Tight is used as an adverb following verbs that denote a process of closure or constriction, as squeeze, shut, close, tie, and hold, denoting the state resulting from the process, whereas tightly denotes the manner of its application.

The windows were frozen tight rather than tightly, since in this case the tightness of the seal is not likely to be the result of the manner in which they were frozen.

Tight can be used only following the verb: The house was shut tight or ...tightly shut.

--American Heritage Dictionary

The same dictionary distinguishes two senses for the adverb THIN, but the second one is in my opinion an adjective with the verb cut used copularly meaning "become"

  1. In a thin manner: Spread the varnish thin if you don't want it to wrinkle. Seed sown thin
  2. So as to be thin: Cut the cheese thin.


Why isn't tight an adjective as is dead in shoot someone dead?

Secondly, I don't fully grasp the distinction between tight(ly), especially regarding the example of the windows.

Finally, why can't shut be an adjective in the last example?

  • 1
    If I wish to keep a secret, I will keep my mouth tight shut. Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 23:15
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    GJC, in those examples the adjective - tight - is used as a Predicative Complement. They are not adverb in neither "the house was shut tight" nor in "the window was frozen tight" nor in "Spread the vernish thin" nor in "Cut the cheese thin". Commented Jul 24, 2021 at 23:41
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    Certain verbs license adjectives rather than adverbs to complete the meaning. There are a myriad of such cases in English. By the way, it is great to see oldi @Man_From_India commenting here :)
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jul 25, 2021 at 0:38
  • A good first question, but please limit yourself to just one question per post. If you want to know about "thin" vs "thinly", please ask that in a separate question post.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 17:01
  • In "Paint the house white", "white" is an adjective and not an adverb of manner. "Thin" seems the same to me. I checked Merriam-Webster and they agree. I'd like to know the dictionaries' basis for the claim that they're adverbs.
    – gotube
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 17:30

1 Answer 1


Adjectives answer or enable the question "which?" or "what?"

Adverbs answer or enable the question "how?"

Sometimes the concern of "how" is the actual execution of a verb (tightly turn the car around the curve--qualify process of turning), and sometimes it's the desired end state (shut the door tight--desired end state is a door that has no space/ability to move).

Spread the varnish thin

How did you spread the varnish? You spread it in a way such that the end state is thin varnish.

I ate the thin cookies.

but the second one is in my opinion an adjective with the verb cut used copularly meaning "become"

Which cookies did you eat? The ones that are thin.

but the second one is in my opinion an adjective with the verb cut used copularly meaning "become"

Copular verbs don't communicate the meaning of modifying physical state--the most they do is rename or identify.

Given X looks Y as an example - there is no meaning that Y's state will be modified.

If X cuts Y, Y is definitely going to be physically altered - and that's not a meaning copular verbs cover.

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