Modifier: Examples & Definition

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  • 0:05 What is a Modifier?
  • 0:41 Adjectives as Modifiers
  • 2:19 Adverbs as Modifiers
  • 3:49 Misplaced Modifiers
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Debbie Notari
In this lesson, we will explore the role of the modifier in the English language. You will learn how boring sentences would be without modifiers such as adjectives and adverbs. After the lesson, test yourself with a quiz.

What Is a Modifier?

There are two types of modifiers in the English language: the adjective and the adverb. They have distinctly different roles, and we will examine each, in turn. First, let's look at the definition of each word. An adjective describes, or modifies, a noun, which is a person, place, thing, or idea. Adjectives may be single words, or they may be whole phrases. The adverb is different from an adjective in that it primarily modifies verbs, but it may also modify adjectives or other adverbs. Again, adverbs may be single words or whole phrases. Let's look at some examples.

Adjectives as Modifiers

Adjectives are very necessary in writing, but like too much salt, the use of too many adjectives can produce a negative result! Here are some of the questions adjectives answer:

  • What color?
  • What size?
  • How many?
  • What condition?
  • What emotion?
  • What kind?

An Example

For instance, let's look at the phrase 'the dog.' If I answer all of the above questions about the dog in one sentence, it might read: 'I saw one, enormous, brown, angry, old collie cross the street.' As you can see, answering every question with an adjective in the same sentence is not always the recipe for a good sentence, but you get the idea.

The adjective phrase is helpful. You can tell you are using an adjective phrase if the words point back to a noun in the sentence. For instance, let's look at the sentence, 'My mother cooks.' Adding adjectives can clarify many helpful details about my mother. For instance, a better sentence might read: 'My gracious mother, who is Italian, cooks spaghetti that could make the angels swoon.' The word 'gracious' serves as a single adjective. The phrase 'who is Italian' further describes the noun 'mother,' while the phrase 'that could make the angels swoon,' further modifies the noun 'spaghetti.'

It is worth mentioning that using too many adjectives can make our writing seem laborious or silly. For instance, read the following sentence: 'Mrs. Caffey ate 15 ripe, red, delicious, sweet, succulent, fabulous, terrific, store-bought, outstanding strawberries.' You get the point!

Adverbs as Modifiers

Instead of modifying nouns, adverbs describe verbs. This is easy to remember because an adverb 'adds' information to the 'verb.' Adverbs answer the following questions:

  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

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