Adjectives Versus Adverbs: Tough Sledding: Using Adjectives After Linking Verbs

Tough Sledding: Using Adjectives After Linking Verbs

Remember that linking verbs describe a state of being or a condition. They include all forms of to be (such as am, is, are, were, was) and verbs related to the senses (look, smell, sound, feel). Linking verbs connect the subject of a sentence to a word that renames or describes it.

Sticky situations arise with verbs that sometimes function as linking verbs but other times function as action verbs. Life just isn't fair sometimes. As linking verbs, these verbs use adjectives as complements. As action verbs, these verbs use adverbs. For example:

  • Charlie looks cheerful.
  • (looks is a linking verb; cheerful is an adjective)
  • Charlie looks cheerfully at the buffet table.
  • (looks is an action verb; cheerfully is an adverb)

The Badlands

The adjective bad and the adverb badly are especially prone to such abuse. For instance:

  • No-No: The guest felt badly.
  • Yes-Yes: The guest felt bad.
  • No-No: The food tasted badly.
  • Yes-Yes: The food tasted bad.

Good News; Well News

Good and well are as dicey as bad and badly. That's because well functions both as an adverb and as an adjective:

  1. Good is always an adjective.
    • You did a good job.
    • You're a good egg.
  2. Well is an adjective used to describe good health.
    • You look well.
    • You sound well after your recent bout with pneumonia.
  3. Well is an adverb when it's used for anything else.
    • You cook well.
    • They eat well.

Once More into the Breach, Dear Friends

Complete each sentence by adding the correct form of the adjective or adverb in parenthesis or by selecting the correct word in parenthesis.

  1. KTHI-TV in Fargo, North Dakota, owns the __________ (tall) television tower in America.
  2. People Magazine has a (high) __________ circulation than TV Guide, but AARP Magazine has the (high) __________ circulation of all.
  3. January and February are the (cold) __________ months of the year; not coincidentally, they are also the (heavy) __________ months for watching television in the United States.
  4. The Navahos form the (more, most) __________ populous Indian tribe in the United States and Canada.
  5. ABC's “Turn-On” became the (short) __________ running series in TV history: It lasted only one day.
  6. Of all the fruits sold, bananas are the (more, most) profitable item in American supermarkets.
  7. Silas is a (good, well) __________ cook; he cooks (good, well) __________ .
  8. This year, Castaway was the (bad) __________ movie of all, much (bad) __________ than Plan Nine from Outer Space.
  9. According to the U.S. Census, (more, most) __________ Americans trace their ancestry to Germany than to any other country.
  10. Rocco asked (good, well) __________ questions at the meeting and the boss answered them (good, well).
1. tallest 5. shortest 9. more
2. higher, highest 6. most 10. good, well
3. coldest, heaviest7. good, well
4. most 8. worst, worse
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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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