Single Word Modifiers

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Single-Word Modifiers

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Phrase Modifiers


The quiet (adjective: describes child) child spent the entire (adjective: describes afternoon) afternoon doing school (adjective: describes work) work.

He is quiet (adjective: describes he) and polite (adjective: describes he).

She quickly (adverb: describes picked) picked up the very (adverb: describes old) old (adjective: describes book) book.

I feel so (adverb: describes much) much (adverb: describes better) better (adjective: describes I).




Nearly all adjectives and adverbs have three degrees.

Positive Degree Comparative Degree  Superlative Degree
young younger youngest
beautiful more beautiful most beautiful

Most monosyllabic (single syllable) adjectives and adverbs make their degrees like young; most polysyllabic adjectives make their degrees like beautiful. Some adjectives and adverbs like good are irregular.


When you use the comparative and superlative degrees, you have to consider the number of items being compared. If two items are being compared, use the comparative degree.


Of the two sisters Daphne is the younger.


If three or more items are being compared, use the superlative degree.


Of the three sisters Daphne is the youngest.


You can't have a double comparative or superlative; that is, you can't use more or most with adjectives that are in the comparative or superlative degree.

Incorrect: more better

Correct: much better


Most adverbs end in ly, for example, quietly, quickly; however, not all adverbs end in ly.

She runs fast (adverb describing runs).


Also, a few words that end in ly are adjectives, for example, friendly, orderly, mannerly. Perfect and unique don't have any degrees: if something is perfect, it can't be more or less perfect, and if something is unique (one of a kind), it can't be compared to anything.

When you use an adverb that ends in lyand most adverbs do end in -ly, make sure that you don't eliminate the ly ending and turn the adverb into an adjective.

Incorrect: I am real happy to see you.

Correct: I am really happy to see you.


Incorrect: I worked steady all weekend.

Correct: I worked steadily all weekend.


When you use verbs that indicate the actions of the senses (called verbs of sensory perception), be careful. A verb of sensory perception can be either an action verb or a linking verb.

Action Verb: The chef tastes the soup.

Linking Verb: The soup tastes good.


If you can use a linking verb in place of the original verb, you have a linking verb.

The soup is good.


If you have a linking verb, a predicate noun or predicate adjective will follow.

Modifiers like only, hardly, nearly, almost limit something and are placed with what they are limiting, often in front of what they are limiting. A modifier in the wrong place in the sentence is called a misplaced modifier.

Incorrect: I only have ten dollars in my wallet.

Correct: I have only ten dollars in my wallet.

(Only limits the amount of money, not the verb have.)


Incorrect: He almost ate all of the pie.

Correct: He ate almost all of the pie.

(How much of the pie, not whether he ate any, is being limited.)


Finally, when you use a modifier with an infinitive, don't put the modifier between the to and the verb. Putting the modifier between the to and the verb is called a split infinitive.

Incorrect: to quietly leave


Correct: to leave quietly