You thought you were safe with your parts of speech once you left the sixth grade. Well, think again! The SAT Writing section, while testing advanced grammatical concepts, will try to nail you on one type of parts of speech: The Adverb.
An adverb is a word that modifies a verb or adjective. It usually answers any of the following questions: How much, how often, and where.
He frequently studied (how often did he do the verb ‘study.’)
She was extremely displeased (to what extent was she the adjective displeased).
He was known to run through the mountains (where did he do the verb ‘run’)
The SAT’s focus on the adverb is not that surprising. Few people, in everyday speech, use adverbs properly. And when there is a disconnection between the way people speak and the proper way to speak, you can bet the College Board is waiting for a grammar question to snare you.
To see how we can fail to spot the proper use of the adverb consider the following examples:
Mary yelled to Tina, “Drive safe – it’s wet out there.”
The new PC was the most clever designed computer the market had seen in years.
If you rely on your ear, you will probably think that both sentences are fine as is. When looking for an adverb in a sentence determine if there are any words modifying a verb or adverb.
In the first case, the verb is ‘drive.’ The word that modifies ‘drive’ is ‘safe.’ ‘Safe’ is an adjective, and you cannot modify a verb with an adjective—you need an adverb. To make ‘safe’ an adverb simply add –ly: Drive safely.
For the second sentence, we need an adverb to describe how a computer is designed. ‘Clever’ is an adjective. So by adding –ly, we know have an adverb: most cleverly designed computer.
Know your adverbs, and always be on the look out for them on the SAT Writing section—they are very difficult to spot especially if you rely on your ear.