Do you wonder when to add -ly to a word? For example, should you say, “He speaks slow” or “He speaks slowly.” Let’s find out.
Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns. They may come before the word they describe: “That is a cute puppy.” Adjectives may also follow the word they describe: “That puppy is cute.”
Adverbs modify adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. If an adverb answers how and can have an -ly attached to it, place it there.
She thinks slow/slowly. Slowly answers how she thinks.
We performed bad/badly. Badly answers how we performed.
She thinks fast/fastly. Fast may be either an adjective or an adverb. In this example, fast answers how she thinks. There is no such word as fastly.
Rule: When comparing, don’t drop the -ly. Simply add more or less.
He speaks more slowly than his brother.
Rule: English grammar has one tricky caveat that seems like an exception to these easy rules: If the verb is one of these four senses—taste, smell, look, feel—don’t ask how. Instead, ask if the sense verb is used actively. If so, attach the -ly. If the sense verb is not used actively, which is more common, don’t attach -ly.
Roses smell sweet/sweetly. Do roses actively smell with noses? No, so no -ly.
The woman looked angry/angrily. Is the woman actively looking with eyes? No, only her appearance is being described.
She feels bad/badly about the news. She is not feeling with fingers so no -ly.
She feels bad/badly since burning her fingers. She feels with her fingers here so the adverb (-ly form) is used.
1. I feel bad/badly about telling that secret.
2. Walk slower/more slowly, please.
3. You look sad/sadly about the news.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. I feel bad about telling that secret.
2. Walk more slowly, please.
3. You look sad about the news.
Posted on Sunday, October 7, 2007, at 11:09 pm86 Comments on Adjectives and Adverbs: When to Use -ly