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Take someone serious or seriously?



This topic presents another context in which two major parts of speech appear to clash. These are adjectives and adverbs. At times, their forms so much overlap that people mistakenly use one in place of the other. Adjectives are words that describe nouns or pronouns while adverbs modify verbs:

It is a commendable effort.

She commended him immediately.

While ‘commendable’ is an adjective in the first clause, ‘immediately’ is an adverb in the second.

But in the case of ‘take someone serious’ or ‘take someone seriously’, which is correct? Note that the word needed is the one that should work with the verb ‘take’. We need an adverb of manner, telling us how someone is being ‘taken’, that is, being regarded. Now, which is the adverb between ‘serious’ and ‘seriously’? It is ‘seriously’. What this means is that the correct expression is take someone seriously, not take someone serious.

Here is how Longman Dictionary defines the expression:

  • take somebody/something seriously: to believe that someone or something is worth your attention or respect
  • As a teacher, it’s important that the kids take you seriously.
  • It’s only a joke – don’t take it seriously!

Know full/fully well

This takes us to another expression in which an adjective ‘clashes’ with an adverb – at least in terms of how people mishandle the construction.  Often, many people do say or write ‘know fully well’ or ‘knowing fully well’. This is also not correct. When in ‘take someone serious’ an adjective has been inappropriately used, in ‘know/knowing fully well’, an adverb has been wrongly used where an adjective should be:

  • I didn’t leave home early, as I knew fully well that the programme would start late. (Wrong)
  • I didn’t leave home early, as I knew full well that the programme would start late. (Correct)
  • Knowing fully well that he needed the money, you should have helped him. (Wrong)
  • Knowing full well that he needed the money, you should have helped him. (Correct)

Here is how Longman establishes this saying also:

Know full/perfectly well – used to say that someone does know something even though they are behaving as if they don’t know:

You know full well what I mean.

Between duly and duely

In this concluding part of today’s lesson, I like to call your attention to another tricky aspect of the relationship between adjectives and adverbs. Here, the element to watch is more of spelling, though. When you need to use the adverbial counterparts of due and true, always remember that ‘e’ is an aberration:

  • He followed due process. (Correct, as ‘due’ is an adjective describing ‘process’)
  • He was duely elected. (Wrong, because the adverb is wrongly spelt)
  • He was duly elected. (Correct)
  • It is true that she went there. (Correct)
  • She truely went there. (Wrong)

She truly went there. (Correct)

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