I read this sentence: You'd boil the kettle dry.

Shouldn't there be an adverb to describe the verb boil like dryly? Why has dry been used which is an adjective?

Secondly following the same sentence structure are the following sentences right:

The stars sparkled bold and bright. He griped the trunk tight.

  • 1
    Be careful with your double letters: "griped" is the past of "to gripe", meaning to complain; the past of "grip" would be "gripped", the extra "p" stopping the vowel sound changing.
    – IMSoP
    Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 19:40
  • Not quite an answer: I think in constructions of this kind, you can think of 'verb .... adjective' as something similar to separable verbs in German: 'to boil dry the kettle' is understandable, but awkward,
    – j4nd3r53n
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 7:49
  • He emerged victorious; she rode naked; he left angry. In all these cases there's some connection between the adjective and the verb, but a stronger connection with the (pro)noun that's the subject of the sentence: the adjective is qualifying the subject. "The stars sparkled bold and bright" is a bit different: it's debatable whether it's the stars that are bold and bright, or the manner of their sparkling; but "bold and bright" has a more poetic ring to it, and I would go with it. Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 9:47
  • And of course in "he boiled the kettle dry"; "he left the room untidy", "she beat the horse senseless", the adjective qualifies the object of the verb, not the subject, so this is a different sentence pattern. But equally correct. Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 9:52

1 Answer 1


When we say "verb the object adjective", we mean "make the object adjective by verbing". "Boil the kettle dry" means "make the kettle dry by boiling", just as "paint the door red" means "make the door red by painting".

When we use an adverb, like "verb the object adverb", we mean "do the verb in an adverb way". In this case, the sentence almost certainly means "make the kettle dry by boiling", because the other sense would be unclear. ("Boil the kettle in a dry way"? What does that even mean?)

This is sometimes complicated, because some words can be both adjectives and adverbs (like tight), and sometimes people use adjectives where they should use adverbs, especially when speaking informally.

  • In this context (kitchen mishaps) we can say 'I burned the [food] black' or that it was burned black. Brits will mostly say 'burnt'. Commented Sep 7, 2021 at 20:00
  • What about this sentence: The stars sparkled bold and bright. Is this right?
    – Learner
    Commented Sep 8, 2021 at 8:02

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