First question: I have been reading English: An Essential Grammar by Gerald Nelson and it gives an example of the words 'hard' and 'fast' being used as both adjectives and adverbs:


John works hard.

Peter drives fast.


John is used to hard work.

Peter drives a fast car.

I was wondering, can all adjectives be used as adverbs in this manner?



Small girl.

Are these adverbs???

She is small.

She was small.

She looked small.

Second question: Can present participle verbs be considered as adjectives?

E.g. Are these adjectives or are they still considered as verbs?

The singing lady.

The growing crowd.

The advancing army.

Third question: Can all past participle verbs be considered adjectives?


The written book.

The cooked fish.

The bitten apple.

And lastly: Can all past participle verbs be considered as adverbs?


The book was written in black ink.

The fish seemed to be cooked.

  • (A) One question at a time, please - and check for duplicates. (0) Certainly not. (1) They are (in these sentences) predicative adjectives following link verbs (look these up). (2 & 3) Look up 'participial adjectives' (here or on the internet). (4) 'cooked' is a participial adjective here. 'was written' is almost certainly a passive verb construction (The book was written by Dickens = Dickens wrote the book). Oct 21, 2015 at 8:41

1 Answer 1

  • Not all adjectives have a natural adverbial use. I'd think you'd be hard pressed to use beautiful where beautifully is called for.
  • In "She is small," small is an adjective serving as a nominative complement. It's not an adverb.
  • It might be best to consider participles as verb forms that have uses as modifiers. When they modify nouns, that's an adjectival use, but it really doesn't make them adjectives. An adjective (say, red) may be compared (to get redder). That won't work for cooked. You'll have to say "more cooked."
  • I don't have time to search for a past participle that can't have an adjectival use. Most can.
  • In "the book was written", written is part of the past passive; it's not a modifier. You can tell because you can sensibly append a prepositional phrase with by to give who wrote the book. Similarly, "to be cooked" might be passive infinitive if you're concerned about who did the cooking. Same test. If you're concerned with the internal temperature, then it would be a participial modifier.
  • Past participles have adverbial (or at least semi-adverbial) uses: "He lived cursed by fate." The participle would say (at least in part) how he lived.
  • +1 Phew, an answer that doesn't mix up the parts of speech with the grammatical functions. Hooray! Small niggle though (can't help it), doesn't the passive use the past participle form of the verb? (usually with the auxiliary BE) Oct 21, 2015 at 12:40
  • @Araucaria It's a hard habit to break after those grade-school teachers finished pounding the parts of speech into my skull. And remember that I learned this stuff when Grendl was a pup, shortly after the language lost most of its inflections. Can you recommend a book for the recovering grammar student? It's better to make this right rather than worry about a niggle. What's a better way to say it? The past participle written with the auxiliary BE forms the passive voice of the verb and thus carries no modifying sense?
    – deadrat
    Oct 21, 2015 at 17:22
  • @Rathony Oh, you're back. I had hoped that your faux pas on the "washed" comment in the "Meaning of 'whether'" answer thread would have led you to keep a low profile for a while. A hope, fond and dashed.
    – deadrat
    Oct 22, 2015 at 4:24
  • @Rathony You always have a choice between ignorance and knowledge. Your choice is clear, and it obviates any need for an apology.
    – deadrat
    Oct 22, 2015 at 4:31
  • @Rathony Since the law reserved its penalties for the seller and not the buyer, there are plenty of words for the seller, and few for the buyer. Are you really unclear on this? And what on earth does it have to do with adjectives used as adverbs?
    – deadrat
    Oct 22, 2015 at 4:55

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