What are Adjectives?
Adjectives are a part of speech that provide more details about subjects or ideas in a sentence or phrase. They make your speech or writing more interesting, engaging, and specific. They describe or modify other words in a sentence, typically used to classify, distinguish, or quantify nouns and pronouns. Depending on the adjective type and function, they can have different placements in a sentence but are usually positioned before the words they modify. Words that express what you think about something, or describe the size, shape, age, color, origin, material, and so on of nouns and pronouns are considered adjectives.
Here are some sentence examples with adjectives highlighted in bold:
- I think she’s a lovely person. (observation)
- That’s a huge cake! (size)
- It’s a circular window with a view of the sea. (shape)
- She owns a hundred-year-old cottage up there. (age)
- Lyndon’s purple scarf fell like a leaf. (color)
- Dim sum is a Chinese dish. (origin)
- The concrete wall was starting to show some wear and tear. (material)
Adjectives Uses and Rules
|Unchangeable Form||Regardless of the person, animal, or thing that adjectives modify, adjectives always keep the same form. Let’s look at the following examples: |
– A beautiful girl is dancing.
– Three beautiful girls are dancing.
In the first sentence the noun ‘girl’ is singular and in the second sentence the noun ‘girls’ is plural. However, the adjective ‘beautiful’ stays in the same form.
|Noun Antecedents||The word an adjective modifies or describes is called an antecedent. These antecedents can be nouns and adjectives can come before or after them. Let’s look at the following example: |
– Harley has a brown dog.
– Harley’s dog is brown.
In the sentence, the adjective ‘brown’ provides further information to describe the noun “dog”.
|Pronoun Antecedents||Adjectives’ antecedents can also be pronouns. Let’s look at the following example: |
– Gerry’s family moved into a new neighborhood. It’s a beautiful one.
In the sentence, the adjective ‘beautiful’ provides further information to describe the pronouns ‘it’ or ‘one’.
Types of Adjectives
There are several types of adjectives, each one with corresponding functions and rules. Learning the various types of adjectives will make identifying, understanding, and remembering them so much easier. The different types of adjectives are as follows: articles, possessive, demonstrative, distributive, interrogative, numbers, indefinite, appositive, attributive, predicative/predicate, absolute, proper, cumulative, coordinate, compound, participial, denominal, and nominal or substantive adjectives. Let’s study them in more detail in the table below:
|Types of Adjectives||Explanation||Examples|
|Articles||All three articles – a, an, and the – are adjectives. A and an are called indefinite articles. They’re used to refer to people and things generally. The, on the other hand, is the only definite article and is used to refer to specific people and things.||Indefinite articles: |
– I’d like to eat an apple.
– They want to stay in a cabin.
– I’d like to eat the apple.
– They want to stay in the cabin.
|Possessive Adjective||Possessive adjectives or possessive pronouns are used to specify possession. Examples: my, your, his, her, its, our, their.||– There’s my towel. |
– The dog is wagging its tail.
– We’ll visit their house tomorrow.
|Demonstrative Adjective||Demonstrative adjectives are used to refer to specific people or things. Examples: these, those, this, and that. Note that demonstrative pronouns have the same form but not the same function.||– Can you carry those bags?|
– This restaurant is quite pricy.
– I don’t know why these documents haven’t been sent out.
|Distributive Adjective||Distributive adjectives are adjectives that refer to individual parts or members of a group. Examples: any, both, each, every, either, and neither||– They gave a care pack to every person at the shelter.|
– For each sale, you get a 10% commission.z
– Both engines are in good working condition.
|Interrogative Adjective||Interrogative adjectives are used to modify nouns and ask questions. Examples: which, what, and whose.||– Which movie are we watching?|
– What color would you like?
– Whose clothes are these?
|Numbers Adjective||Numbers function as adjectives when it answers the question “How many?”||– They went on vacation for three days.|
– He’s managing a team of six.
– There were two books on the table.
|Indefinite Adjective||As previously mentioned in articles, indefinite adjectives are used to refer to nouns that aren’t specific. They also function as indefinite pronouns. Examples: no, many, any, few, and several.||– The article has several segments.|
– Do they offer any fruits?
– They have no cars available.
|Appositive Adjective||Appositive adjectives are words or phrases that function similarly to appositive nouns. They come after the nouns they modify and are placed between commas. Appositive adjectives are often found in literary texts.||– Layla, pissed and huffing, barged into the office. – The attic, ancient and unlit, felt like an omen. |
– They found the castle, meandering and sturdy, perched on top of the mountain.
|Descriptive: Attributive & Predicative/Predicate Adjective||Descriptive adjectives express specific qualities, traits, or features. There are different types of attributive adjectives that provide details regarding observations, sizes, shapes, colors, and so on. The terms attributive and predicative are used to signify the placement of adjectives.|
While most adjectives can be placed before and after the nouns they describe, there are several adjectives that only assume the attributive position (before the noun) and some that only assume the predicative position (after the noun). Note that predicative adjectives aren’t placed directly after the nouns but after the verbs.
|Let’s take a look at the placement of the adjectives below: |
– The white beach was splendid to see.
– Martha was driving the red SUV.
– There are kind people helping the homeless.
– The beach is white and splendid to see.
– Martha was driving the SUV that was red.
– There are people who are kind helping the homeless.
|Absolute Adjective||While most adjectives can be used to compare nouns in their comparative and superlative forms, absolute adjectives can’t. They already indicate extremes or strong meanings, don’t have degrees, or can only either be true or false. For example, the word “dead” can’t be “deader.”||– The decorations are perfect in the reception area.|
– Pichai’s complete collection costs a lot of money.
– Everyone is unique in their own way.
|Proper Adjective||Proper nouns are names of people, countries, organizations, etc., and are capitalized. Adjectives based on these nouns are also capitalized and called proper adjectives.||– We need to exchange our dollars for Thai baht.|
– I normally can’t stand watching Shakespearean plays.
– This is the French way, so try to get used to it.
|Cumulative & Coordinate Adjective||Some adjectives appear in a series, which come in two types: cumulative and coordinate adjectives. Both are two or more adjectives modifying the same noun. The difference is that coordinate adjectives are separated with commas or the word “and.” |
Coordinate adjectives are also a series of adjectives that belong to the same category, e.g. size or material. On the other hand, cumulative adjectives are a series of adjectives that don’t belong to the same category and don’t require commas. However, they require a certain order to make sense.
– These cupcakes are scrumptious and tasty.
– It’s a hot, cloudless, and sunny morning.
– This is a painful and unpleasant topic to talk about.
– Her children were carrying three huge rectangular stones.
– John is driving a vintage red Italian car.
– They bought Vietnamese silk scarves as souvenirs.
|Compound Adjective||Compound adjectives are formed by combining two or more words to make a single idea (e.g., eye-opening). When a compound adjective is used before its antecedent, the words are commonly connected by hyphens. Typically, no hyphens are needed when the compound adjective is in the predicative position, but recent practices in English grammar use hyphens regardless of positions as a stylistic choice.||– An in-depth study was done on the city’s waste management methods.|
– They are highly respected members of the business club.
– Can you add some text in the lower-left corner of the poster?
– All units after 2010 have built-in cameras installed.
– This is an extremely graphical representation.
|Participial Adjective||Participial adjectives are adjectives that are identical to the participle forms of verbs that end in-ing and-ed. Note that present participles functioning as nouns are called gerunds.||– Frederick was excited to plan Jill’s surprise party.|
– I find this song very irritating.
– Piper wrote an inspiring book.
|Denominal Adjective||Denominal adjectives are formed from nouns with suffixes added. For example “-ish,” “-less,” or “-esque.”||– Wade can be childish sometimes.|
– It’s a very Kafkaesque story.
– Our earthen pottery collection is a bestseller.
|Nominal Adjective||Nominal adjectives function as nouns. The word the comes before them and they can act as subjects or objects of sentences and clauses. Nominal adjectives are also known as substantive adjectives.||– The French are known to be rude but everyone has been nice so far.|
– Jason volunteers for the elderly twice a month.
– Don’t you think the opposite side should be heard as well?
Cumulative Adjectives and Their Grammatical Sequence
Although most forms of adjectives don’t change (except in their comparative and superlative degrees), cumulative adjectives follow a sequence to make grammatical sense. The following table lists the order:
Below are sentence examples with cumulative adjectives that are ordered correctly. Note that cumulative adjectives don’t use commas or the word and to separate them:
- Where is that red Chinese robe that we bought from the Asian market? (two adjectives: color – origin; antecedent: robe)
- I have five difficult exams after the holidays. (two adjectives: quantity – opinion; antecedent: exams)
- That pricy new buffet menu isn’t as extensive as we thought. (three adjectives: opinion – new – purpose; antecedent: menu)
- We stayed in a peaceful tiny wooden cottage during Christmas break. (three adjectives: opinion – size – material; antecedent: cottage)
- There were several new marketing positions in the recruitment memo. (three adjectives: quantity – age – purpose; antecedent: positions)
Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
When comparing people and things, adjectives assume their comparative and superlative structures. Both are taken from the positive forms of adjectives. The comparative form of adjectives is used to compare two nouns, while the superlative form is used to compare more. Let’s look at the table below for their formats and examples:
|Comparative Forms||End in -er or use the words more or less||– I’m older than you by two years.|
– My house is bigger than hers.
– You’re right, this is a more delicious dessert.
|Superlative Forms||End in -est or use the words most and least, and preceded by the word the||– She’s the oldest girl in her family.|
– My house is the biggest on the block.
– You’re right, this is the most delicious dessert.
Here are more examples of comparative adjectives in sentences:
– Yujin’s vacation was more relaxing than she expected.
– We need a bigger cauldron than the one at the store.
– Ravi is less knowledgeable about history than Sanjay.
Here are more examples of superlative adjectives in sentences:
– I am the greatest consumer of continued attention.
– Esther is the least worried about her sense of smell than the other players.
– Rekka is the most enthusiastic about getting additional practice.
Examples of Adjectives
1. Are these apples okay to pick?
2. My mom was frantic because we were running late.
3. I agree that the corrugations on the wall are well-defined.
4. Their job is to protect the innocent and they’re good at it.
5. It’s a dark and lonely room so I’ll redesign it with a sunny theme.
6. The smooth round pendant is worth every dollar.
7. Bayview is a very densely-populated district.
8. Janica is a seasoned theater actress.
9. They were filming in an abandoned hotel when they heard the noises.
10. There were pieces of the old blue mural glass on the chapel floor.
Adjectives Exercises with Answers
Exercise on Adjectives
Find the best adjective or adjectives to complete the following sentences.
1. The monkeys at the zoo are addicted to ____________ bananas.
a. big yellow
b. the zookeeper’s
c. apples and
2. The ________________ month to go there for vacation is April.
3. The team went on a field trip where they took part in ____________ activities.
a. a ritual of sorts
b. a lot of
4. He bought a _______________ chair.
a. French red high
b. second-hand leather
c. bright and breezy
d. most comfortable
5. My grandmother Perla is a wonderful ______________ lady.
b. the most inspiring
c. and kind
d. the elderly
1. A: The monkeys at the zoo are addicted to big yellow bananas.
2. D: The best month to go there for vacation is April.
3. B: The team went on a field trip where they took part in a lot of activities.
4. B: He bought a second-hand leather chair.
5. C: My grandmother Perla is a wonderful and kind lady.
The following is a list of adjectives according to their categories.
|quantity||little, three, few, some, half|
|opinion||fragrant, awful, delicious, important, funny|
|size||massive, tiny, huge, tall, gigantic|
|physical quality||greasy, soft, rough, beautiful, thin|
|shape||spherical, round, rectangular, angular, curved|
|age/condition||contemporary, old, mint, modern, vintage|
|color||yellow, aquamarine, crimson, gray, blue|
|origin/ethnicity/subject||Korean, Asian, Buddhist, Indian, American|
|material||concrete, rubber, glass, silk, cotton|
|purpose||exfoliating, deep-cleaning, primary specific, educational|
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
Modifiers like adjectives improve sentences by giving them better depth and description, allowing you to communicate more clearly and showcase advanced fluency in your speech and writing. Adjectives, arguably, are the best part of speech. They make regular sentences more imaginative and turn them into something special.
Also, with the sheer amount of synonyms each adjective has, expressing variations in degree and power becomes easier to accomplish. Warm water is less hot than scalding water, for example. A big door is less dominant than a massive one. Adjectives can be used in all the major functions of articulate English interactions.
Still, the number of adjectives that English language learners have to study can be overwhelming. To attain certain levels of proficiency and flexibility with your own language usage, it’s important to have a strong understanding of the various types of adjectives. Reading as many resources as you can and applying the acquired knowledge to your daily language requirements is a guaranteed road to successful English communication.
Read along for common errors that English students make regarding adjectives and get an insight into the best strategies to learn them.
Common Errors Made by English Learners
There are common errors that English language learners make when it comes to adjectives. The most common is confusing them for adverbs. Another thing that English students struggle with is the correct placement of multiple cumulative adjectives in sentences.
Additionally, there are adjectives that can only be used in their attributive or predicative positions. Errors in these areas produce statements that sound awkward both grammatically and communicatively. Another common error is the wrong usage of participial adjectives. The best way to avoid these is to become familiar with the different types of adjectives, their rules, functions, and application.
|Recognizing Word Functions||Some descriptive adjectives have the same adverbial counterparts. If you’re confused about which ones they are, check the words that are modified in sentences. If the antecedent is a noun or a pronoun, then the modifier is an adjective. If the word being described is a verb, adjective, or adverb, the modifier is an adverb.|
For example, in the sentence “the employee arrived late,” the word “late” is an adverb because it’s modifying the verb “arrive.” In the clause “a late stroll,” the word “late” is an adjective because it’s describing the noun “stroll.”
|Cumulative Adjectives Sequence||Cumulative adjectives follow a grammatical sequence, which is detailed in a previous segment of this article. Certain categories come before others.|
For example, an adjective of opinion (e.g. interesting) goes before an adjective of color (e.g blue). “It’s an interesting blue paint.” It may seem too much because adjectives have many categories. The best way to minimize errors is to be familiar with the order until you can achieve using it naturally.
|Participial Adjectives Use||Present participles used as participial adjectives describe the characteristic of subjects or objects. Meanwhile, past participles used as participial adjectives describe the effect on someone, i.e. someone’s feelings or emotions.|
– Wilmar is bored.
– Wilmar is boring.
The first sentence means Wilmar feels bored. On the other hand, the second sentence means Wilmar has a boring personality.
|Attributive and Predicative Position||Most adjectives can assume both attributive and predicative positions. However, a few can only be used in one position. The word “asleep,” for example can only be used after the verb, while the word “main” can only be used before the antecedent. An “asleep man” sounds wrong. So does the “equipment main.”|
Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Adjectives
The following are great methods to improve and develop mastery in using adjectives:
- Training yourself in distinguishing the different types of adjectives.
- Studying the right placement of adjectives in sentences.
- Learning the functions of modifiers and the words they modify.
|Language Lists||Lists have always been a valuable resource for ELLs. They can show the different types of adjectives and include sample sentences, making their particular functions and rules easier to recall and apply when using English.|
|Language Exposure||Getting exposed to literary, audio, and video materials that show how native speakers use the English language in various contexts, topics, and areas of expertise can help broaden your vocabulary. It’s almost impossible to learn adjectives without knowing their synonyms. Hence, substantial exposure can improve vocabulary and fluency in a significant way. It will help you articulate your thoughts and ideas well.|
|Language Exchange||Make an effort to use what you’ve learned in consistent interactions with fellow learners and English-speaking friends. Eventually, you’ll sound more confident and natural, and use English with ease.|
Adjectives Frequently Asked Questions
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