1. An adjective is a word that modifies (describes) a noun or pronoun. Adjectives make up a very large group of words in the English vocabulary (about 23%). Adjectives tell about the qualities and features of people, things, or concepts ( small, brave, elegant, intelligent) and can be viewed as an added intensifier or “decoration" to the basic sentence elements, adding variety and descriptive value.
Adjectives can also be expanded into adjective clauses, which function similarly. In the following examples, the adjectives are underlined, and the nouns or pronouns they modify are in bold.
They were happy when their children got good grades in their report card.
[the adjective happy modifies the pronoun they, the adjective good modifies the noun report card]
2. A test for adjectives – A good way to make sure a word is an adjective is to ask about the modified noun: What kind of (noun) is it? "He is a respected teacher" is correct, as respected answers the question: What kind of teacher is he? " He is a respectfully businessman" is incorrect as respectfully answers "How" and not "What kind of". This means respected is an adjective and respectfully is a different part of speech, in this case, an adverb.
3. Verbs can also be recognized by some common adjective suffixes.
Note: Adjectives also use a large variety of prefixes denoting many different meanings.
4. The two adjective suffixes ed and ing may be confusing, as past- and present participles can also be used as adjectives, not only as verbs. These often come in pairs, with the ing-adjective conveying an active, proactive meaning ( amazing, annoying) and the ed-adjective conveying a passive, “receiver” meaning ( amazed, annoyed).
Many customers were disappointed by the new product.
[ disappointed is a passive adjective as the customers were influenced to be disappointed]
The disappointing new product went off the shelves
[ disappointing is an active adjective as the product influenced the stores to stop selling it]
5. English adjectives neither indicate number nor gender, having one invariable form that does not add s for plurals as with nouns ( big modifies boy, girl, boys, and girls). English adjectives may change form when the qualities of modified elements are compared for similarity, difference or intensity, using the comparative and superlative adjectives forms.
Their new apartment is as big as the old apartment.
[ as big as used to indicate similarity]
Their new apartment is bigger than the old apartment.
[ bigger than is used to indicate a difference between 2 apartments]
Their new apartment is the biggest in the building.
[ the biggest is used to indicate difference between one apartment and all the the others]
6. Compound adjectives are composed of two or more words that act as adjectives. There are a few rules that determine whether they should be used with a hyphen or not.
The new Paris hotel has air-conditioned rooms.
Tourists often buy tax-free products at airports.
Martin Luther King was an important civil rights leader.
7. Adjectives can also be divided according to the following categories:
Note: Quality-, possessive-, and demonstrative adjectives are nowadays treated as noun determiners but still also as adjectives by more traditional grammars.
8. Adjectives in English are attributive when they appear as part of the noun phrase. Attributive adjectives in English appear before the noun (whereas in other languages, these may follow the noun). Predicative adjectives appear outside the noun phrase and are linked to it with a linking verb.
They moved into their renovated, new apartment in the last week of May.
[ renovated, new=attributive adjectives modifying apartment, last=attributive adjective modifying week]
He was happy because his wife looked beautiful.
[ happy=predicative adjective modifying he; beautiful=predicative adjective modifying wife; was, looked=linking verbs]
9. When more than one adjective is used to describe a noun, you should place the adjectives according to a certain order. The more factual the adjective is (color, purpose) the closer it is to the noun than an adjective describing an opinion ( nice, beautiful). Use the following table to help you.
Tip : Do not normally use more than three adjectives before a noun, with one or two being a more preferred choice.
10. The words so, such, too, and enough are commonly used with adjectives for emphasis. Read the examples below to learn about their added meaning. The formulas in bold show you how to use them in a sentence.
• So and such emphasize result and consequence in the sentence.
The lunch mom made was so delicious that we finished all the food in minutes.
[ so+adjective emphasizes the adjective delicious and mentions the consequence]
It was such a delicious lunch that we finished all the food in minutes.
[ such+adjective+noun emphasizes the adjective delicious and mentions the consequence]
• Too and enough relate to quantity.
The steaks were too big for us to finish.
[ too+adjective shows that something is in excess]
The salad was big enough for ten people.
[ adjective+enough shows that something is sufficient]
11. Some adjectives relating to nationality or the human condition can be used with the to refer to a whole group of people. They have a plural meaning (without s) and take a plural verb.
The French are renowned for their fine taste and developed sense of style.
The municipality has recently undertaken a new initiative to aid the homeless.
Grammar Guide Index
Parts of Speech - General Overview
Singular and Plural Nouns
English Adjectives - Basic Terms
English Verbs (Part 1) - Basic Terms
English Verbs (Part 2) - More Terms
The Verb To Be
Negative Sentences and Question Formation
The Irregular Verbs in English (Part 1)
The Irregular Verbs in English (Part 2)
The Verb Tenses in English
Spelling Rules for the Verb Tenses
The Past Simple Tense
The Past Progressive Tense
Sentence Structure (Part 1) - Basic Clause Structure
Sentence Structure (Part 2) - Phrases
Sentence Structure (Part 3) - Clauses
Sentence Structure (Part 4) - Sentence Types