音频:MP3   来源:Everyday Grammar 更新:2017/3/5

Adverb and Adjective Choices in Conversation

From VOA Learning English, this is Everyday Grammar.

Imagine two American students are talking outside of their school. Let’s listen to the imaginary conversation:

A: Today is going slow.

B: Yeah. I guess we should study for our grammar test.

A: That sounds like a terrible idea.

B: Yeah, but if we don't study, we won't do good on the test.

A: Fine. Let's go study our notes quick. Then we can play video games.

These bad students may hate grammar, but they just taught you some common grammatical structures in conversational American English.

In today's report, we will study how conversational grammar differs from written and formal grammatical structures.

We will show you how some Americans use adjectives and adverbs in casual conversation.

Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives are words that give information about nouns. They generally appear before nouns, although they also appear after linking verbs.

Here are two examples:

You are a good student.

Learning English is fun.

In the two example sentences, the words "good" and "fun" are adjectives. They are telling you something about a noun.

Adverbs are often used to modify adjectives or verbs. They give information about reason, manner, time, and so on.

For example, the adverb loudly appears in this sentence:

We sang loudly.

The adverb loudly modifies the past tense verb, sang. It tells about the way in which the subject, we, sang. Adverbs often have an –ly ending, but there are many that do not. You can read more about adverbs in past Everyday Grammar stories.


Let's think back to the conversation we heard at the beginning of the story:

A: Today is going slow.

B: Yeah. I guess we should study for our grammar test.

A: That sounds like a terrible idea.

B: Yeah, but if we don't study, we won't do good on the test.

A: Fine. Let's go study our notes quick. Then we can play videogames.

Notice that the words are used differently from what might be taught in an English class.

In casual conversation, Americans often use adjective forms in place of adverbs. They may use adjective forms to modify verbs.

For example, the students use good – a word that is normally an adjective - as an adverb. One student says "we won't do good on the test."

In writing and in formal conversation, Americans generally do not use the word "good" this way. Instead, they use the word well. In formal writing or speaking, you would be more likely to see or hear the sentence "we won't do well on the test."

Americans also may use an adverb but choose not to say an –ly ending.

For example, the student says "today is going slow," instead of "today is going slowly." You would be more likely to read "slowly" in academic writing, write Susan Conrad and Douglas Biber, two English grammar experts.

Not necessarily slang, not necessarily impolite

These grammatical structures are not necessarily slang. They are not necessarily impolite, either. You might hear some of these structures in a restaurant, at a job fair, or even at work.

For example, a boss might tell an employee "We need to do this quick," about a project that must be completed quickly.

This is the same pattern that the students used in their conversation.

Conrad and Biber say that in formal speech and writing, adjective forms are almost never used to modify verbs. In addition, adverbs with –ly endings are more common in writing – particularly in academic and news writing.*

What can you do?

The good news is this: we are not asking you to memorize any of the patterns we have talked about today.

What we hope to do is show you that the grammatical patterns in conversation do not always match the patterns used in formal writing or speech. There is more flexibility in casual speech.

Understanding this idea will help you understand Americans when they speak, and it will help you sound more natural when you speak to Americans.

You might also be pleased to know that Americans will not judge you severely if you use an adjective in place of an adverb. In fact, they probably would do the same!

I'm Jill Robbins.

And I'm John Russell.

John Russell wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.

*Please see Conrad and Biber "Real Grammar: A Corpus-Based Approach to English" pgs. 73-75

** If you would like to read more about adverbs, you might want to try these two resources:




Words in This Story

conversation – n. an informal talk involving two people or a small group of people

formal – adj. suitable for serious or official speech and writing

casual – adj. not formal

modify – v. grammar: to limit or describe the meaning of (a word or group of words)

manner – n. the way that something is done or happens

academic – adj. of or relating to schools and education

slang – n. words that are not considered part of the standard vocabulary of a language and that are used very informally in speech especially by a particular group of people

impolite – adj. not polite

pattern – n. the regular and repeated way in which something happens or is done

memorize – v. to learn (something) so well that you are able to remember it perfectly

flexibility – n. able to change or to do different things