I Like to Speak Proper(ly)

October 26, 2009 at 9:57 am (Rants) (, , , , )

While on fall break this year, I decided to take one day to visit my mom at her work.  She is an eighth grade teacher, something that requires more patience than I could ever hope to acquire.  Anyway, at the end of 7th period, a boy in the class told my mom that he needed to head to his language arts class because he likes to “speak proper.”  My jaw almost dropped.  Not that I don’t have any friends that obliterate the English language just as terribly as this eighth grader.  I definitely do.  Still, it amazed me that this student was actually using improper grammar in his quest to explain the importance of speaking properLY.

This of course brings me to grammar lesson number 3: The difference between adjectives and adverbs.

  • Adjectives modify nouns (or other substantives).
  • Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

While I don’t personally feel like this should be a terribly tough concept to grasp, it seems to be quite difficult.

Basic example:  I was doing research for a professor, which included grading hundreds of tests that we had given to elementary and middle school students.  Well, I was trying to pull some of the tests out of my bag the other day, and I basically got the biggest, most painful paper-cut in the history of life.  In describing the pain my little finger was feeling at the time, I could say a couple different things.

Holy frick!  That cut is bad!

  • In this case, I’m mostly saying that the cut itself is deep, painful, etc.  The point is, I am using the adjective, bad, to modify the noun, cut.  So I had a cut.  What kind of cut do I have?  I have a bad cut.

Holy frick!  That hurts so badly!

  • In this case, the adverb, badly, is modifying the verb, hurt.  So the cut hurts.  How much does it hurt?  It hurts badly.

By the way, when people ask how you are, you’re most likely well.  If you’re good, then you are describing what kind of person you are, as in saying you are kind, cool, etc.  “Well” actually describes how you are doing. If it sounds weird to say, “I am well,” then you are also welcome to say, “I am doing well.”  There is absolutely no confusion with the proper way of describing how you are doing instead of just how you are.

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