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Chapter 27: Adjectives, adverbs, and other modifiers.

By the end of this chapter, you should begin to ...

* use adjectives and adverbs appropriately;

* use positive, comparative, and superlative forms correctly; and

* avoid misplaced and dangling modifiers.

A modifier describes, explains, or limits another word in some way. Modifiers can be single words like adjectives and adverbs, or they can be groups of words like phrases or clauses. Both the form and the placement of modifiers are important in making our points clear to the reader and in demonstrating our knowledge of standard written English.

USING ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS

Adverbs are generally recognizable by their -ly ending and are used to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

   The water in the saucepan boiled rapidly. [The adverb rapidly
   modifies the verb boiled.]

   The water in the saucepan was at a very rapid boil. [The adverb
   very modifies the adjective rapid.]

   The water was boiling very rapidly. [The adverb very modifies the
   adverb rapidly.]


Most adjectives, on the other hand, do not end in -ly and are used to modify nouns, sometimes following a linking verb.

   The rapid boil stopped once the saucepan was removed from the
   flame. [The adjective rapid modifies the noun boil.]

   The saucepan was still hot, though. [The adjective hot follows the
   linking verb was, but modifies the noun saucepan.]


However, problems arise when adjectives and adverbs have unexpected forms or are used in place of one another.

While most adverbs end in -ly, some do not, such as fast, hard, late, and straight. In fact, these adverbs have the same form as their adjective counterparts (Figure 27.1). Friendly and lively, however, do not have adverb forms. They must be used in a phrase such as "in a friendly way" or "in a lively manner."

WELL AND GOOD

Well can be used both as an adjective and as an adverb. As an adjective, it means healthy, as in a Get Well card. Well is also the adverb form of the adjective good. Sometimes confusion ensues because the two words are often used one way in casual speech and another way in formal written English. While well can be used as either an adjective or an adverb, good is used only as an adjective. It must modify a noun, even if it follows the verb. In that case, the verb will be a linking verb. Remember that linking verbs include to be and to seem, as well as some meanings of to feel, to smell, and to taste. In general, if a verb can be replaced with is or are, it is a linking verb.

   I thought the movie was good.
   [correct; good modifies the noun
   movie]

   The sauce tastes good. [correct; good
   modifies the noun sauce]


In the first example, the adjective good correctly modifies the noun movie, although it follows the linking verb was. It was a good movie. Similarly, in the second example, the adjective good correctly modifies the noun sauce. It's a good sauce. (Like the other verbs of the "senses"--smells, feels, sounds, looks--the verb tastes is sometimes used as a linking verb.) But see what happens when we try to make good modify a verb:

   Tony cooks good. [incorrect; good cannot modify a verb]


In this sentence, the word good is used incorrectly to modify the verb cooks and should be changed to its adverb form, well.

   Tony cooks well. [correct]

Use an adverb to modify a verb.

To modify the verb cooks, choose an adverb rather
than an adjective.

Tony cooks well.

[??] = adverb (well, efficiently)

[??] = adjective (good, efficient)


Some other pairs of adjective/adverb forms that create confusion are bad/badly, real/ really, and slow/slowly. In the first sentence that follows, an adjective (real) is used informally in place of an adverb.

   The risotto was real tasty, [informal; real is an adjective and so
   cannot modify another adjective, tasty]


The adverb form must be used to modify an adjective, as in the next sentence:

   The risotto was really tasty, [correct; the adverb really modifies
   the adjective tasty]


Study the following pairs of correct sentences:

   The performance is going badly. [The adverb badly modifies the verb
   is going.]

   The moldy cheese tastes bad. [The adjective bad follows the linking
   verb and modifies cheese.]

   The first date went well. [The adverb well modifies the verb went.]

   The first date was good. [The adjective good follows the linking
   verb and modifies date.]

Use an adverb to modify an adjective.

To modify the adjective tasty, choose an adverb rather
than an adjective.

The risotto was really tasty.

[??] = adverb (really)

[??] = adjective (real)


Slow is sometimes used as an adverb in the common expressions "drive slow" or "go slow." To be strictly correct, however, use the formal adverb slowly.

   The bus was traveling slowly through the busy city streets.


Beware of similar confusions with the adjective/adverb pairs awful/awfully, poor/poorly, quick/quickly, and quiet/quietly. Remember to use an adjective to modify a noun and an adverb to modify a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Once you decide whether you need an adjective or adverb, be sure to use the correct form.

Exercise 27.1 | Using Adjectives and Adverbs

Rewrite each of the following sentences, correcting any errors in the use of adjectives and adverbs.

Example: Seth wrote poor with his left hand.

Rewrite: Seth wrote poorly with his left hand.

1. The strange-looking drink nevertheless tasted good.

2. Tom told Maria that she danced good.

3. Leo was real careful not to spill a drop as he poured the coffee.

4. The stage set was so detailed and colorful that it looked real.

5. Jerry reminded his classmates to beat the egg whites real good.

COMPARATIVE AND SUPERLATIVE FORMS

Adjectives and adverbs have three forms. The first is the positive, a form that describes a noun without comparing it to another one. In our preceding discussion, all the adjectives and adverbs were in the positive form. The second is the comparative, which is formed by adding the suffix -er or the word more. The comparative is used to judge two items against each other. The third is the superlative, which is formed by adding the suffix -est or the word most. The superlative is used to compare more than two items. Study the three adjective forms in these examples:

   Trey is happy, [positive]

   Bennett is happier than Trey, [comparative]

   Trish is the happiest of all, [superlative]

   Trey's cake is delicious. [positive]

   Bennett's cake is more delicious than Trey's. [comparative]

   Trish's cake is the most delicious of all. [superlative]


Adverbs form the comparative and superlative in a similar way:

   Trey works fast. [positive]

   Bennett works faster. [comparative adds -er]

   Trish works the fastest of all. [superlative adds -est]

   Trey washes plates quickly, [positive]

   Bennett washes plates more quickly, [comparative adds more]

   Trish washes plates the most quickly of all. [superlative adds
   most]


Note that when quick is used as an adjective, it takes the suffixes -er and -est in its comparative and superlative forms.

   Bennett is a quicker dishwasher, but Trish is the quickest.


Unfortunately, it is not always possible to predict which adjectives and adverbs will add a suffix to form the comparative and superlative and which will add the words more and most. The majority of one-syllable adjectives and adverbs add a suffix, -er or -est. Those with two syllables use the suffixes or the words more or most. Adjectives and adverbs with more than two syllables typically use the words more and most, rather than the suffixes. Check a dictionary to be sure.

In addition to these two common variations, some adjectives and adverbs have irregular forms (Figure 27.2).

Finally, note that only one form of the comparative and superlative may be used. The first of the following sentences is incorrect:

   Bennett is more friendlier than Trey, [incorrect; do not use both
   more and the suffix -er]

   Bennett is friendlier than Trey, [correct]

   Bennett is more friendly than Trey, [correct]


Exercise 27.2 | Using Comparatives and Superlatives

On a sheet of paper, write the appropriate form of the adjective or adverb specified in parentheses.

Example: The chef searched for the--(good/feuperlative) recipe.

Rewrite: The chef searched for the best recipe.

1. Alyssa needed--(many/comparative) jalapeno peppers for the chili sauce.

2. This restaurant has the--(/arge/superlative) selection of wines in the city.

3. I have rarely seen a--(Unny/comparative) movie than Tootsie.

4. Dan diced the onions--(efficient/y/comparative) than Tom did.

5. While everyone felt badly about the abandoned dog, Cindy seemed to feel-- (badly/superlative).

MISPLACED MODIFIERS

The role of a modifier is to describe or explain one of the words in a sentence. A misplaced modifier is so far away from the word it describes that the reader may be confused. Look at this sentence:

   The goal was to make tall sugar sculptures of the contest. [The
   modifier of the contest is misplaced.]


This sentence is confusing because it seems as if of the contest is describing the tall sugar sculptures. It's as if the hollandaise sauce intended for the asparagus were put on the dinner roll instead. The meal looks better when the sauce is in the right place, and the sentence is clearer when the phrase is placed next to the noun it truly modifies, goal.

   The goal of the contest was to make tall sugar sculptures.
   [correct]


Such errors in placement are not uncommon, and they can be difficult to spot in our own writing. We know what we mean. Our goal in editing is to be sure our readers will also know what we mean.

Be particularly careful with words such as almost, even, just, and only. They must be placed right next to the words they modify in order to avoid confusion. Consider the following sentence:

   Javier only eats dark chocolate. [He doesn't eat any other food?!]


Since the word only modifies chocolate, not eats, it should be placed next to it.

   Javier eats only dark chocolate. [He doesn't eat any other kind of
   chocolate.]


Exercise 27.3 | Correcting Misplaced Modifiers

Rewrite the following sentences to correct the misplaced modifiers.

Example: The goal was to make tall sugar sculptures of the contest. [misplaced modifier]

Rewrite: The goal of the contest was to make tall sugar sculptures. [correct]

1. Pastry Daredevils documented a competition in sugar sculptures, a series on the Food Channel.

2. One of the competitors almost tried to make a sculpture nine feet in height.

3. The sculptures reflected the chefs' imaginative interpretations of a fairy tale airbrushed with food coloring.

4. The Meilleur Ouvrier de France (M.O.F.) walked quickly over the obstacle course considered a top craftsman in France.

5. The winner created a six-foot sculpture who received a check for ten thousand dollars.

Here is another example:

   Javier only eats dessert when he has a cup of coffee.


Only does not modify eats. Instead, it modifies the clause when he has a cup of coffee and should be placed next to it.

   Javier eats dessert only when he has a cup of coffee.


DANGLING MODIFIERS

A dangling modifier is usually a phrase at the beginning of the sentence that does not truly modify the noun or pronoun that follows it. Without that connection, the modifier is said to "dangle." Look at this example:

   After waiting for over an hour, their table was finally ready.


Who has been waiting for over an hour? The reader expects the phrase after waiting for over an hour to modify the nearest noun. Logically, though, the table hasn't been waiting: they have. Yet the word they does not even appear in the sentence. It's like being served a salad with a side of butter. The butter doesn't "modify" the salad. To correct the "dangle," we might rewrite the sentence in a couple of different ways.

   After waiting for over an hour, they
   were finally seated at their table.


Who was waiting? They were. When we change the subject of the sentence to they, the phrase after waiting for over an hour modifies it, and the sentence makes sense. We've put a dinner roll on the table.

   After they had waited for over an
   hour, their table was finally ready.


In this second rewrite we changed the dangling participial phrase into a solid dependent clause. The butter has been replaced by oil and vinegar.

Exercise 27.4 | Correcting Dangling Modifiers

Rewrite the following sentences to correct the dangling modifiers.

Example: After practicing for a year, her name was entered in the sugar sculpture competition. [Who was practicing? Not her name]

Rewrite: After practicing for a year, she entered the sugar sculpture competition. [She was practicing, not her name.]

1. Required to use certain methods of preparing the sugar, the sculptures also reflected the competitors' imaginations.

2. Avoiding specific fairy tales, her sculpture looked like a French harlequin.

3. Using a blow torch, the sculptures were melted and molded into the proper shapes.

4. While balancing the sculptures carefully, they were carried over an "obstacle course" to see if they would break.

5. Focused on keeping the sugar sculptures upright, her foot tripped on the steps.

RECIPE FOR REVIEW

USING ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS

1. Adverbs are generally recognizable by their -ly endings; they modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

2. Most adjectives, on the other hand, do not end in -ly; they modify nouns, sometimes following a linking verb. For example, the peaches are ripe.

3. Use good only as an adjective: The meal was good, but the meal was cooked well.

4. Use the positive form when no comparison is intended. Use the comparative form (-er or more) of adjectives and adverbs to compare two items. Use the superlative form (-est or most) to compare more than two items. Study the irregular forms of the comparative and superlative in Figure 27.2.

5. Do not use both forms of the comparative (-er and more) or both forms of the superlative (-est and most) to modify a single word. Study these examples:

   Leroy was more friendlier than Alan. [incorrect]

   Leroy was friendlier than Alan, or Leroy was more friendly than
   Alan. [correct]


MISPLACED MODIFIERS

Ensure that adjectives and adverbs--whether they are words or phrases--are placed right next to the words they modify.

   The goal was to make tall sugar sculptures of the contest. [The
   prepositional phrase of the contest modifies goal and should be
   placed right next to it.]

   The goal of the contest was to make tall sugar sculptures.
   [correct]


DANGLING MODIFIERS

Ensure that modifiers refer to a specific word in the sentence; don't let them dangle.

   After waiting for over an hour, their table was finally ready. [Who
   has been waiting for over an hour?]

   After waiting for over an hour, they were finally seated at their
   table. [correct]


CHAPTER QUIZ

DIRECTIONS: Rewrite each of the following sentences, correcting the modifiers.

1. On their trip to Hawaii, Christine noticed that her boyfriend surfed good.

2. She also noticed that the fresh pineapples tasted real good.

3. Christine walked quick downstairs every night for a pina colada.

4. Rhoda liked the fresh pineapple who was another friend on the trip.

5. She only ate pineapple slices, however.

6. Rhoda could surf more better than Christine's boyfriend.

7. After spending a week on the beach, her tan was the deeper of the three friends'.

8. Watching her friends in the water, it would have been fun to surf, too.

9. Sunburned from the day before, her hat provided some welcome shade.

10. Nevertheless, she felt even badder the next day.

Figure 27.1 Adjectives and Adverbs with Identical Forms

Adjective                            Adverb

The Olympic athlete was fast.        The Olympic athlete ran fast.

Compare: The Olympic athlete         Compare: The Olympic athlete
  was quick.                           ran quickly.
We studied for the hard test.        We studied hard for the test.

Late papers will not be accepted.    Don't hand your paper in late.

The road was wide and straight.      Drive straight after the second
                                        light.

Figure 27.2 Irregular Comparative and Superlative Forms

Positive                        Comparative   Superlative

bad (adjective)                 worse         worst
badly (adverb)                  worse         worst
good (adjective)                better        best
well (adverb)                   better        best
little (adjective)              littler       littlest
little (adverb)                 less          least
many (adjective with number)    more          most
much (adjective with amount)    more          most
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:UNIT 3: PRESENTATION
Author:Cadbury, Vivian C.
Publication:A Taste for Writing, Composition for Culinarians
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2015
Words:2709
Previous Article:Chapter 26: Pronouns and point of view.
Next Article:Chapter 28: Maintaining parallelism.
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