A is for Adjectives and Adverbs

From JEOPARDY! Show #6302 – Tuesday, January 31, 2012 ADVERBS:

It’s the way the crew of the Enterprise “go where no man has gone before”
Though it appears to mean “angrily”, this adverb can mean “extremely”, as when it precedes “in love”
Yea, in truth, really, this archaic 6-letter word doth mean indeed
Othello said, “Then must you speak of one that loved not” this “but too well”
Completes the Tom swifty “Which way is the cemetery?” Tom asked in this serious manner

As always, correct responses at the end of this post.

Some months ago Shooting Parrots was talking about his daughter, who is learning about Teaching English as a Foreign Language, when he wrote: “Until she mentioned it, it never occurred to me that there is a natural order of adjectives.” And I didn’t either. So I ran to my wife, who is a teacher of English as a Second Language. “Did you know about this?” “Of course, I do.”

So why didn’t I? SP explains that native speakers of English “will use the rules without realising they’re doing so while [non-native speakers] will be much more aware of the rules.”
And what ARE the order rules? From HERE:

Opinion – An opinion adjective explains what you think about something (other people may not agree with you).
For example: silly, beautiful, horrible, difficult
Size – A size adjective, of course, tells you how big or small something is.
For example: large, tiny, enormous, little
Age – An age adjective tells you how young or old something or someone is.
For example: ancient, new, young, old
Shape – A shape adjective describes the shape of something.
For example: square, round, flat, rectangular
Colour – A colour adjective, of course, describes the colour of something.
For example: blue, pink, reddish, grey
Origin – An origin adjective describes where something comes from.
For example: French, lunar, American, eastern, Greek
Material – A material adjective describes what something is made from.
For example: wooden, metal, cotton, paper
Purpose – A purpose adjective describes what something is used for. These adjectives often end with “-ing”.
For example: sleeping (as in “sleeping bag”), roasting (as in “roasting tin”)

But the Wikipedia begs to differ, somewhat:

quantity or number
quality or opinion
proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material)
purpose or qualifier

Surely, quantity must come first, as in Five Easy Pieces.

There are also rules for forming comparative and superlative adjectives. One-syllable adjectives generally add -er or -est. “For adjectives with three syllables or more, you form the comparative with more and the superlative with most.” The adjectives with two syllables are…complicated.

Adverbs are words that modify a verb, an adjective or another adverb. There is a lot to say about adverbs, but my favorite is this: “One of the hallmarks of adverbs is their ability to move around in a sentence. Adverbs of manner are particularly flexible in this regard.” Here is a list of adverbs; note that they DON’T all end in -ly.

JEOPARDY! responses (respectively): boldly, madly, verily, wisely, gravely

ABC Wednesday – Round 11

0 thoughts on “A is for Adjectives and Adverbs”

  1. Great post. Funny but very informative. I fear I don’t always used adjectives in the correct order or if I do it’s accidental. Sometimes I’m accidentally correct but I’ll never admit it, oops I just did admit it. Carver ABC-Wed. Team


  2. Reminds me when I was teaching parts of speech to fourth graders. We had big sheets of paper stuck up on the walls and everyone was welcome to put a new word on the right piece. Brings back many happy memories since I happen to be a grammar junkie! lol

    abcw team


  3. And if you’re Hemingway, you don’t use adverbs at all…

    I never really thought about the order rule. “Three red balls” instead of “Red three balls”… the second one makes it sound like the number 3 is red.

    Great post!

    Chris H
    ABC Wednesday
    A is for Avogadro’s Number


  4. Hemingway didn’t use adverbs, and in Stephen King’s On Writing he says to steer clear of them as best you can, because they either slow or confuse a reader.

    Even as a writer, I never really stopped to think about adjective categories…Good post!


  5. Oh what fun, and instructional! When I went to school, my teachers followed the ‘whole language’ approach – just immerse them in language and they’ll learn the rules instinctively. I may have learned them instinctively, but I never learned them formally and I believe that it has been my loss. Great post and great start to round 10!


  6. My grammar is simply awful.
    I definitely don’t know the parts of speech and feel intimidated by my lack of knowledge.
    Thanks for the fascinating review of dastardly Adjectives and Adverbs.


  7. I’d never realised about the order of adjectives either. I’m glad English is my native language otherwise I’d never get a handle of it. Most informative Roger, we never did grammar at school like Meryl mentions, whole language, wacky idea.


  8. Great post, Roger. I am stunned, however, by Meryl’s comment. “The whole language approach to grammar”? Really? Students will learn the rules instinctively?
    Did that ever work?
    When I was a child, we had rules drummed into us, drilled into us, and dumped into us, until we could write them all out, or recite them on demand.
    Now my subconscious can follow the rules of grammar instinctively, even though my conscious mind has forgotten what they are, or I can refuse to use them as drilled into me, as I choose.


  9. ‘Verily’ reminds me of the Bible – “verily, I say unto you” … I remember this order of adjective rule in one of those business communication textbooks I use at work.


  10. This is all quite interesting, but, whew, I’m glad English is my first language and I don’t have to think about all these rules and orders when I write or speak! In school I loved grammar, but that was a very long time ago. I wonder if I still know how to diagram a sentence? Anybody else?


  11. I’m with Meryl on this one. We learned grammar with the ‘whole language’ approach. But I must admit that in all my years of writing, I have been aware that there is a better order, if not a correct order. Having lived in the south of England and then moved to the north, where language is often quite different, then again in Canada and now down here, language has been confusing for me because people do things differently depending on where you live. Using ‘that’ instead of ‘who’, ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’ are bad enough and oh dear, I just can’t use ‘gotten’. My English teacher would turn over in her grave. And incidentally, just where does the comma or period go, inside or outside the brackets?


  12. I should have learned English like that, but I hate grammar, so I slept during English lessons. I really learned it with speaking when I worked in an American company. Like kids do, they first learn to speak and then to write. As you can see the result is not too bad in my case !
    ABC Team


  13. “…native speakers of English ‘will use the rules without realising they’re doing so…'”

    Exactly. My siblings and I all experienced this, and in the same way: We internalised the rules, but didn’t “know” them when it came time for exams. Took years to get to a competent level on the book learnin’ side—assuming I’m there yet (I often have to look up rules for italicisation and such).

    ChrisJ had a point I can relate to, having also moved to a foreign country. I sometimes get the flavours of English confused, but it’s fascinating all the same.


  14. I had no idea there’s a rule about adjective order! It makes sense that someone who’s learning (or has learned) English as a second language (bless them, what a challenging language it must be to have to learn that way!) would be more aware of the rule. I never knew about the subjunctive until I studied Spanish, and now it still grates on me to read or hear a sentence like, “I wish I was smarter!” 🙂 Anyway, thanks for the fun lesson! I’ve learned several interesting things in this round.


  15. The last 13 years of my teaching life had English language instruction added on to a music position. I still remember fumbling to explain why the students could say it was red, big car or a young, cute guy. (I finally went to get some training.)


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