How to Explain Adjectives and Adverbs to Children

Trying to explain the difference between adjectives and adverbs to children can present a challenge 1. At first glance, they seem to serve the same purpose: describing. But upon careful inspection, you can see that while they both provide description, adjectives describe nouns -- people, places, and things -- while adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs 1. With young children, the nuances of adverbs can get especially confusing. It's might be easiest to focus on the modification of verbs. There are basic activities you can complete with your child to help him distinguish between the two.

An Adjective Organizer

Tell your child that adjectives are words that describe people, places and things. Provide examples of adjectives, such as "red" apples, "angry" man and "blue" ocean.

Create three columns on a piece of lined paper. In the first column, have your child write a list of adjectives, one per line. Help him list adjectives such as sad, small, huge, green, furious, shiny and scary.

Write a noun that the adjective on each line might describe in the second column. For example, if the first adjective is "pretty," then you might write the noun, "rainbow' in the second column. If you have the adjective "tiny," in column one, you could write the noun "mouse" next to it in column two.

Help your child draw pictures of the pretty rainbow, the tiny mouse and the other word combinations you created in the third column, which gives you a visual organizer to help your child understand the purpose of adjectives 1.

An Adverb Game

Explain to your child that while adverbs are also describing words, you don't use them in the same way as adjectives 1. Explain that adverbs describe "how" you do something.

Have your child write out several action words on small pieces of notepaper -- one word per paper -- and place each one in a jar. Suggest action words that you can see someone doing such as run, walk, sing or yell.

Pull the pieces of paper from the jar one at a time. Have your child act them out. For example, if your child pulls out the word "run," ask her to perform the action. Then ask her how she is performing the action. Is she running quickly or slowly? If she's singing, is she singing loudly or quietly?

Explain that many adverbs end in "ly," to help identify them. Many adjectives become adverbs by adding "ly." For example, you don't sing "loud," you sing "loudly." 1


Have your child take as active a role in these activities as possible. As much as he can, he should write the words, create the pictures and act out the pantomimes.

Verbs such as "think," "wonder" and "hope" will not work well with the adverb game as you cannot really act them out. You should explain this to your child.


Explaining that adverbs also describe adjectives and adverbs is often confusing to children. Mention it, but focus on how they describe verbs until they have a firm grasp of the basics.

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