Adjectives ending in -ly

A large number of adverbs have –ly endings. Common examples are: kindly, cleverly, eagerly, pleasantly, unexpectedly, remarkably etc.

Most of these adverbs are formed from adjectives.

kind -> kindly

pleasant -> pleasantly

eager -> eagerly

nice -> nicely

perfect -> perfectly

However, there are some exceptions. A few words ending in –ly are adjectives. At least a handful of words ending in –ly are nouns. Family is a well-known example. It is a collective noun.

  • My family live in different parts of India.

Note that we use a plural verb here because we are talking about the different members of the family. We would use a singular verb if we were referring to family as a single unit.

Note that in American English, collective nouns are almost always treated as singular nouns.

  • My family lives in different parts of India. (US)

Family can also be used as an adjective. Example: a family vacation

The word elderly can be an adjective or a collective noun.

  • An elderly woman took me to the manager’s cabin.

The phrase ‘the elderly’ refers to all elderly people. In this case it acts as a collective noun.

  • We need to take care of the elderly.

The word bodily is an adjective. It is formed from the noun body.

  • We are not aware of many of our bodily functions.

‘Bodily’ can also be used as an adverb. As an adverb it means ‘forcibly’ or ‘forcefully’.

  • He pulled her out bodily. (= He pulled her out forcibly.)

The word ‘early’ which is formed from the noun ‘ear’, has nothing to do with the faculty of hearing. It can be an adjective or adverb.

  • An early bird catches the worm. (Here the bird early acts as an adjective modifying the noun bird.)
  • I want to leave early today. (Here the word early acts as an adverb modifying the verb leave.)

First, firstly, second, secondly etc.

Many writers use the expressions firstly, secondly, lastly etc. However, they are unnecessary because you can express the same meanings with first, second, last etc.

The words first / firstly, second / secondly etc., are used to show the structure of what we are saying.

 First, I want to discuss something with you. (More natural than ‘Firstly, I want to discuss something with you.)

Another example is given below.

There are many reasons why I don’t want to go out with you. First, I am a little busy at the moment. Second, you can’t drive well. And third, my fiancé won’t like it.

Note that instead of ‘first’, you can use the phrase ‘to start with’.



Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets. You may also want to check out my other blogs IELTS Practice and NCERT Guides

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