Descriptive Adjectives

What are Descriptive Adjectives?

Descriptive adjectives give additional information to ideas or subjects in a sentence or phrase. They make your writing or speaking more captivating, vivid, and exact. They elevate and distinguish the nouns and pronouns included in a sentence, usually placed before the words they modify. Descriptive adjectives alter their antecedents in a sentence by adding further information, allowing them to paint a clearer picture of any idea or thought.

Words that portray one’s opinion about something and words that are used to describe the size, shape, age, color, origin, material, etc. of nouns and pronouns are regarded as descriptive adjectives. In some reference books, attributive and predicative adjectives are sub-categories that fall under descriptive adjectives. Attributive adjectives come before the noun, while predicative adjectives come after.

Here are some examples of descriptive adjectives in sentences:

  • They think the dinner was too expensive. (observation)
  • That’s such a tiny space for a piano! (size)
  • Please draw a round object on your paper. (shape)
  • Heidi lives in an ancient temple inside the forest. (age)
  • I can spot Ryan’s red car easily. (color)
  • Sushi is a Japanese invention. (origin)
  • The cotton fabric might require more money to produce. (material)
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Descriptive Adjectives Rules

BasicMore commonly known as positive descriptive adjectives, the word “positive” doesn’t signify that the word has a positive meaning. It simply means it’s in its pure basic form that can either appear before or after the word it modifies. – Quentin had a massive crush on Josie in high school.
– The concrete barrier along the highway is causing traffic.
– This dessert is quite fluffy.
ComparativeThe comparative form of descriptive adjectives is used to compare two nouns or pronouns. They end with the suffix -er or use the words more or less.– Don is taller than his older brother. – The menu here is more extensive. – Where can I find a bigger venue?
SuperlativeThe superlative form of descriptive adjectives is used to compare more than two nouns or pronouns. They end with the suffixes -st-est, or -ist or use the words most or least. They’re also preceded by the word ‘the.’– Margaret’s the funniest comic I’ve ever seen. – He’s the least susceptible to cold. – It’s the shortest way back to town.
IrregularAlmost all basic or positive descriptive adjectives can assume their comparative and superlative forms. However, there are several irregular adjectives that change spelling when they are used in comparisons.bad:
– worse (comparative)
– worst (superlative)
– better (comparative)
– best (superlative)
– farther (comparative)
– farthest (superlative)
Table of Rules for Descriptive Adjectives

Examples of Descriptive Adjectives

1. The merger is the most important news in the real estate world.

2. They are dealing with an indifferent contractor who seemed to have ghosted them.

3. Kelly wanted to look for a more spacious place to do yoga.

4. Haruhiko checked if the footage of the accident was intact.

5. Victor thought he was late for the presentation but it had just started when he arrived.

6. Which flavor is the most inventive of our new ice cream line?

7. Vigan has a very quaint atmosphere that’s unlike any other town.

8. Young-jin drank the soda he had opened an hour earlier and it tasted stale.

9. His coin collections are still in mint condition when he showed them to me.

10. How will you ever find a faster way to pack the orders when we don’t have enough people? 

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Descriptive Adjectives Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Descriptive Adjectives

Pick the appropriate adjective from the following choices to complete the sentences below:

(blue, history, colorful, difficult, a few, deep, shiny, narrow, consummate, many)

1. Only _______________ tourists visit the Cape during the rainy months.

2. This town has _______________ roads. You can barely fit a car in the lane.

3. They say that crows are attracted to _______________ objects.

4. Stone Lake is quite _______________ so there’s always a lifeguard around 

5. My clients wanted a monochrome design but I convinced them a _______________ one is better.

6. Neil is a _______________ professional so no wonder he was promoted ahead of the rest.

7. I’ve never seen a sky so _______________ like that before. 

8. That’s quite a _______________ book to adapt into a film. It’s like fifteen hundred pages.

9. The girls in the dormitory carried _______________ boxes of books from the library.

10. Clarissa was reading her _______________ book when the doorbell rang.


1. Only a few tourists visit the Cape during the rainy months.

2. This town has narrow roads. You can barely fit a car in the lane.

3. They say that crows are attracted to shiny objects.

4. Stone Lake is quite deep so there’s always a lifeguard around

5. My clients wanted a monochrome design but I convinced them a colorful one is better.

6. Neil is a consummate professional so no wonder he was promoted ahead of the rest.

7. I’ve never seen a sky so blue like that before.

8. That’s quite a difficult book to adapt into a film. It’s like fifteen hundred pages.

9. The girls in the dormitory carried many boxes of books from the library.

10. Clarissa was reading her history book when the doorbell rang.

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Descriptive Adjectives List

The following is a table of descriptive adjectives separated according to their categories.

quantitythirteen, half, many, several, a dozen
opinionwonderful, hectic, selfish, exciting, strange
sizesmall, tiny, enormous, immense, large
physical qualitysinewy, weak, muscular, heavyset, cute
shapebroad, flat, concave, square, wide
age/conditionelderly, senior, new, contemporary, aging
colorsilver, brown, teal, scarlet, emerald
origin/ethnicity/subjectJapanese, Asian, Catholic, Hindu, Italian
materialceramic, clay, glass, tartan, cloth
purposesleeping, dinner, English, grocery, scientific
Table of Descriptive Adjective Categories

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Sentences that contain descriptive adjectives are deeper and more descriptive, enabling you to be better understood and demonstrate a greater degree of fluency in your language. Few parts of speech are as powerful as adjectives, as they allow regular sentences to become something special.

Furthermore, with the colossal number of synonyms that each adjective has, it is much simpler to express various levels of intensity and articulate differences in degree. For instance, an “angry person” is not as cross as a “furious person,” while “a hard problem” is much less intimidating than a “grueling” one.

Adjectives can be used for all varieties of poignant English conversations. As such, English language learners might find the vast number of adjectives intimidating. To gain greater control of your own language usage, having an in-depth understanding of the different types of adjectives is essential. Reading through multiple sources and practicing regularly can certainly help boost your skills in communicating in English proficiently; however, mistakes are likely to be made along the way.

Read further for common errors usually made by ESL students with regard to adjectives and learn about some optimal methods for systematic learning. Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand Absolute Adjectives and Compound Adjectives.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

English language learners frequently make mistakes with descriptive adjectives. The most widespread mistake is confusing them for adverbs. In addition, English students typically have difficulty positioning several descriptive adjectives accurately in sentences.

Moreover, there are certain adjectives that may only be employed in their attributive or predicative positions, which can lead to sentences that sound awkward both grammatically and linguistically.

Another misusage of adjectives is using participial adjectives incorrectly. To prevent these errors from happening, one must become acquainted with the different types of adjectives, as well as their rules, functions, and implementation.

Common ErrorsExplanation
Recognizing Word FunctionsThere are adjectives and adverbs that have the same form. Check the words being modified in sentences if you’re unsure if the modifier is an adjective or an adverb. If the word is describing a noun or a pronoun, then the modifier is an adjective.

If the word being modified is a verb, adjective, or adverb, the modifier is an adverb. For example, in the sentence “summer came early,” the word “early” is an adverb because it’s modifying the verb “came.” In the clause “an early breakfast,” the word “early” is an adjective because it’s describing the noun “breakfast.”
Participial Adjectives UsePresent 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.

– The student is bored.
– The student is boring.

The first sentence means the student isn’t interested. On the other hand, the second sentence means the student has a dull personality.
Attributive and Predicative PositionMost adjectives can assume both attributive and predicative positions. However, a few can only be used in one position. The word “afraid,” for example can only be used after the verb, while the word “main” can only be used before the antecedent. An “afraid child” sounds wrong. So does the “character main.”
Linking VerbsDescriptive adjectives follow verbs such as be, appear, become, get, and seem.

– She’s pretty.
– The DJ seems distracted.

In the first sentence, the adjective pretty directly follows the form of ‘to be’ (is, in this case). In the second sentence, the adjective distracted follows the verb “seems.” Descriptive adjectives also follow verbs that express senses like ‘feel, look, sound, smell, and taste:

– That sounds perfect!
– Don’t you feel exhausted?
– You look great in that shade of green.
Descriptive Adjectives Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Descriptive Adjectives

The best learning strategies that can help master adjectives are as follows:

  • Studying the different types of adjectives.
  • Familiarizing oneself with the right placement of adjectives.
  • Learning the functions of antecedents and their modifiers.
Learning StrategiesExplanation
Language ListsLists are the consummate resources for English Language Learners. They can present any grammatical concept in a comprehensive manner, including descriptive adjectives. They can also include valuable sample sentences and learning methods, making the specific functions of the different parts of speech easy to remember and apply expertly when using the English language.
Language ExposureExposure to literary, audio, video and other reference materials that show how native speakers use the English language will increase your background knowledge about English usage in various contexts, topics, and areas of expertise. And because it’s almost impossible to learn adjectives without learning their synonyms, doing so will boost your vocabulary, increasing your fluency in a significant way. You will develop the ability to articulate your thoughts and ideas with appropriate word choices.
Language ExchangeUse what you’ve learned in daily conversations with fellow English language learners and English-speaking friends. Eventually, you’ll be able to speak naturally and use descriptive adjectives with ease.
Learning Strategies for Descriptive Adjectives Table
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Descriptive Adjectives Frequently Asked Questions

There is no difference between attributive and predicative adjectives. These adjectives provide information or offer descriptions of nouns.

The term attributive is used to identify adjectives that appear before verbs, while the term predicative is reserved for those that follow verbs. Depending on which reference or textbook you’re looking at, attributive and predicative adjectives may be classified beneath the heading of descriptive adjectives; other sources may regard them as their own category.

Below are the different types of adjectives and their examples:

1. articles – a, an, the
2. possessive adjectives – my, your, his, her, its, our, their
3. demonstrative adjectives – these, those, this, that
4. distributive adjectives – any, both, each, every, either, neither
5. interrogative adjectives – which, what, whose (used in questions)
6. number adjectives – anything that answers the question how many?
7. indefinite adjectives – no, many, any, few, several
8. appositive adjectives – adjective or adjectives that function like appositive nouns 
9. attributive adjectives – adjectives that come before their antecedents
10. predicative/predicate adjectives – adjectives that come after their antecedents
11. absolute adjectives – dead, unique, perfect, destroyed, free
12. proper adjectives – English, Orwellian, Japanese, Islamic, Indian
13. cumulative adjectives – a series of adjectives from different categories describing the same noun
14. coordinate adjectives – a series of adjectives from the same categories describing the same noun
15. compound adjectives – ice-cold, home-bred, white-collar, left-handed, long-term
16. participial adjectives – excited, exciting, fascinated, fascinating, bored
17. denominal adjectives – childish, Rubenesque, earthen, hopeless, wooden 
18. nominal or substantive adjectives – the French, the opposite, the British, the best, the elderly

The best descriptive words or adjectives are those words that don’t need a lot of adverbs. In fact, while adverbs are useful in speech and writing, the best speakers and writers use them sparingly. Use the correct synonym to either intensify or diminish the meaning of what you’re trying to say.

Instead of hot use the word scalding (which means very hot so there’s no need for an adverb). Instead of beautiful use its synonym gorgeous, or better still, breathtaking.

Predicative adjectives usually appear after their antecedent but following verbs. For example, The bag Sheila carries is vintage. However, adjectives sometimes come directly after nouns. These are called postpositive adjectives:

1. Institutionalized expressions: Princess Royal, President-Elect
2. Modifying pronouns: everybody here, something fine
3. Together with descriptive adjectives in the superlative degree: the fastest car possible, the worst place imaginable.

1. quantity – There were many cars in the garage.
2. opinion – This is a lovely cottage you have here.
3. size – Jim’s bedroom has large windows.
4. physical quality – We want to have a marvelous time.
5. shape – The chairs are circular.
6. age/condition – When will the new teacher arrive?
7. color – She picked up a purple flower.
8. origin/ethnicity/subject – Is she a Catholic practitioner?
9. material – Diana has an obsession with wicker furniture.
10. purpose – This is an artistic endeavor and I’m all for it.

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