Adjectives are words that describe nouns.
Adverbs are words that describe verbs.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to confuse them!
Here’s an example with easy (adjective) and easily (adverb):
- The English test was easy.
- I easily finished the English test in 45 minutes.
You can see that easy describes the test (n.) whereas easily describes the action of finishing (v.) the test.
A lot of adjectives and adverbs have the same meaning – for example, easily means “an action done in an easy way.”
However, there are exceptions – let’s learn some of them!
late / lately
Late can be an adjective or an adverb that means after the correct time.
- I’m not hungry because I had a late lunch. (adjective)
- He slept late and missed his first class. (adverb)
Lately is an adverb that means the same as recently.
- I haven’t studied a lot lately. Work has been busy for the past couple weeks.
hard / hardly
Hard can be an adjective or an adverb – and the adjective form has two meanings!
- This book is too hard for me. I can’t read it. (hard = adjective = difficult)
- This mattress is too hard. I can’t sleep. (hard = adjective = opposite of “soft”)
- She’s working hard to finish the project by tomorrow. (hard = adverb = intensely)
Hardly has a completely different meaning. It means “almost not.”
- We have a bad connection – I can hardly hear you. (= I almost can’t hear you)
most / most of / mostly
Most or most of (adjective) means “the majority, the greater part.”
- Most people like the country’s president. (= more than 50% of the people)
- Most of the students in the class are nice. (= more than 50% of the students)
Most as an adverb means “to the greatest degree” – it is used to form the superlative:
- She’s the most popular girl in school. (= more popular than EVERYONE else)
- This is the most confusing chapter in the book.
(= more confusing than ALL the other chapters)
Mostly (adverb) means “mainly, generally, usually.”
- We mostly go to dance clubs, but sometimes we go to a cafe.
(= we usually go to dance clubs)
- I’ve mostly dated athletes; I love women who play sports.
(= I’ve mainly dated athletes)