The famous saying “to each their own” embodies a distributive adjective in the sense that it functions to refer to each entity or individual separately in a sentence. Imagine a scenario where you have given three children, Ana, Ben, and Carly, a gift. Instead of stating, “I gave Ana, Ben, and Carly a gift,” you could say, “I gave each child a gift.”
Distributive adjectives offer a way to shorten a statement by converting enumerated nouns into adjectives as shown in the example above. Learn more about distributive adjectives, their meaning, function, and examples in this blog!
What Is A Distributive Adjective?
Distributive adjectives are words that refer to individual members of a group or an entity. There are eight common distributive adjectives: each, every, either, neither, none, both, any, and one. Through distributive adjectives, the subject of the sentence is addressed one by one.
Take for example the sentences below:
(a) The students created a project.
(b) Each student created a project.
In the first sentence, the subject (students) is addressed as a whole. It is not clear whether the students created a project as a group or individually. Meanwhile, in the second sentence, it is made clear that the project is created per student. Meaning, if there are fifteen students, it follows that fifteen projects were created.
What Is The Function of a Distributive Adjective?
Distributive adjective belongs to the umbrella of adjective. As such, it functions as a modifier of a noun. This table shows the two functions of distributive adjectives:
|to show that a group or entity is addressed collectively||When the subject of the sentence is a collective noun (e.g., team, organization, pack of wolves, and a swarm of bees), we use a distributive adjective to refer to the members of the group collectively.|
If there are three teams that competed in a championship game, it can be expressed as:
Every team in the championship round did their best.
This implies that teams one, two, and three did their best.
Note: Collective nouns are generally singular.
|– Every pack of wolves has a leader.|
– Each swarm of bees protects its queen.
– Every organization is unique with its own culture.
– Any corporation offers benefits for their employees.
– Both pairs of shoes are made by the same manufacturer.
|to refer to members of a group individually||When the subject of the sentence is one group, distributive adjectives are used to address each one of them.|
If there were fifty people who attended a meeting and they received a gift, it can be expressed as:
Each person who attended the meeting was given a gift.
This means that person one to person fifty received a gift.
|– Every student received a copy of The Penal Colony.|
– Neither parent was happy with the decision.
– Any person who wants to join can do so.
– Every hotel in the city was booked.
– Either bag is suitable for the occasion.
8 Distributive Adjectives in English Grammar
The table below summarizes the meaning and grammar rules. Example declarative sentences of distributive adjectives are written to illustrate their usage.
|Distributive Adjectives||Meaning||Grammar Rule |
General Rule: a singular subject takes a singular verb (verb + s); a plural subject takes a plural verb (base form)
|1. Each||refers to each member of a group; used to refer to each person in the group separately||Use “each” with a singular noun and a singular verb.||– Each student works hard to achieve their goals.|
– We gave each person we passed by a pack of candy.
– Each handmade bag in this shop costs $80.
– I carefully checked each item on the list.
– The theatre teacher graded each class’s performance.
|2. Every||refers to all the things or people in a group without exception; used to make generalizations||Use “every” with a singular noun and a singular verb.||– Every student in the class passed their final exam.|
– I try to learn something new every day.
– She has a smile on her face every time I see her.
– Every decision we make has consequences.
– Every murder of crows gathered in the tree.
|3. Either||used to choose one between two options||Use “either” with a singular noun and a singular verb.||– Either Thailand or Vietnam is a great place to visit.|
– You can either go to the beach or stay home today.
– The interior designer told me that either table would look great in my home office.
– It’s hard to choose when you have either two great options.
– Either band of musicians will provide great entertainment for the party.
|4. Neither||not one or the other of two people or things; used to negate a sentence||Use “neither” with a singular noun and a singular verb.||– The queen likes neither company of actors’ performance.|
– Neither my brother nor I have seen the movie.
– I have neither the time nor the energy to go out tonight.
– During the competition, neither team was able to score a goal.
– Neither patrol of policemen caught the thief.
|5. Both||indicates that two or more people or things are included in a statement, action, or situation.||Use “both” with a plural noun and a plural verb.||– I want to buy both bags, but I only have a budget for one.|
– Both parents are doctors.
– She selected both Theresa and John to be on the team.
– The mailman delivered both packets of letters on time.
– Both panels of experts conduct a thorough review.
|6. Any||refers to one or some of a thing no matter the amount or quantity||Use “any” with a singular noun and a singular verb.||– Any book you read enriches your vocabulary.|
– She plays guitar better than any member of the band.
– Any advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
– I can’t find any pen in my bag.
– He will buy any car he likes when he has enough money.
|7. One||refers to a single person or thing, as opposed to multiple people or things||Use “one” with a singular noun and a singular verb.||– One student among fifteen volunteered to recite the poem.|
– One apple out of ten was left on the plate.
– I only have one pair of jeans that fits me.
– The guard lost one bunch of keys during his shift.
– He likes one artwork from the gallery.
|8. None||means nothing or no one among the given options; not one||the noun following this distributive adjective is implied||– The girl scouts baked cookies but had none left after giving them all away. (not one cookie)|
– I’m sorry, I don’t have any money. I have none.(not one money / penny)
– Which of the dresses do you like? I like none.(not one dress)
– He had none but himself to blame for the mistake. (not one person)
– My youngest brother was the only one who didn’t get a present. He got none.(not one gift)
Distributive Adjective Exercises with Answers
Chose the appropriate distributive adjective to complete each sentence.
1. You can’t please _______ person you meet in life.
2. ________ cast of actors from different plays gave a splendid performance.
3. Daisy had a splurge and bought __________ pairs of shoes on her wish list.
4. I can’t decide which of the two options to buy, so I’ll take ___________.
5. He lost _______ ball of wool while knitting.
6. __________ set of China cups and saucers is a nice addition to my kitchen.
7. Taylor wants __________ steak or fish for dinner.
8. The lady didn’t give him food as she had ______________.
9. ____________ hand of bananas in the basket was rotten.
10. She invested in ___________ stocks and bonds.
1. You can’t please every person you meet in life.
2. Each cast of actors from different plays gave a splendid performance.
3. Daisy had a splurge and bought both pairs of shoes on her wish list.
4. I can’t decide which of the two options to buy, so I’ll take neither.
5. He lost one ball of wool while knitting.
6. Any set of China cups and saucers is a nice addition to my kitchen.
7. Taylor wants either steak or fish for dinner.
8. The lady didn’t give him food as she had none.
9. Every hand of bananas in the basket was rotten.
10. She invested in both stocks and bonds.
Distributive Adjective List
Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners
Learning a new language is a challenging but rewarding experience. As you start, you may stumble on some of the more complex grammar rules, such as distributive adjectives. The eight distributive adjectives can be confusing. Consequently, English learners may use them incorrectly. Study the table below to avoid common mistakes when learning distributive adjectives.
Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand Demonstrative Adjectives and Indefinite Adjectives.
Common Errors Made by English Learners
|Common Errors||Why it Happens||Correction|
|Using Each Instead of Every and Vice Versa||“Each” and “every” sound the same. As such, some learners use them interchangeably. Both words also have similar meanings, but they are not the same.|
“Each” is used to refer to individual items in a group or one group one by one. Meanwhile, “every” refers to all items in a group. Thus, “every” is used to make generalizations.
|Use “each” when the quantity of the noun or subject is two or more. In contrast, use “each” when referring to three or more people or things.|
Incorrect: She taught her child how to wear shoes on every foot.
Correct: She taught her child how to wear shoes on each foot.
Incorrect: Bretman owns two chickens. He feeds every chicken daily.
Correct: Bretman owns two chickens. He feeds each chicken daily.
Always use “every” when making generalizations.
Every dog needs exercise.
Every author has their own style.
Every vegan option in this mall is expensive.
|Using Either Instead of Neither and Vice Versa||“Either vs neither” is one source of confusion for learners. It’s because both are used when referring to two options.||“Either” is used when one of the two options is selected or chosen. Meanwhile, use “neither” to negate when none of the options are selected.|
– I love to read either classic novel or modern fiction.
Meaning: The subject loves to read any book that is a classic novel or modern fiction.
– I read neither classic novel or modern fiction.
Meaning: The subject reads none of the options.
|Either vs Neither vs Both||All three distributive adjectives “either,” neither,” and “both” refers to two options. However, they differ in meaning.||To correct the confusion among “Either vs Neither vs Both” use this summary:|
Either: one of the two options is selected Neither: none of the options is selected:
Both: two options are selected
Either textbook would help you understand the lesson.
Neither textbook helped me understand the lesson.
Both textbooks helped me understand the lesson.
Another distinct feature is that “both” precedes plural nouns.
|Making the noun plural *Note: with the exception for “both”||The general rule on the subject-verb agreement is singular subject takes a singular verb, and a plural subject agrees with the plural verb. Some learners think that distributive adjectives are plural. However, it functions as a singular as it refers to an individual person, thing, or group.||Remember that all distributive adjectives, except for “both,” are singular. As such, it must follow a singular noun.|
Incorrect: Each pack of cards are complete.
Correct: Each pack of cards is complete.
Incorrect: Every mistakes were corrected.
Correct: Every mistake was corrected.
Learning Distributive Adjective Strategies and Best Practice
Learning distributive adjectives can be a difficult task, but with the right strategies and best practices, it can become much easier. Here are some tips to help you master distributive adjectives:
1. Read and listen to English as much as possible. This will help you become familiar with the language and its nuances.
2. Practice using distributive adjectives in conversation or writing. This will help you become more comfortable with the words and their usage.
3. Pay attention to the context of the sentence. This will help you determine which distributive adjective is appropriate for the situation.
Distributive Adjective Frequently Asked Questions
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