifiers (like nouns, verbs, and prepositions), adjectives and adverbs are especially significant. This is because their primary role is to modify or describe. They offer detailed precision, helping to conjure vivid images and clear conceptions in the reader's mind.

Adjectives as Modifiers

Adjectives primarily describe or modify nouns. Whether they're offering viewer details about a character in a story(""), the attributes of a product, or providing descriptive context, adjectives play a crucial role.

How to Identify an Adjective

To spot an adjective, look for words that answer questions like: What kind? How many? Which one? Here are some examples:

  • In the sentence "She wore a beautiful dress", "beautiful" is an adjective because it's modifying the noun "dress", offering more detail about what kind of dress it is.
  • In the sentence "There are seven apples on the table", "seven" is an adjective because it's specifying how many apples there are.
  • In the sentence "This is my favourite song", "favourite" is an adjective because it's indicating which song is being referred to.

Rulse for Using Adjectives

While adjectives seem straightforward, there are still some guidelines you should follow to ensure your writing is clear and correct.

  • Adjectives usually come before the noun they're modifying, as in "red car". But they can sometimes follow the noun, especially when the verb is a form of "to be", as in "The car is red".
  • In English, there's an order to how multiple adjectives before a noun should be arranged: quantity, opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, color, origin, material, type, purpose. For example, you might describe a "large, round, wooden table".

Adverbs as Modifiers

While adjectives modify nouns, adverbs generally modify or describe verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They give us more information about the action, the description, or the modifier in the sentence, answering questions like: How? When? Where? To what degree?

How to Identify an Adverb

To spot an adverb, look for words that give more information about a verb, adjective, or other adverb. While many adverbs end in "-ly", not all of them do. Consider these examples:

  • In the sentence "He runs quickly", "quickly" is an adverb because it's modifying the verb "runs", telling us how he runs.
  • In the sentence "She is very smart", "very" is an adverb because it's modifying the adjective "smart", indicating to what degree she is smart.
  • In the sentence "We arrived yesterday", "yesterday" is an adverb because it modifies the verb "arrived", telling us when we arrived.

Rules for Using Adverbs

It's also important to ensure you're using adverbs correctly.

  • Most adverbs can be placed either before or after the verb they're modifying. For instance, you can say either "He quickly runs" or "He runs quickly".
  • However, when an adverb modifies an adjective or another adverb, it should be placed before the word it's modifying, as in "She's very smart".

Caution with Modifiers

When using modifiers, whether they're adjectives or adverbs, it's important to ensure they're clearly linked to the words they're modifying. Misplaced modifiers can lead to confusion, as in the sentence "I only eat vegetables", which implies that the only thing you do with vegetables is to eat them.


Adjectives and adverbs play a crucial role as modifiers in enriching our writing and adding depth to our communication. With their help, we can paint more vivid pictures and establish clear ideas in the reader's mind. Understanding and mastering these parts of speech can take your writing skills to an entirely new level.

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