I've heard some sentences which do not really make sense to me regarding the usage of adjectives.

ex) " It started a bit rocky" " I grew up bilingual"

Why isn't the fist sentence "It start a bit rockily or whatever the adverb forms of rocky and the second one " I grew up as a bilingual/ bilingually" ?

Other than these two, I've heard many other case where I think adjectives were used instead of adverbs. Is it grammatically correct or is it something like a contracted form?

  • 2
    In your 1st example, "rockily" is available as an adverb, though it's perhaps a bit obscure so it seems that some people use adjectival "rocky" instead. But in your 2nd example, "bilingual" does not modify "grew up", but refers to the subject "I" and hence is being used adjectivally as subjective predicative complement, cf. "I grew up quickly/slowly/reluctantly" where "grew" is modified by real adverbs as manner adjuncts.
    – BillJ
    Nov 3, 2016 at 19:40
  • @BillJ I disagree. The sentence doesn't say that the person is bilingual, only that he grew up bilingual. If anything it modifies an unsaid noun -- but without any other context the only way to interpret it is that "bilingual" is how he grew up.
    – Andrew
    Nov 3, 2016 at 19:42
  • @Andrew Unsaid noun? It can only be the subject "I" that is bilingual (an adjective). How could it be anyone/anything else? As I said, you can grow up "quickly" / "slowly" etc. where those adverbs are manner adjuncts in clause structure.
    – BillJ
    Nov 3, 2016 at 19:49
  • @BillJ I guess we'll call it opinion then. I can't assume the person speaking is now bilingual, only that he grew up that way. You are taking this way too personal.
    – Andrew
    Nov 3, 2016 at 19:52
  • 1
    @Andrew I concur with Bill J: "I grew up bilingual" doesn't mean "I grew up in a bilingual manner" (what on earth would that signify?), it means "I was bilingual when I was growing up". Compare "The Chippendales danced almost naked", which does not mean that they danced in an almost naked manner but that they were almost naked when they danced. Nov 3, 2016 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


The easiest answer is that you can consider these constructions as a kind of English "shorthand" to represent a longer phrase.

It started (in a way that was) a bit rocky.

I grew up (in a) bilingual (environment).

Some might argue that these are not examples of "standard" English, but I think that since this kind of language is common (at least in AmE), the practical result is that some words have a dual-purpose as either adjective or adverbs, depending on how they are used.

Other examples:

Sit up straight!

It weighed heavy on his mind

I doubt there's a comprehensive list of these kind of words, so you might have to take note of them as you see them.

Edit: Some of the above comments argue that these aren't adverbs but adjectives which modify "it" and "I" respectively. This is a perfectly reasonable interpretation, but in my opinion, it's not definitively one or the other. A lot would depend on context and emphasis.

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