According to my research

-"act + an adverb" means "to behave in a particular way"

For example, "the dog was acting differently/strangely/aggressively this morning."

-"act + an adjective" means "to pretend to be something"

For example, "she is acting innocent/confident/dumb".

But I am not so sure.

What is the difference between "she is acting jealously" and "she is acting jealous"?

Does "she is acting jealously" mean "she is jealous" (Maybe, she really loves her boyfriend and she gets angry when she sees him going with another girl)?

Does "she is acting jealous" mean "she is pretending to be jealous" (maybe she wants her boyfriend to think she really loves him but she actually does not love him at all)?

2 Answers 2


"she is acting jealously" and "she is acting jealous"

The first uses the adverb jealously to describe her actions. The second uses acting as a linking verb to describe her as jealous.

But it doesn't make much difference, because both of your examples mean that you could infer that she is jealous from her actions.

There are other examples where there would be a difference between the use of an adjective and an adverb.

She is acting suspicious. (She is suspicious of something.)

She is acting suspiciously. (We should be suspicious of her.)

  • “He wants me to tell ye to go back to yer room and stop acting suspicious,” she said. “I am nae—” Athdar started to exclaim—and then dropped his voice to a whisper—“acting suspiciously.” Fenella pursed her lips at him."
    – kngram
    Feb 17, 2022 at 9:31
  • Ok, all right. Another example: This is a thread for worlds/admins/owners that are acting suspisous everything here might not be true !
    – kngram
    Feb 17, 2022 at 12:10
  • A linking verb is 'to be' in a predicative pattern here. 'To act' is never ever a linking verb. Read less about grammar on not edited by pros pages on the Net not to be LOL-ed at.
    – kngram
    Feb 17, 2022 at 12:17
  • These discussions have been taken into account. I liked most the note about the German language patterns. grammarguide.copydesk.org/2005/12/08/… englishforums.com/English/UnusuallyAggressively/bjddw/post.htm
    – kngram
    Feb 17, 2022 at 13:07
  • Or, 'act suspicious' is to play a role of a suspicious person, pattern: act adj, act n. 'Act' is an intransitive verb in the pattern.
    – kngram
    Feb 17, 2022 at 13:59

You're right; when it takes an adjective complement, "to act" does not necessarily mean "to pretend". Let's consider each case:

  1. "coyly", "nicely", "jealously"

You are acting coyly.
He was acting nicely.
She is acting jealously.

In each sentence, the adverb modifies the verb. Thus, it describes how the subject is acting. (By the way, we don't know whether she is actually jealous; that is only how she is acting.)

  1. "coy", "nice", "difficult"

You are acting coy.
He was acting nice.
She is acting jealous.

Each sentence contains a predicate adjective that is linked to its referent (the subject) by the linking verb "acting". (This is only one way to interpret these sentences; other possibilities also exist.)

As you note, "to act" can mean "to pretend" or "to behave". Here are some examples with adjective complements with the latter meaning:

I need to know the answer, so don't act coy with me.
He promised that he would act nice at the awards ceremony.
She always acts jealous, so no one invites her to the ceremonies anymore.

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