The simplest definition of an adjective is that it is a word that describes or clarifies a noun. Adjectives describe nouns by giving some information about an object’s size, shape, age, color, origin or material.
- It’s a big table. (size)
- It’s a round table. (shape)
- It’s an old table. (age)
- It’s a brown table. (color)
- It’s an English table. (origin)
- It’s a wooden table. (material)
- It’s a lovely table. (opinion)
- It’s a broken table. (observation)
- It’s a coffee table. (purpose)
When an item is defined by its purpose, that word is usually not an adjective, but it acts as one in that situation.
- coffee table
- pool hall
- hunting cabin
- baseball player
1. Kinds of Adjectives
The different kinds of adjectives are discussed in detail in under their respective sections:
Descriptive adjective or adjective of quality
Descriptive adjectives are the most numerous of the different types of adjectives. These adjectives describe nouns that refer to action, state, or quality (careless, dangerous, excited, sad, black, white, big, small, long, fat, English, Mediterranean, three-cornered).
- dangerous chemicals
- green vegetables
- a square box
- a big house
- a tall tree
- a cold morning
- a true story
- English language
- Mediterranean country.
Adjective of quantity
An adjective of quantity tells us the number (how many) or amount (how much) of a noun.
- He has eaten three apples.
- I don’t have much money.
- There is so much wine for the guests.
- This long, thin centipede has many legs.
A demonstrative adjective (this, that, these, those) shows the noun it modifies is singular or plural and whether the position of the noun is near or far from the person who is speaking or writing. A demonstrative adjective also points out a fact about the noun.
- This red balloon is mine and those three yellow ;ones are yours.
- This cute baby is his brother. That cute baby is his sister.
- These two fat cats have tails, but that thin cat doesn’t have a tail.
A possessive adjective expresses possession of a noun by someone or something. Possessive adjectives are the same as possessive pronouns. All the possessive adjectives are listed in the following table:
Examples of possessive adjectives/pronouns:
- I spent my afternoon cleaning the toilet.
- This must be your cap.
- His arms have a few tattoos.
- Its skin is dry and rough.
- Our grandmothers were classmates.
2. Comparison of Adjectives
When we compare two or more nouns, we make use of comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives. We use the following three forms of comparison when we compare two or more nouns.
The absolute form
We use the absolute degree to describe a noun or to compare two equal things or persons.
- My uncle is bald.
- My uncle is as bald as a cue ball.
- His head is big.
- His head is as big as my head.
- His wife-to-be is very charming.
- His ex-wife is not as charming as his wife-to-be.
The comparative form
When comparing two nouns, we use a comparative form of adjective to describe how one person or thing is when compared to another person or thing. In making such a comparison, we have to use the word than to show that one noun is bigger, longer, taller, etc. than the other one.
- A hen’s egg is bigger than a pigeon’s egg.
- Our fingers are longer than our toes.
- This basketball player is taller than that footballer.
- She says her pet hen walks faster than her pet duck.
- His head is bigger than my head.
The superlative form
When comparing three or more nouns, we use a superlative form of adjective. We use the word the when using the superlative adjective to compare.
- My great grandfather is the oldest one in the family.
- She has the prettiest face in the whole school.
- He talks the loudest in his circle of friends.
- Bozo is the funniest clown in the circus.
- His head is the biggest in the family.
More and most
We can use the words more and most in front of an adjective to form respectively the comparative and superlative. Use the adverbial more with most adjectives that have two or more syllables, and most with all adjectives that have more than two or more syllables. For example, the word big has one syllable, funny has two syllables, and beautiful has three syllables. Regardless of the number of syllables, the adjective itself does not change in form when used with more or most.
- She is more careless with money than her husband is.
- Sometimes, she was the most cheerful person in the office.
- The professor is more forgetful than his students are.
- That is the most foolish thing he has ever done.
We use the Comparative degree to compare two unequal nouns.
- Example: His house is bigger than my house.
We use the Superlative degree to compare three or more Nouns.
- Example: His house is the biggest in the neighbourhood
3. Forming Adjectives
Adjectives derived from verbs are formed by adding –ing or –ed to the verbs.
–ed/–ing: amazed/amazing, annoyed/annoying, damaged/damaging, decayed/decaying, interested/interesting
–ed: the escaped prisoners, improved version, polluted river
- We need to get more young people interested in the subject.
- We need to make the subject more interesting to more young people.
- We were totally amazed by the brilliance of the player.
- What an amazing player he was.
- She was quite annoyed at the way he behaved.
- She found his behaviour quite annoying.
- The chunk of meat was completely decayed.
- The smell of decaying meat wafted towards him.
- His health appears badly damaged by excessive smoking.
- Smoking is seriously damaging to his health.
4. Adjectives Function as Nouns
Some adjectives are used as nouns to describe groups of people. Each of these groups follows the determiner the (definite article). There are the blind,the deaf, the elderly, the homeless, the old, the rich, the sick, the young, etc.
- The injured were in the thousands.
- Every year, millions join the ranks of the unemployed worldwide.
- There seems to have no plans to provide cheap housing for the homeless.
5. Position of Adjectives
Adjectives appear in different positions in a sentence. The two positions we often encounter are before a noun and after a linking verb which comes after a noun.
(1) The adjective that comes before a noun is called an attributive adjective.
The attributive adjective modifies the noun that follows it. There can be more than one adjective appearing side-by-side to modify the same noun.
Adjectives (in bold) that come before a noun.
- a fresh fish.
- a small tree.
- a long dress.
- a square box.
- a beautiful house.
More than one adjective can come before a noun.
- an ugly old witch.
- a funny little clown.
- a tall young manager.
- a big powerful sound.
(2) The adjective that comes after a noun is called a predicative adjective.
A predicative adjective says something about the subject of the sentence. In the following sentence, the subject is “the bulls” and the adjective “black” modifies the subject. The adjective is joined to the subject by a verb “look”, alinking verb. Linking verbs are used here as they connect the subject with the adjective that describes it. Examples of linking verb include all forms of be(am, is, are, was, were) and other verbs such as grow, remain, sound, taste, etc.
Adjectives that come after the BE-verb:
- He is thin.
- We are hungry.
- She was tired after work.
- They were friendly towards me.
Adjectives that come after other linking verbs:
- The beef tasted delicious.
- She grewbored being alone.
- The question sounds silly.
- The child remained silent when questioned.
Adjectives that cannot come before the subject noun:
- The boys are ready to go. (Not: The ready boys are to go.)
- The parents were glad about their daughter’s success. (Not: The glad parents were …..)
- Her mother is seriously ill in hospital.