I'm reading a book which is about men and women's body development. The book has a sentence.

On a biological level, it has always been necessary for males to be physically stronger, but never for females, so we are hardwired differently.

I'm studying English and I was taught that adverb can't follow "to be";only adjective can (ex: They are different, but not "They are differently"). In this sentence, I think "hardwired" is a adjective, and "differently" is a adverb, so "hardwired differently" can't follow "are" in this sentence, right? Does writer write it incorrectly? And what does "we are hardwired differently" mean in this sentence?

  • We usually place adverbs of manner (like differently) at the end of a sentence. Please use the edit key to add an explanation of your reasoning. Why do you think hardwired differently should not follow the verb? Is there something amiss in This circuit is wired differently or in He is dressed strangely ... ? Oct 24, 2016 at 4:31
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    "Hardwired" is an adjective here, with the meaning of "inborn" or "innate." The adverb of manner differently modifies the adjective. It does not modify the verb "are". This clause is no more remarkable than "...so we are dressed differently." Oct 24, 2016 at 5:43

2 Answers 2


I'm studying English and I was taught that adverb can't follow "to be"

I think you are taking this bit of wisdom too seriously, and probably too literally.

Adverbs can follow to be, but they must be modifying something.

You cannot just simply throw an adverb out there, like, differently, and have it not modify anything at all. That defeats the purpose of an adverb. If you do not include the something to be modified in your entire sentence, it will leave readers and listeners wondering what has been modified, naturally.

I'll elaborate on your own example.

They are different

In this case, there is no adverb. There is only an adjective and it is doing its job, describing a noun.

They are differently

Now, the sentence is incomplete. They are differently, what? What are they different about? What is the difference? How is something different?

These are the questions that will plague the reader/speaker's heads while trying to decipher "they are differentlY" without any prior context.

And what does "we are hardwired differently" mean in this sentence?

What is hardwired? This should be an entire question on its own, but to make a brief explanation, it means: that we are not engineered the same. In your given context, it means that a women and a man are two different beings with different outlooks on life.

To make matters shorter, look up, "Past participles as adjectives".


Hard-wired / hardwired is originally a technical term from electronics / computer technology. It means logic and other components that are firmly connected by wires therefore not programmable or flexible.
It has been transferred to human properties - psychologically or habitually or fixed in one's behaviour or, in this example, genetically programmed to have certain properties.

So back to your quote in question:

We are hardwired differently.

As P.E. Dant explained, hardwired is used as an adjective, followed by an adverb of manner, describing in which way humans are hardwired.

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