I pulled the string tightly/tight.


Senior Member
1. I pulled the string tightly. (incorrect)
2. I pulled the string tight. (correct)

If the word that follows an object describes the object, we use an adjective.

3. She painted the kitchen white. (correct)
4. She painted the kitchen quickly. (correct)
Source: ABC of common grammatical errors by Nigel D Turton

I say to myself that the author has made a mistake. Because sentence #1 is acceptable. Because "tightly" describes the act of "pulling". So, #1 should be correct and #2 should be incorrect.

Would you please be kind enough to give me some guidance?

Thank you.
  • If it describes the act of pulling, then "tightly" is something about the way in which your hand and arm moved. It makes no sense. You don't mean that. You mean that you pulled the string until the string is tight. "Tight" is what the string is, not what the pulling is.
    I pulled the string forcefully:tick: - the manner in which I pulled the string so an adverb is needed.
    I pulled the string tight. :tick:The string became tight as a result of my pulling - the word describes the state of the string after the pulling, so an adjective is needed.

    In the same way that you can hammer metal flat but not flatly, you can also pull the string tight but not tightly. -> As Julian says, the string is tight, although the grip/pull on the string may not be tight.

    The adjective part of the construction (s,v,o, adj.) is called a resultative, in which the secondary predicate (flat/tight) gives the result of the action described by the primary predicate (pulled the string/hammered the metal.)
    Thank you everybody.

    Once my one of my friends told me "I iron a shirt smoothly." is incorrect as "I pulled the string tightly." is incorrect.
    Do you agree with him that "smoothly" is also incorrect?
    Why can't "smoothly" work there? Doesn't it describe the act of "ironing"?
    If you want to say that you are ironing a shirt as though you were skating smoothly through a figure skating routine, it's fine -- but says nothing whatsoever about removing wrinkles from the shirt.;)
    "I ironed the shirt smoothly." = I iron the shirt in a way in which the action of ironing was smooth
    "I ironed the shirt smooth." = I ironed the shirt and the result was that the shirt was smooth.
    'Hard' being an adverb here because it really is describing the effort of the pulling and the adverbial form 'hardly' has nothing to do with the adjective.
    In "I pulll the string tight", tight is an adjective.

    It's the same construction as "I paint the door red".
    It is interesting that in the first link provided by sdgraham, in post #5, in the sentence 'Shut the door tight,' the word 'tight' is an adverb and means 'in a tight manner, securely.'
    But in the sentence 'Pull the string tight,' the word 'tight' is a resultative adjective.
    Hello again,
    One more question:

    1. Shut the door tight.
    2. Pull the string tight.

    Why is "tight" an adverb in #1 but an adjective in #2? How should I recognize or understand this subtle difference?

    Thank you.
    The verb "shut" does not affect the nature of the door. It's not a "tight door" because it has been shut. "Tight" is the degree to which it is shut - the way in which the shutting was done.
    The people in that picture are pulling hard, not tightly.
    Thanks for answering but what's the difference between "tightly" and "hard" as adverbs in the picture? The both (tightly/hard) mean to do something by using your hands and harms.

    They are pulling the rope hard.
    They are pulling the rope tightly.

    Don't they have the same meaning?

    Thank you.