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Choosing Words Correctly

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Adjectives and Adverbs

Directions: Move the arrow over or touch each highlighted word or segment and look for a definition or explanation in the box.
Click on footnote numbers for further discussions.
Bible quotes are in blue.
Quotes with Jesus speaking are referenced in red.


Adjectives describe something or somebody.
Adjectives add information and meaning to nouns.

Some sentences with adjectives:
Jesus is the good shepherd.
Many people believe that Jesus is their God and Savior.
Five hundred people saw Jesus alive after His death.

An adjective may follow a state of being verb or linking verb: is, was, are, were.

..."there is none good but One, that is God..." Matthew 19:17 [1]

Jesus is our good shepherd. [2]


Adverbs are used to describe a verb, an adjective, another adverb, or sometimes a phrase or clause. They add meaning to verbs.
Most, but not all adverbs end in ly.

How or the manner in which an action is done is expressed by an adverb.

Jesus went willingly to the cross to die for us. [3]

Jesus suffered, without resistance, and died on the cross to fulfill the will of God.

Peter felt very bad about denying that he knew Jesus. [4]

In the above example, felt is a state of being verb not an action verb. It would be incorrect to say: "Peter felt badly about denying that he knew Jesus." Using the adverb "badly" in this sentence indicates Peter's hands in action. Instead, by using an adjective (bad) the sentence describes Peter's inner feeling.

This is a common mistake made by speakers of English: using the verb "feel" as an action verb when it is inappropriate to do so.

An adverb may follow an action verb.

Then Peter went out and wept bitterly. Luke 22:62

An adverb may also modify an adverb: "Then Peter went out and wept very bitterly"(very is also an adverb in this sentence).

Adverbs are used to express:

How: He prays slowly.
When: He prays early in the morning.
To what extent: He prays fervently.
Where: He prays everywhere.
How often: He prays frequently.


If a verb, adjective, or other adverb is being described, use an adverb.
If a noun or pronoun is being described, use an adjective.

The following examples are taken from The Book of Psalms in the Bible.
The underlined words are used correctly as adjectives or as adverbs.

They are thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.
Psalms 1:1
Follow, in the above example, is an action verb.
The adverb closely tells more about the action verb.
INCORRECT: Follow him close.

Then I lay down and slept in peace and woke up safely, for the Lord was watching over me. Psalms 3:5
(In this sentence, woke up is an action verb phrase. The adverb safely tells more about the action. Also, note that "lay" (reclined) is the past tense of "lie.")

I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, Oh Lord, you will keep me safe. Psalms 4:8
(In this sentence, "keep" is a linking verb: to continue in a specified state, condition, or position. So, the adjective safe correctly follows it. Also, note that "lie" (to recline) is in the present tense. It's incorrect to say, "I will lay down....")

Like lions they [the wicked] crouch silently, waiting to pounce upon the poor. Psalms 10:9
(In this sentence, the action verb crouch is followed by the adverb silently.)

Surely you will hear their cries and comfort their hearts by helping them. Psalms 10:17
(Will hear is an action verb phrase preceded by the adverb surely. The verb-hear is always used actively.)

I will sing to the Lord because he has blessed me so richly. Psalms 13:6
(Has blessed is an action verb phrase. The adverb richly describes the way the speaker was blessed.)

Here are some common verbs that can either show action or a state of being:
look, feel, appear, remain, turn, taste, grow, continue.

When using these, ask yourself, does the verb reflect an action.
If it does, use an adverb to tell more about the action.
If the word describes what someone or something is, then use an adjective.

For example, "This cereal tastes ______ than the other brands."
Which is correct? differently OR different.
Different, an adjective, is correct in the space above; tastes is a state of being verb in this sentence (The cereal is not performing the action-taste).

When Jesus overturned the tables in the temple, he looked quick on his feet.

[1] This quote answers a question Jesus asks, "Why do you call me good?" By answering, "There is no one good but God," Jesus is saying he is God.
[2] We need to be cared for and be led along the right path.
[3] Jesus could have easily resisted His arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, but He was to fulfill the will of God. He says in Matthew Chapter 26: "Do you think I cannot call on my My Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way." Matthew 26:53-54
[4] Before Jesus rose from the dead, Peter was afraid. After he saw that Jesus had risen from the dead, he was no longer afraid, if fact, some time later, he had to be awakened just before he was to die for his belief in Jesus.

Bible Verse of the Day

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