Most common writing mistakes in English | Adverbs used instead of adjectives

Copular verbs

English has a special kind of verbs called copulas or copular verbs. Common examples are: be (is, am, are, was, were), seem, appear, look, sound, taste, smell, feel, become and get.

These verbs differ from other verbs in several aspects. For one thing, they are followed by adjectives, not adverbs.
Adjectives are words used to modify nouns and adverbs are words used to modify verbs. Since copulas are also verbs, one might assume that they take adverbs, but that assumption is wrong.
Copulas need adjectives.

  • He looked angry. (NOT He looked angrily.)
  • He is intelligent. (NOT He is intelligently.)
  • He looks smart. (NOT He looks smartly.)
  • The fish tastes awful. (NOT The fish tastes awfully.)
  • I feel bad. (NOT I feel badly.)
  • It looks difficult. (NOT It looks difficultly.)
  • The plan sounds logical. (NOT The plan sounds logically.)
  • He became angry. (NOT He became angrily.)
  • He seemed anxious. (NOT He seemed anxiously.)

Note that some copular verbs are also used as ordinary non-copular verbs with other meanings. They are then used with adverbs, not adjectives.

  • The problem appeared impossible. (NOT The problem appeared impossibly.)
  • A dark figure suddenly appeared in the doorway. (NOT A dark figure sudden appeared …)

The + adjectives

Adjectives can be used with ‘the’ to talk about certain well-known groups of people.

Common examples are:

  • The blind
  • The deaf
  • The dead
  • The unemployed
  • The jobless
  • The injured
  • The rich
  • The poor
  • The young
  • The old

Note that these expressions are always plural. The young means ‘all young people’.

  • The government should help the poor.
  • The unemployed are losing hope.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I'm Manjusha. This is my blog where I give IELTS preparation tips.

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