Sunday, March 02, 2014

Really Real and for Real, Really: Adjective-Adverb Confusion, Part 1

Do you know which of the three sentences listed below is grammatically correct, which is grammatically incorrect, and which is possibly grammatically incorrect?
  1. Drive slow.
  2. Be slow.
  3. Take it slow.
If you're not sure, here's a hint. If the sentence uses an action verb (e.g., readwrite, speak, listen), the word describing it must be an adverb; if the sentence uses a being verb (e.g., am, is, are, was, were), the word describing it, or complementing it, must be an adjective. As a reminder, slow is an adjective, and slowly is an adverb.

Sentence 2 is correct. The being verb, be, requires the adjective slow to complement it.

Sentence 1 is incorrect. The action verb, drive, requires the adverb slowly to describe it.

Sentence 3 may be correct or incorrect, depending on the context. If I mean that in general you should  take a slow approach to life, then Take it slow would be correct. If I mean that you have been taking a specific thing too quickly and you ought to slow down (e.g., your lunch), then Take it slowly would be correct.

Since adjective-adverb confusion plagues most speakers and writers of English, I'll provide additional examples in future posts.