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Adjective

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English

An adjective is a word usually used to modify a noun and provide more information about the noun . Adjectives are often called 'describing words' as they describe a feature or quality of the noun such as colour, size, quantity, etc. They can therefore be used to add more meaning to a sentence.

Adjective examples

There are many adjectives in the English language that tell us more information about the noun.

In the examples below, the adjectives and nouns have been highlighted:

  • A beautiful forest

  • A meaningful gift

  • An old car

  • The baby's first word

  • A red book

  • A relaxed outfit

The order of adjectives

Take a look at this sentence:

The blue old big car drove down the lane.

It really doesn't sound right, does it? This is because adjectives are arranged in an irregular order.

Take a look at this corrected sentence:

The big old blue car drove down the lane.

This sentence just 'feels' better as the adjectives are placed in a recognizable way.

For native English language speakers, putting adjectives in the correct order tends to come naturally, we can just feel it in our bones. However, for non-native speakers, remembering the order of adjectives can be a tricky process.

When there is a sequence of multiple adjectives, their order can be arranged as follows:

  1. Quantity (' three bottles of rum')

  2. Opinion or Observation ('It's a lovely shirt' / 'It's a ripped shirt')

  3. Size ('It's a tiny shirt')

  4. Shape ('It's a square shirt')

  5. Age ('It's a new shirt')

  6. Color ('It's a pink shirt')

  7. Origin ('It's an American shirt')

  8. Material ('It's a cotton shirt')

  9. Purpose ('It's a business shirt')

Adjective Order of adjectives StudySmarterA big, old, blue car - pixabay.

The positioning of adjectives

If a word is an adjective, it can be placed in several different ways. These include:

  • Before a noun ( pre-modification )

  • After a noun ( post-modification )

  • On its own as a complement

What is pre-modification?

Pre-modification is when an adjective is placed before a noun to add information. For example:

  • The red car

  • The ugly man

  • The happy hamster

  • A loud noise

Adjectives that pre-modify a noun are traditionally called attributive adjectives.

What is post-modification?

Post-modification is when an adjective is placed after a noun to add information. For example:

  • The car will be red

  • The man was ugly

  • The hamster is happy

  • The noise was loud

These are traditionally called predicative adjectives. The adjective is not used immediately after the noun, instead, it follows a verb that links the sentence such as 'is', 'was', or 'seems'.

It is important to note that pre-modification is a term that can be applied to any information added before a noun. Other word classes pre-modify a noun, for example, determiners ('the' dog) and adverbs (the 'very' big dog). Whole phrases and clauses may also pre-modify a noun. By adding these different bits of information you create a noun phrase.

Adjectives as a complement

Adjectives can also be used as a complement to 'complete the sentence'. This is a form of post-modification however, in this case, the adjective is used with a pronoun. Here are some examples:

  • It will be red

  • He was ugly

  • She is happy

  • It was loud

As you can see, the adjective is used to modify the pronouns ('he', 'she', 'it'). It describes a quality about the person or thing, however, it does not specifically state what is being described. Complements usually follow the forms of the verb 'to be' such as 'is', 'was', and 'will be'.

Most adjectives can be placed freely between each position. For example:

The adjective 'happy' can pre modify a verb ('the happy hamster'), post-modify a verb ('the hamster is happy'), or be used as a complement to a pronoun ('it was happy').

There are only a few adjectives that are restricted to one position. For example:

The adjective 'main' can be used to post-modify a noun ('the main reason') but can not be used to pre-modify a noun ('the reason is main').

This is the opposite for the adjective 'alone' which can be used to post-modify a noun ('the child is alone') but can not be used to pre-modify a noun ('the alone child').

Adjective Happy hamster example StudySmarterA happy hamster - pixabay

We can describe this photo in three ways:

  1. The happy hamster (pre-modification)
  2. The hamster is happy (post-modification)
  3. She is happy (complement)

Types of adjectives

Different types of adjectives can be used for different functions in a sentence:

  • Qualitative adjectives, or 'descriptive adjectives', are used to describe a feature or quality of a thing, person, or object. They add extra information about a noun or a pronoun. For example, the descriptive adjective 'red' in 'the red car' describes the color of the object.
  • Evaluative adjectives give someone's opinion about the noun. For example, 'the exam was difficult ' or 'the cake was delicious '. It can't be proved that the cake was delicious, therefore it is an opinion. (Though who doesn't find cake delicious?)
  • Comparative adjectives designate a comparison between two people or things. (See below for more information)
  • Superlative adjectives compare nouns to the most extreme degree. (See below for more information)

Degrees of comparison

When comparing two or more nouns, adjectives can give further information about the extent of the comparison. The initial adjective, otherwise called the positive degree adjective, is the basic, unchanged form of the adjective (e.g., 'fast'). These are normally qualitative adjectives that describe a quality of a thing.

Comparative adjectives

A comparative adjective, as the name suggests, compares two or more nouns. This can be:

  • To a lesser degree , for example, 'smaller' or 'less heavy'. These adjectives can be made by adding the suffix '-er' or the word 'less'.
  • To the same degree , for example, 'as big as'.
  • To a higher degree , for example, 'bigger', 'more powerful'. These adjectives can be made by adding the suffix '-er' or the word 'more'.

Superlative adjectives

This is the highest or lowest possible form of the adjective. For example, 'highest', 'tallest', 'most handsome'. Superlative adjectives can often be made by adding the suffix '-est' or the word 'most'.

Adjective Comparative adjective Superlative adjective StudySmarterComparative and superlative adjectives - StudySmarter Original

You may also hear the term 'grading', which simply means that an adjective can have more or less of the quality that they refer to. Comparative and superlative adjectives are both examples of grading.

Adjectives with irregular forms

There are some adjectives that, when made into comparative or superlative forms, become irregular. A good example of this is the adjective ' good '. When changed into a comparative adjective 'good' becomes ' better '. When changed into a superlative adjective it becomes ' best '.

Adjective Irregular adjectives comparative adjective superlative adjective StudySmarterIrregular comparative and superlative adjectives (StudySmarter Original)

Other types of adjectives

Absolute adjectives

Absolute adjectives are qualitative adjectives that can't be graded, intensified, or compared to anything else. In other words, they are in their 'ultimate' form. Some examples of absolute adjectives include:

  • Perfect

  • Empty

  • Infinite

  • Supreme

A thing can not be more 'perfect' or 'more infinite' than another. Therefore it is in its absolute form.

Classifying adjectives

Classifying adjectives allocate things or people to a group, class, or category. These cannot be converted into comparative or superlative forms. Here are some examples:

  • British

  • Northern

  • Annual

  • Rural

It is not possible to have a 'more annual fair' and it is not grammatically correct to say 'more northern'. That is because each of these adjectives describes a group or category.

An adjective may also exist as a clause of its own . For example, 'fantastic!' derives from the sentence 'that's fantastic', however, it can be used on its own to express an emotion or feeling.

Looking at context

When studying language, it is important to look at the context in which words exist. Sometimes a word can be used as a noun, a verb, or an adjective, depending on the context. Here are two examples:

In the sentence 'I have a piano', the word 'piano' is a noun. However, in the sentence 'I have a piano lesson' the word 'piano' is an adjective used to describe the type of lesson.

The word 'falling' is used as a verb in the sentence 'the tree is falling'. However, in the sentence 'a falling tree', it is used as an adjective describing the state of the tree.

What is an adjective phrase?

An adjective phrase is a simple phrase (group of words) that is 'built' around the adjective. It takes centre stage in the sentence. For example:

These flowers are lovely.

This is an adjective phrase as it is focused on the adjective 'lovely' as the most important piece of information.

Adjectives using certain suffixes

Some words exist independently as adjectives and can not be used in any other word class, for example:

  • Good
  • Bad
  • Ugly

Other adjectives are formed from nouns by adding a suffix, for example:

  • home → homeless
  • hope → hopeful

Adjectives may also be formed from verbs by adding a suffix, for example:

read → readable

create → creative

The suffix at the end of a word can often indicate the class that a word belongs to.

Here is a list of suffixes that are common for adjectives:

SuffixExamples
-ible, -ableGullible, comfortable
-fulBeautiful, skilful
-yFunny, dirty, sunny
-lessPowerless, homeless
-ousDangerous, nervous
-someTiresome, wholesome
-iveSensitive, supportive
-ishFoolish, selfish
-alSocial, accidental

Adjective - key takeaways

  • An adjective is a word usually used to provide more information about a noun. Adjectives are often called 'describing words' as they describe a feature or quality of the noun such as color, size, quantity, etc.
  • An adjective can be placed either before a noun (pre-modification), after a noun (post-modification), or on its own as a complement.
  • Qualitative adjectives describe a feature or quality of a noun whereas evaluative adjectives give someone's opinion about the noun.
  • It is important to look at the context of adjectives in a sentence. This will help you to figure out which word class a word belongs to. Suffixes also hint at word class.
  • An adjective phrase is a phrase built around the adjective. For example, 'these flowers are lovely'.

Adjective

An adjective is a word that modifies and provides more information about a noun. It describes certain features or qualities of the noun such as colour, size, quantity, etc.

Examples of adjectives include qualitative adjectives that describe a feature of a noun e.g. ‘red’ and evaluative adjectives that give an opinion about a noun e.g. ‘difficult’. Some adjectives may show a degree of comparison between two things e.g. ‘better’ whilst superlative adjectives compare nouns to the most extreme degree e.g. ‘best’.

Final Adjective Quiz

Question

What are the adjectives in this sentence?: ‘The little boy climbed up the big, green tree’

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Answer

The adjectives are ‘little’ and ‘big’, and ‘green’ as they describe features about the nouns.


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Question

Place the adjectives in this sentence into the correct order: the wooden blue big ship sailed across the Indian vast scary ocean.


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Answer

The big, blue, wooden ship sailed across the vast, scary, Indian ocean.

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Question

What are the 3 different positions in which an adjective can be placed?


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Answer

An adjective can be placed before a noun (pre-modification), after a noun (post-modification), or following a verb as a complement.

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Question

In this sentence, does the adjective pre-modify or post-modify the noun? ‘The unicorn is angry’.


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Answer

The adjective ‘angry’ post-modifies the noun ‘unicorn’.

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Question

In this sentence, does the adjective pre-modify or post-modify the noun? ‘It is a scary unicorn’.


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Answer

The adjective ‘scary’ pre-modifies the noun ‘unicorn’.

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Question

What kind of adjectives are ‘purple’ and ‘shiny’?


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Answer

‘Purple’ and ‘Shiny’ are qualitative adjectives as they describe a quality or feature of a noun

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Question

What kind of adjectives are ‘ugly’ and ‘easy’?


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Answer

The words ‘ugly’ and ‘easy’ are evaluative adjectives as they give a subjective opinion on the noun.

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Question

Which of the following adjectives is an absolute adjective?


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Answer

​Perfect

Show question

Question

Which of these adjectives is a classifying adjective?

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Answer

​Italian

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Question

Convert the noun ‘quick’ to its comparative form.

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Answer

The comparative form of ‘quick’ is ‘quicker’.

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Question

Convert the noun ‘slow’ to its superlative form.


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Answer

The comparative form of ‘slow’ is ‘slowest’.

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Question

What is an adjective phrase?


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Answer

An adjective phrase is a group of words that is ‘built’ around the adjective (it takes centre stage in the sentence). For example, in the phrase ‘the dog is big’ the word ‘big’ is the most important information.

Show question

Question

Give 2 examples of suffixes that are typical of adjectives.


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Answer

Suffixes typical of adjectives include -able, -ible, -ful, -y, -less, -ous, -some, -ive, -ish, -al.

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