Why do we write take it personally or take it seriously with adverbs but we also write take it easy with an adjective, not take it easily with an adverb? How is this switching off between adjectives and adverbs justified? How can you know which to use?

The same question applies to why we can say hold (him) responsible but not to hold him tight. Why are these not all adverbs after the verb? What does it mean when there is an adjective after the verb? Isn't responsible an adjective? Isn't tight an adverb?

How can this inconsistent use of modifiers be understood and explained and predicted by native speakers? How do you know if the modifier applies to the subject or to the verb or to the direct object?

  • We say "Hold me tight" and "take it easy" in an informal context. but "hold someone responsible" is 'correct' language. Sep 12, 2022 at 18:10
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    'Hold someone responsible' is an adjectival usage whereas 'take it easy' is arguably an adverbial one (see for instance Macmillan, with 'easy' the flat adverb). Both depictive [secondary predication] structures, and flat adverbs, have already been covered well on ELU. Sep 12, 2022 at 18:23
  • It doesn't need to be justified. Language is what it is, not what somebody thinks it ought to be.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 12, 2022 at 20:02
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    Could you go back and explain your idea of the difference between adjectives and adverbs? Could you also explain why we might say hold (him) responsible but not hold (him) tight? Where does that difference come from? Sep 12, 2022 at 20:47
  • @RobbieGoodwin Are you making an attempt to help me?
    – Elvis
    Sep 12, 2022 at 21:14

1 Answer 1


They seem to me to be different constructions.

Take it easy is a fixed phrase, an imperative meaning "Relax!"
The verb take is required, and the it is required; you hafta have an object, and it hasta be it.
You can't take anything else easy.

  • *He took the job/the money/a nap easy ~ *I want to take that/those/someone easy

Adverbs, however, have no such restrictions

  • He took the money stealthily, and rapidly.

So adverbs are the norm, but there are some idioms around that don't work the same way.

  • 1
    +1 Makes no difference to the point, but there's one more object available, at least in UK English: things Sep 12, 2022 at 23:27

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