"The dark brown coat will match the light brown pants perfectly"

Do 'dark' and 'light' function here as adjectives modifying 'brown' or are they adverbs informing us to the manner of degree? I've always read them as adjectives, but a Cingletree grammar resource listed them as adverbs.


2 Answers 2


I would think "darkly" and something along the lines of "palely" would be the corresponding adverbs. The OED has both "dark" and "light" listed only as adjectives. "Lightly", while listed as an adverb, does not mean "in a lightening manner", just to confound us!


Whether a word is an adverb or not, and whether is is used as an adverb, are two different things.

While most adverbs end in -ly, they don't have to. At least some (if not most) grammarians consider anything that modifies an adjective an adverb, meaning that indeed, light and dark are adverbs in your sentence.

This source puts it as

adjective use as an adverb

Some of their examples:

The woman is quite pretty.
This book is more interesting than the last one.
The weather report is almost always right.
The adverb almost is modifying the adverb always, and they’re both modifying right.

  • The question comes down to whether the two words function as adjs or advs. Jun 30, 2016 at 12:22

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