Close vs Closely

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      Language Tutors

      I was recently asked the difference between ‘close’ and ‘closely’ and when each one can be used, I hope that this information helps ….

      Close can be an adjective (a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun) and it can also be an adverb (a word that modifies a verb, an adjective or another adverb).


      For this reason ‘close’ is what’s known as a ‘flat adverb’.  Flat adverb is the name given to adverbs that have identical adjectives.


      Some of these flat adverbs never change but others can have ‘ly’ added to form the adjective.


      ‘Fast’ for example never changes but ‘close’ can become ‘closely’.


      When there is both a ‘flat adverb’ and a ‘-ly’ version how do you know how to use each one?


      Well if the ‘ly’ version exists and when you put it in the context of your sentence if it answers the question ‘how? ’ you use that one.  If the -ly version doesn’t exist or if in your particular sentence it doesn’t answer the question ‘how?’ then you use the other one.

      Eg.  He runs ……



      Would you use ‘fast’ or ‘fastly’.


      Does the ‘ly’ version exist?  No.  End of story, use ‘fast’.


      I want you to watch me ……

      Would you use ‘close’ or ‘closely’?


      Does the ‘ly’ version exist?  Yes  Does it answer the question ‘how?’  Yes, how do you want me to watch?  Closely.

      I want you to stand …..


      Would you use ‘close’ or ‘closely’?


      Does the ‘ly’ version exist?  Yes  Does it answer the question ‘how?’  Well it might look like it does but it actually answers the question ‘where?’, so in this instance you use ‘close’.


      Another tip is that ‘closely’ is mainly used as an adverb in two situations, 1) to mean ‘carefully’ or 2)  before a past participle (eg.  English is closely related to German.)

      Please feel free to ask for more information if you still have some doubts. 




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