Descriptive Language Terms


Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Essentially, adjectives give specific details about nouns. Anything you can sense about a noun is described with an adjective. Examples:
Notice how you can either put the adjective before the noun OR after the noun and after a form of the verb 'to be' or other verbs like 'to look' or 'to feel': . . . means the words do not form a complete sentence.


Adverbs are words that modify (give more information about) verbs. When they describe verbs, adverbs tell us the quality of how something is done or how it occurs. Find the verb and ask "how" or "when".

Example 1: The girl ran to the store.

In this sentence, ran is a verb you can ask "how" or "when" about. How did the girl run? Slowly? Quickly? Haltingly? Those are all adverbs.
When did the girl run? Yesterday? Today? Those are also adverbs.

Example 2: The boy looked at the car.

In this sentence, looked is a verb you can ask "how" or "when" about. How did the boy look? Longingly? Lovingly? Nervously? These are all adverbs.

Adverbs also modify adjectives and other adverbs. When they do, they tell us "How much?"
Example 3: She was tired.
In this case, tired is an adjective, so we are asking "How much?" about that adjective. Very? Not? Too? These are all adverbs.

Generally, adverbs end in -ly but not always. Also, not all words that end in -ly are adverbs--refer back to adjectives of 'state' above. In addtion, some common non-ly adverbs are:

  • after
  • almost
  • always
  • even
  • far
  • fast
  • less
  • more
  • never
  • not
  • often
  • seldom
  • soon
  • too
  • very
  • well
  • Examples: Remember, you cannot do something good--You do something well.


    Similes are phrases that describe one characteristic of something by comparing it to a similar characteristic of something else. Similes use the words like or as in their comparison. They never use the two words together.

    Example 1: The hood of my car is hot.
    If I want to describe how hot the surface of my car is, I can compare it to something else that I know is hot--say, an iron. Therefore, I would say, 'The surface of my car is as hot as an iron' or
    'The surface of my car is hot like an iron.'
    I couldn9t say, 'The surface of my car is like an iron' because it is unclear what characteristic I am comparing--the shape of the car and iron, the texture of the car and iron, etc.
    The underlined words are the characteristics being compared. The bolded words are the thing being compared to:


    Metaphors are phrases that describe several characteristics of something by comparing it with something else. Metaphors do not use 'like' or 'as' and are, therefore, stronger than similes. They are also harder to create. Another way to look at metaphors is as symbols--images that represent something other than themselves. Example 1: The woman is a rock.
    What are the characteristics of a rock? Hard, sometimes immovable, inorganic, solid.