In this lesson, we learn everything about adjectives in English. Some of the things the post includes are what adjectives do, how they are used, different types of adjectives in English, and where to use them in a sentence.
What are adjectives in English?
Adjective definition: In English, an adjective is a word that gives information about a noun or pronoun. It either comes right before a noun or after a linking verb. The objective of using an adjective in a sentence is to give more information about the noun it modifies than what the sentence does without the adjective.
Here, we are talking about regular adjectives such as big, beautiful, tall, etc. Regular adjectives are words that are formed to primarily give information about a noun or pronoun.
I have an expensive car.
Here, in this example, the word ‘expensive’ is an adjective that comes before the noun ‘car’ and gives information about it.
Your new house is beautiful.
The sentence has two adjectives in it: new and beautiful. Both adjectives are referring to the noun ‘house’ and modifying it. They tell us that the house is new and beautiful.
The movie was scary.
In the example, we are using the adjective ‘scary’ to describe the noun ‘movie’.
I bought two pink bags for my sweet sister the other day.
In this sentence, two nouns are being modified: bags and sister. We have used two different adjectives (two, pink) to modify the noun ‘bags’, and one adjective (sweet) to modify the noun ‘sister’.
The adjectives used in the sentence tell us that the bags are two in number and pink in color, and the speaker’s sister is sweet.
More examples of adjectives in a sentence:
- You should apologize to Simran for your aggressive behavior.
- Her performance last night was unbelievable.
- None of us are crazy about your idea.
- I was happy to play that small role in his play.
- He is not sad.
- We need a highly passionate person for this role.
- My friend Ron is looking for a new job.
- I love Chinese food.
- Do you have a black pen on you?
Different classes of a descriptive adjective
A noun can be described with different types of information. Here’s a list of types of information (descriptive adjectives) we can modify a noun with:
- Opinion or observation (about the noun)
Please note that these are not types of adjectives; these are different classes of descriptive adjectives in English.
OPINION or OBSERVATION
These are adjectives that refer to your personal opinion about the noun in terms of its quality.
Some common adjectives here include: smart, beautiful, crazy, passionate, expensive, cheap, powerful, weak, defensive, aggressive, lethal, soft, hard, lovely, comfortable, cool, hot, tender, poor, rich, etc.
- Delhi is a smart city.
- You look weak.
- What lovely weather it is.
Something that looks smart to you might not be smart in others’ eyes. It is possible. These qualities are subjective in nature, and that’s why these are called your personal opinions.
These are adjectives that refer to the size of the nouns they modify. Some common adjectives here include big, small, gigantic, tiny, huge, etc.
- He has a huge house in Goa.
- She put a tiny ball in my hand.
- This deal is gigantic for me. (in terms of its importance or the impact it can have)
NOTE: the size can be both literal (in appearance) and non-literal (in terms of importance).
This is a category of descriptive adjectives that refer to the age (how old it is) of the noun. Some common adjectives of age are the following: new, old, antique, young, ancient, etc.
- You are a young man.
- There’s an ancient temple near my place.
These are adjectives that refer to the shape/size of the object (noun). Some common adjectives of shape are as follows: circular, flat, hollow, curved, wide, narrow, square, oval, etc.
- Open the square box. (the box that is square in shape)
- The ground looks oval. (like an oval)
This is a category of adjectives that refer to the color of the nouns they modify. Some common adjectives of color are as follows: red, black, white, pink, blue, yellow, brown, black, etc.
- I can’t wear red clothes. (clothes that are red in color)
- Monu was driving a black car the other day.
- My mother has brown hair.
These are adjectives that tell us the origin of the noun (geographic). In other words, they tell us the nationality of a person or where something is from. Some common adjectives of origin are the following: Indian, Chinese, American, British, Turkish, Japanese, Russian, Mexican, Italian, etc.
- I work with some American people. (people who are from America)
- People in India buy Chinese products a lot. (products that are made and come from China)
- It’s an Italian perfume. (a perfume that has come from Italy)
These are words that talk about what a noun is made of. Simply put, they are names of materials an object is made out of. Some common adjectives of materials are as follows: leather, cotton, gold, silver, milk, plastic, diamond, silk, velvet, nylon, cheese, chicken, etc.
- Show me your leather bag. (the bag that is made of leather)
- She is wearing a gold necklace. (a necklace made of gold)
- I am not a big fan of silk sarees. (sarees that have silk in them or are made of silk)
- Would you like a cheese sandwich? (a sandwich that has cheese in it)
Adjectives of purpose are words that tell us for what a noun is used (its purpose). Here are some common adjectives of purpose: school, office, sleeping, walking, frying, driving, body, lip, cricket, etc.
- Bring your school bag. (the bag you take to school)
- I take sleeping pills every day. (pills that help me in sleeping)
- Do you have some body lotion? (lotion we apply on body)
Order of adjectives
So, we have understood different varieties of adjectives (describing words) that we have in English, and how they modify a noun. But what happens when you modify a noun with different classes of an adjective? Which one comes before or how to position them?
In reality, you would not be often required to use multiple adjectives to modify a noun. This happens once in a while, but whenever it does, we should be equipped with the right technique to do so.
One adjective: I know an exceptional dancer.
Two adjectives: I know an exceptional young dancer.
Three adjectives: I know an exceptional young Indian dancer.
Notice that I have three adjectives to modify the noun ‘dancer’ in the above examples. Notice that all the adjectives come from a different class. Also, note that determiners come before all adjectives, and if a noun is singular and countable, it has to be modified with a determiner.
So, how have we placed them in the sentence?
We follow a chain of order when we use different classes of adjectives in a sentence. It is as follows:
- Opinion or observation
You don’t have to use all of them in a sentence. But you’d have to follow the order when you’re using more than one category of adjective.
Multiple adjectives from the same class
There are times when we need more than one adjective from the same class, usually from the ‘opinion’ class. When two adjectives are used from the same class, use the conjunction ‘and’ or a comma to separate them. Here, the order of the adjectives can be reversed.
- She is a wonderful and passionate lady.
- She is a wonderful, passionate lady.
Whether you punctuate your adjectives with a comma or the conjunction ‘and’ is a choice of your style of writing.
- It is an advanced and insightful book.
- What a beautiful, heart-touching gift you got me.
- You are smart and talented.
- It was an interesting horror movie.
When more than two adjectives from the same class are used together to modify a noun in a sentence, we use commas and the conjunction ‘and’ to separate the adjectives.
- I promise you that he is a loyal, passionate, and determined person and will be perfect for the job.
- We are looking for someone who is logical, systematic, and unemotional.
- If he wasn’t brave, smart, and fast, he would have gotten himself killed there.
- These days, it’s almost impossible to find a partner who is intelligent, loyal, hardworking, and kind.
Degrees of an adjective
There are 3 degrees of an adjective:
The Positive degree of adjectives
These are adjectives that refer to a quality of a noun without comparing it with others. Use a positive degree of adjectives when you are simply describing a noun or pronoun, talking about how it looks to you. They are always in the unaltered form, the original form.
- You have got a beautiful car.
- These cookies are delicious.
- An old man told me something really interesting.
- Your work was exceptional.
- We are proud of what you have done.
- You have become wise surprisingly.
- What a bold lady she is.
The comparative degree of adjectives
These are adjectives that compare a noun with another one. Most adjectives are changed into the comparative degree by adding ‘er’ or ‘ier’ at the end of them. Some of them take the word ‘more/less’ before them.
- You are tall, but Sam is taller than you.
- There is no one smarter than him here.
- India was a better team in the last match.
- You look weaker now. What have you done to your body?
- This is a shorter route; I think we should take this one.
- Just because I am younger than you, you can’t boss me around here.
- She smells nicer today in comparison to what she usually smells.
- You need to be more careful this time.
- If he is more intelligent than all of you put together, it’s not his fault.
- I am just a more practical guy here.
- What have you been doing lately? You look more beautiful now.
- FRIENDS is a more famous show than ‘the office’.
NOTE: We compare two nouns using ‘as + adjective + as’ when the quality both objects refer to is the same.
- Trisha is as smart as Jenny. (Both are equally smart)
- This exam is going to be as difficult as the last one.
- We were never as talented as John.
- No matter how hard you work, you can never become as good as me.
We can use this expression and modify one person with respect to two different situations (context).
- You don’t look as tall as you said you are.
(We are referring to two different situations. The person being referred to is the same though.)
- She was as amazing as everybody says she is.
(We are comparing the quality of a person from two different perspectives.)
Superlative degree of adjectives
These are adjectives that indicate the highest degree of quality of a noun. The quality superlative degree of adjectives refer to is the last point on its scale. Please note that we use the definite article ‘the’ before a superlative degree of adjective.
- You are the smartest person I know.
- This is the best tea I have had so far.
- Without a question, this is the most technical question of the exam.
- I am the youngest person in my group.
- What you are saying is the dumbest thing I have heard in a long time.
- Investing in his project was the worst decision of my life.
- You are the most beautiful lady I know, I said to my wife.
- This is the most expensive watch I own.
Some adjectives don’t change their forms
There are adjectives in English that don’t have their comparative and superlative degrees as they refer to absolute qualities. The meaning of such adjectives can’t be further intensified or pressed. We can say that they come in superlative forms only.
Here’s the list of adjectives that don’t have comparative and superlative degrees:
- You are my favorite teacher.
- The answer you gave was correct.
- Nothing is free here.
- I want the whole packet.
- Everyone is perfect in their own way.
If something is correct, it can’t be more or less correct; it is just correct. Similarly, if you call something or someone perfect, they are at the top with respect to the quality they are being referred to. Intensifying or limiting the quality is not possible here. So, all these adjectives don’t have other forms; we don’t add anything at the end of them.
Some adjectives end with ‘ly’, Don’t confuse them with adverbs.
There are some adjectives in English that end with ly. Words ending with ly often work as an adverb, but some of them function as an adjective too. Here is the list of some common words ending with ly that function as adjectives:
- What a lovely surprise!
- He is still wobbly from the kick. He hasn’t recovered fully yet.
- You have curly hair.
- The food you cooked last night was heavenly.
- He is a jolly person.
Types of adjective in English
There are 8 types of adjectives in English:
- Descriptive or qualitative adjective
- Quantitative adjective
- Demonstrative adjective
- Distributive adjective
- Possessive adjective
- Interrogative adjective
- Proper adjective
- Participial or verbal adjective
- Attributive adjective
- Predicate adjective
- Compound adjective
- Indefinite adjective
Descriptive or qualitative adjective
These are adjectives that refer to the qualities of a person or a thing in terms of features (opinion), size, shape, age, color, origin, material, and purpose. We have already talked about these adjectives and the order in which they are used.
Some examples of qualitative adjectives:
- He might look too young for this role, but he is very skillful.
- There is no doubt that you are one of the best employees we have, but some people are not happy with your behavior.
- The flat was expensive.
- Some say that the earth is flat, not round.
- You are beautiful to me.
It is an adjective that modifies a noun by indicating its number. It can be a cardinal number or an ordinal number.
Cardinal numbers = one, two, three, four, five, six…
Ordinal numbers = first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…
- There are two issues with this plan.
- One of my friends has 6 cars.
- This is the first time I am getting to see you.
- Chandigarh is the second cleanest city in India.
Some quantitative adjectives don’t indicate a specific number. They are indefinite in nature and are usually called indefinite adjectives. Some of these are the following: some, a few, many, much, a lot, etc.
It is an adjective that points out the number of the object and its vicinity from the speaker. There are 4 demonstrative adjectives in English: this, that, these, and those.
|This||singular||close to the speaker|
1. This bag was gifted to me 3 years back.
2. We love this room.
3. I have organized this party.
|That||singular||far away from the speaker (but in sight)|
1. Don’t even look at that car. It is way beyond our budget.
2. Could you bring that guy here?
3. That deal didn’t come to fruition because of us being underconfident.
|These||plural||Close to the speaker|
1. I love these guys. They have been a big part of taking this company to where it is today.
2. Keep these chairs here only. We use them.
3. Do you own all of these cars?
|Those||plural||Far away from the speaker (but in sight)|
1. Those buildings have recently been built.
2. Look at those flags near the mountain.
3. I miss those days when we use to play carrom and study together.
- I like this dress. (the speaking is pointing out a dress that is quite close to the speaker)
- Do you know that girl? (the speaking is pointing out a girl who is a little far away from the speaker but in sight)
- These bikes are mine. (the speaking is pointing out a couple of bikes that are in front of them)
- Some of my friends live in those flats. (the speaking is pointing out some flats that are far away from them but in sight)
NOTE: Generally, a demonstrative adjective points out a noun in terms of space (how close or far away it is from the speaker), but it can also refer to a time (noun) that is close or far away from the point where the speaker is at the moment of speaking.
- I want you to shut up and enjoy this moment.
The expression ‘this moment’ is referring to the current time; it is close to the time when the message is delivered.
- I remember that day. We had a lot of fun.
(The adjective ‘that’ is pointing out a day (time) that is far away from the day or time when the speaker delivered this message. Let’s say the speaker said that on September 29, 2021, and the day he/she is referring to is October 3, 2020. So, the speaker is using the demonstrative adjective ‘that‘ to refer to a singular noun (day) in terms of time. If the day was close to the day he said this sentence on, we would use this not that.
Notice that demonstrative adjectives come right before the nouns they modify. When they are not followed by a noun, they function as a pronoun. Look at the following examples to understand them better:
- This is my house. (pronoun, subject)
- I love this house. (adjective)
- My father works in that building. (adjective)
- I want to own that someday. (pronoun, object)
- These dogs can hurt you. (adjective)
- Stay away from these. They bite. (pronoun)
- Those were the days of our life. (pronoun)
- I miss those days. (adjective)
Distributive adjectives are used to individually point out a person/thing of a group. Here are the distributive adjectives in English:
|Each||It is used to refer to one (but not specific) member of a group. It is followed by a singular noun.|
1. Each member knows their job well.
2. I gave each person a chance to speak.
|Every||It is used to look at a group of people/things as a whole. It is followed by a singular noun.|
1. Every person in the group helped in making the event better.
2. Every class performed amazingly well last year.
|Either||It is used to refer to one item in a group of two: anyone out of the two items. It is also followed by a singular noun.|
1. Either guy can do this job.
2. I am happy with either offer.
|Neither||It means ‘not out of the two.’ It is also followed by a singular noun.|
1. Neither girl was at fault.
2. Neither statement makes any sense.
|Both||It refers to two items in a list of two|
1. Both men are very talented.
2. I like both ideas.
|Any||It refers to one item of the group|
1. Give me any book to read.
2. Any person with two hands can do it.
A possessive adjective comes before a noun it modifies and refers to its possession (who owns it or who it belongs to).
- my work = the work that I do
- your house = a house that you own
- his company = the company that he is associated with or owns
- her job = the job that she does
- our goal = the goal that we have
- their manners = the manners that they have
- its durability = the durability that belongs to it
1. He wants to buy my house.
2. My friends have always been there for me.
3. I personally love your business modal, but my company would not let me work with you guys.
1. Our families are very religious.
2. Our tickets have been booked.
3. You don’t need to be worried about our future.
1. Everyone loved your performance last night.
2. I know your friends.
3. As much as I hate to say this, you need to work on your manners. You were quite rude at that party.
1. Talk to Jon. His knowledge of the subject will shock you.
2. Look at his new bike. It looks great.
3. Don’t talk about his family.
1. We all were in awe of her take on the matter.
2. Her parents have come to talk to you.
3. Her fight with Ronda changed the sport of boxing forever.
1. I love going to Sharmas. Their hospitality is second to none.
2. Don’t go to their office after 6 pm.
3. The kids are ready to go on the trip, but their families are not allowing them.
1. You should go for this car. Its build quality is amazing.
2. I love this kurta. Its fabric is amazing.
3. The dish tastes great, but its gravy is a little thick.
An interrogative adjective is a word that comes before a noun and helps the sentence refer to an object or the possession of a person.
It is used to refer to an object out of options that are unknown or uncertain.
1. What sport do you like?
2. What company would you like to work with?
3. What drink would you like to order?
It is used in a question to refer to an object from a set of certain options.
1. Which movie are you the most excited about?
2. Which bike is yours? I am going to have the other ones removed.
3. Which presentation did you like the most?
|whose||It is used to refer to the owner of an object or the belonger of a thing (physical or nonphysical).|
1. Whose dog is this?
2. Whose car were you driving the other day?
3. Whose presentation did you like the most?
A proper adjective is a word that is formed from a proper noun. Since it comes from a proper noun, it has to be capitalized.
Some proper adjectives in English:
- There is an Indian restaurant nearby. Let’s go there.
- We have a chapter on the Roman empire in our course.
- I love Swiss candies.
- British English is very different from American English.
Participial or verbal adjective
A participial or verbal adjective is a present or past participle form of a verb that works as an adjective.
Present participle adjectives
- I have an interesting offer for you.
(Here, the word interesting is a present participle that functions as an adjective and modifies the noun offer.)
- You will have to clear the writing task to get the job.
(The word writing is a present participle that works as an adjective and modifies the noun task.)
- The book you gave me was motivating.
(It is describing the book, referring to its quality.)
Past participle adjectives
These are the past participle form (V3) of a verb. They can also come before a noun in a noun phrase and after the linking verb.
- We are motivated to do this task.
(The word motivated refers to the subject and describes it. When an adjective comes after a linking verb and modifies the subject, it is called a predicate adjective: a type of subject complement.)
- We don’t keep the broken glass at home.
(The adjective broken modifies the noun glass. It tells us about the state of the glass. It’s broken.)
- Look at the drunk guy in the red jacket.
(The past participle drunk modifies the noun man and tells us what state he is in.)
Adjectives that come before the noun they modify in a noun phrase are called attributive adjectives. They can be any type of adjective. The name is given only on the basis of the placement of the adjective, not how it looks, or how it modifies a noun.
- I have a good idea that I want to share with you all.
- What a smart man you are.
- One of my close friends is coming to my place tonight.
- Can you get me a copy of the same book?
- Once a wise man said to me, ” You are as good as you think you are.”
- No problem is a big problem if you have an unbroken will to overcome it.
- These men know their job.
NOTE: articles also function as adjectives as they refer to a noun and modify it. So, the articles you see in these examples are also attributive adjectives.
A predicate adjective is an adjective that sits next to a linking verb and modifies the subject of a sentence. It is one of the two types of subject complement.
Predicate adjective: This car seems expensive for us.
Attributive adjective: This expensive car is not for us.
The noun being modified is underlined in the sentences.
- Ashish is polite to everyone.
- My friends are supportive.
- I am petrified of dogs.
- She will be late to work today. Don’t wait for you.
- The doctors may be wrong about your condition. Let’s not lose hope.
- You seem unhappy with your job.
- We could have been more reasonable about the deal.
A compound adjective is a combination of two or more words that functions as one word and modifies a noun/pronoun.
- He is happy doing a blue-collar job.
- It was a cold-blooded murder.
- No one likes to work with him as he is short-tempered.
- You need to be self-motivated.
- I would love to be a part of it, but it’s a time-consuming process, and I don’t have time at the moment.
Noun + adjective/participle
These are adjectives that modify a noun but do not refer to a definite modification (quantity). Some common indefinite adjectives are the following:
- plenty of
- a lot of
- a few
- Give me some ideas to start something. (we don’t know exactly how many the speaker is talking about)
- He has been to many countries.
- You were provided plenty of opportunities to prove your worth.
- There is much scope for growth here.
- I have a few friends who can help you.
Adjective vs adjective phrase vs adjective clause
The only difference between an adjective, adjective phrase, and adjective clause is that an adjective is just a word, an adjective phrase is a group of words that does not have a subject-verb combination, and an adjective clause is a dependent clause.
Study the differences through the table below.
|Adjective||It is a word that modifies a noun/pronoun.|
1. You are a smart man.
2. The match was exciting.
|Adjective phrase||It is a group of words that modifies a noun/pronoun.|
Structure: adverb + adjective
1. You are a very smart man.
2. The match was very exciting.
|Adjective clause||It is a dependent clause that comes right after a noun/pronoun and gives information about it.|
Structure: subordinating conjunction + subject + predicate
1. The man who helped me yesterday is a cop.
2. We need someone who can help us lead the marketing department.
Note: the noun/pronoun being modified here is underlined.
Important points to note
- Articles are also considered adjectives as they also define a noun.
- Verbal adjectives are forms of verbs.
- Adjectives either come right before the noun they modify or after the linking verb.
- Adjectives also come after an object and function as object complement by modifying it.
What is an adjective?
It is a word that identifies a noun and gives information about it. Some common adjectives: good, tall, bad, smart, tall, etc.
How can I identify adjectives?
Adjectives either come right before a noun, after the linking verb, or an object complement.
1. A smart man never rushes. (before the noun ‘man’)
2. You are smart. (after the linking verb ‘are’)
3. I can’t call you smart. (after the object ‘you’)
What are the two main types of adjectives?
The main types of adjectives are the following:
Descriptive or qualitative adjective
Participial or verbal adjective
How can I find adjectives in a sentence?
Usually, adjectives come right before the noun they modify. So, look for the noun/nouns in a sentence and see if it precedes by a word modifying it. Also, adjectives come after a linking verb (subject complement) and an object (object complement).
What are examples of adjectives?
1. Always have a positive attitude.
2. We are proud of what you have done.
3. You look handsome.
4. Could you pass me the brown bottle?
5. What a beautiful car you have.
Now, we know what adjectives are and everything about them. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.
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