You may already know the concept of categorizing words based on their form and function, such as which words are nouns, adverbs, verbs, or prepositions.
Another word class that you should familiarize yourself with is adjectives.
But what are adjectives exactly? How do they function? Well, you are in luck!
On this page, we will answer all questions you might have regarding adjectives. Please read on.
- How do Adjectives Function in English Grammar?
- Difference Between Adjectives and Adverbs
- What are the Common Mistakes with Adjectives and Adverbs?
- Which Tests Correctly Identify English Adjectives?
- What are the Seven Types of English Adjectives?
- What are the Five Rules of Ordering Adjectives?
- Which Academic Adjectives and Phrases are Best?
- Why Should We be Familiar with Adjectives?
Adjectives are words that modify or describe other words, enhancing the descriptive and engaging nature of your writing and voice.
Adjectives, in short, are describing words.
They are frequently placed before the noun or pronoun that they modify since they are used to identify or quantify individual individuals and objects.
Multiple adjectives may be used in some sentences.
An adjective can tell…
|color||bluish, red, brown|
|size||huge, small, tiny|
|shape||oval, rectangular, square|
|taste||salty, sweet, tasteless|
|odor||fruity, musky, stinky|
|texture||bumpy, rough, smooth|
|sound||harmonious, loud, pleasant|
|number||few, four, many|
|weather||Cold, hot, sunny|
|origin||Asian, Dutch, Japanese|
|quality||old, sturdy, weak|
How do Adjectives Function in English Grammar?
Just like other word classes in the English language, adjectives also have several functions depending on how they are employed in a sentence.
In this section, we are exploring the different ways in which adjectives can be used in a sentence.
- Function 1 – To describe nouns
- Function 2 – To provide specific opinions
- Function 3 – To provide general opinions
- Function 4 – To compare nouns
- Function 5 – To intensify nouns
- Function 6 – To mitigate nouns
Function 1 – To describe nouns
The main purpose of adjectives is to describe the nouns in a sentence. Sometimes, there can be more than one adjective in a sentence.
“Tesla is an expensive car.”
“That big red bag belongs to my brother.”
“My caring mother baked these delicious cookies for me.”
Function 2 – To provide specific opinions
Some adjectives can be employed to express precise thoughts about specific noun types, limiting the number of nouns they can modify while increasing their descriptive strength.
When describing meals, for example, adjectives like ‘wonderful’ or ‘tasty’ are perfectly acceptable, yet using ‘beautiful’ in describing a man and ‘handsome’ in describing a woman is sometimes regarded as wrong.
Function 3 – To provide general opinions
Some adjectives can be more broadly descriptive and are less valuable to academics. These adjectives provide you with more options when it comes to the nouns they can modify.
General adjectives like ‘beautiful’ and ‘strange’ can be used to describe a wide range of nouns, which explains why they are widely employed in spoken English
Function 4 – To compare nouns
Adjectives are also used to compare nouns in the form of comparative and superlative adjectives.
Comparative adjectives are used when two nouns are being compared, while superlative nouns are employed when three or more nouns are being compared.
The rule of thumb is to add the suffix -r or -er (comparative) and the suffix -st or -est (superlative) at the end of the adjectives.
There are some adjectives however that do not follow this rule and instead, the words ‘more’ and ‘most’ are placed before the adjectives.
|tall||“I am taller than my sister.”||“My eldest brother is the tallest in the family.”|
|heavy||“My bed is heavier than my study table.”||“The heaviest furniture in my house is my closet.”|
|important||“I think that a phone is more important than a tablet.”||“For me, the most important device you can have is a laptop.”|
|beautiful||“The blue gown is more beautiful than the black gown.”||“The white gown is the most beautiful of the three.”|
Function 5 – To intensify nouns
Certain adjectives can easily augment a noun in this way.
While a lot of people use these adjectives often, keep in mind that most of them are very informal and should be avoided in academic settings.
|absolute||“The show was an absolute success.”|
|complete||“Her grades are a complete disaster.”|
|real||“My baby sister is a real sweetheart.”|
|total||“His room is a total mess.”|
Function 6 – To mitigate nouns
Finally, a modest number of adjectives can be employed to weaken nouns by mitigation, which has the opposite effect.
|quite||“The play was quite boring.”|
|rather||“She was rather disappointed to not get the promotion.”|
Difference Between Adjectives and Adverbs
Adverbs and adjectives can be difficult to understand, even for expert English students.
Being aware of the difference between the two will aid you in improving your English grammar abilities and prevent some common grammatical errors.
Adverbs and adjectives are speech or word class components.
They are both essential parts of English grammar that aid in the description of sentences. What sets them apart is what they describe.
- Modify pronouns and nouns (things, people, places). They never use other verbs or adjectives to describe them.
- Adjectives may sometimes be placed before or after the nouns that they modify.
“I own a black car.”
“My sister has two laptops.”
“He is a hardworking man.”
“These muffins are delicious.”
- Describe how, when, where, how often and to what extent an action is done. They modify verbs, adjectives, and other word classes but not nouns.
- Adverbs can sometimes be placed anywhere in the sentence: beginning, middle and end.
“The host politely welcomed the guests.”
“Hurriedly, he opened the door.”
“They are postponing the meeting until next week.”
“The meeting was held in the library.”
However, be cautious because some words can function as either an adjective or an adverb depending on how they are used in the phrase.
“She is a fast learner.”
‘Fast’ here is an adjective because it describes the noun ‘learner’.
“You have to swim fast if a whale is behind you.”
‘Fast’ here is an adverb because it describes the verb ‘swim’.
“We are having an early dinner.”
‘Early’ here is an adjective because it describes the noun ‘dinner’.
“The guests arrived early for the party.”
‘Early’ here is an adverb because it describes the verb ‘arrived’.
What are the Common Mistakes with Adjectives and Adverbs?
You may be one of those people who cannot tell whether a word is an adjective or an adverb. We cannot say we blame you.
These two components of speech can be difficult to understand at times.
Here are the most typical mistakes individuals make with adjectives and adverbs to help you understand them better.
- Mistake 1 – ‘Good’ vs ‘Well’
- Mistake 2 – ‘Enough’
- Mistake 3 – Adjectives ‘A lot’ and ‘Lots of’ vs Adverbs of Degree
Mistake 1 – ‘Good’ vs ‘Well’
One of the most commonly misunderstood adjective/adverb pairs is this one. There is no good method to remember this other than memory.
Take note that ‘good’ is an adjective and ‘well’ is an ‘adverb’.
“You have such good eyes for cars.” (adjective)
It describes the noun ‘eyes’.
“The guest performer sang so well.” (adverb)
It describes the verb ‘sings’.
Mistake 2 – ‘Enough’
As an adjective, ‘enough’ should appear before nouns.
“Do you have enough funds in your bank account to buy the house”?
“Do you have funds enough in your bank account to buy the house”?
“We need enough eggs to bake a dozen pies.”
“We need eggs enough to bake a dozen pies.”
On the other hand, as an adverb, ‘enough’ must come after adverbs, verbs, and adjectives.
“The room isn’t big enough for all of us.”
“The room isn’t enough big for all of us.”
“The coffee isn’t hot enough; I don’t want it.”
“The coffee isn’t enough hot; I don’t want it.”
Mistake 3 – Adjectives ‘A lot’ and ‘Lots of’ vs Adverbs of Degree
To describe a large quantity, the adjectives ‘a lot of’ / ‘lots of’ is employed before nouns.
“I have a lot of pictures from last night’s events.”
“There were lots of people at the party.”
To describe or highlight something intense, the adverbs ‘very’, ‘so’, and ‘really’ are placed before adjectives and another adverb.
“I worked really hard for that promotion.”
“She was so overwhelmed with her emotions that she started crying.”
Which Tests Correctly Identify English Adjectives?
Keep in mind that any word in the English language might belong to several different word types depending on its function, syntax, and form.
We have put up a list of five tests to help you detect adjectives more simply and consistently because it is not always obvious to the speaker which words belong to which class and when.
- Test 1 – Collocations
- Test 2 – Function
- Test 3 – Morphology
- Test 4 – Syntax
- Test 5 – Exceptions
Test 1 – Collocations
If you can enhance a word with either ‘really’ or ‘very’, that term is probably an adjective.
If you can grammatically intensify the word you are looking at in this way, it is most certainly an adjective.
|intelligent||“The new student is very intelligent, he aced the entrance exam .”|
|tiring||“The trip was so tiring, I crashed the moment I got home.”|
Test 2 – Function
In the English language, adjectives can serve six typical roles, such as making comparisons or moderating nouns. If you want to boost your chances of getting it right, see if the words you have can be used for any of these six.
|To describe nouns||“The young girl is wearing a colorful dress.”|
|To provide specific opinions||“The view on top of the hills is wonderful.”|
|To provide general opinions||“They are generous.”|
|To compare nouns||“My sister is caring but my mom is more caring.”|
|To intensify nouns||“Our class president is a perfect role model for the class.”|
|To mitigate nouns||“The book was fairly uninteresting.”|
Test 3 – Morphology
The branch of English that studies how words are formed is known as morphology.
While adjectives in English do not alter form to indicate a noun’s gender or number, there are some typical adjectival suffixes in English that you should be aware of.
|Noun||+ Suffix||= Adjective|
|Verb||+ Suffix||= Adjective|
Test 4 – Syntax
Syntax is useful for recognizing adjectives since it is the study of how words are organized.
The phrases ‘less/more’ or ‘least/most’ that precede comparative and superlative adjectives that don’t utilize the suffixes ‘-er’ and ‘-est’, for example, make it easy to recognize them.
Finally, the two most essential syntactic principles are that
(1) attributive adjectives should come before the noun they modify, and
(2) predicative adjectives should come after a copula or linking verb.
- “That clever boy loves playing tricks on others.”
- “He is a clever boy.”
There are four basic syntactic patterns in which adjectives are commonly encountered, in addition to these comparative, attributive, and predicative constructions.
|article||+ adjective||+ noun|
|demonstrative||+ adjective||+ noun|
|determiner||+ adjective||+ noun|
|quantifier||+ adjective||+ noun|
Test 5 – Exceptions
Of course, in grammar, there are always exceptions that must be memorized if you want to accurately identify adjectives every time.
There are examples such as postpositive adjectives that are curiously situated after the nouns they modify, making identification considerably more difficult.
The key is to memorize the rules governing them and once you have used and applied them well enough, it should not be that difficult anymore.
What are the Seven Types of English Adjectives?
Adjectives play a vital role in our sentences.
Without them, sentences are boring and at times, our listeners and readers would not be able to understand what exactly we are saying and writing.
This section will look at and illustrate the seven various types of adjectives that can be found in everyday speech and academic writing:
- Type 1 – Attributive Adjectives
- Type 2 – Predicative Adjectives
- Type 3 – Nominal Adjectives
- Type 4 – Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
- Type 5 – Interrogative Adjectives
- Type 6 – Indefinite Adjectives
- Type 7 – Eponymous Adjectives
Type 1 – Attributive Adjectives
The attributive adjective is one of the most commonly used types of adjectives.
Attributives are adjectives that modify a noun within a bigger noun phrase (as the subject or object of a clause).
|red||“Do you want this red shirt or not”|
|happy||“The happiest people are those that live by the moment.”|
Some adjectives that are within a noun phrase directly precede the nouns they describe.
While this grammatical structure is followed by practically all such attributive phrases, some attributive adjectives do the exact reverse.
When used in particular formulations, post-positives, for example, are a type of adjective that comes after the nouns they describe.
|better||“You need to be with someone better.”|
|interesting||“There was nothing interesting going on.”|
Because post-positive adjectives nearly invariably follow a specific sort of noun, it is usually pretty straightforward to recognize post-positive constructions.
The nouns used immediately before the post-positive adjectives are indefinite pronouns, such as ‘somebody’, ‘no one’, ‘nothing’, and ‘something’.
Apart from constructs that follow indefinite pronouns, the only other occasion you will come across postpositive adjectives is when set names and phrases demand them, like in the following:
Type 2 – Predicative Adjectives
Unlike attributive adjectives, which are found in the complements of copula or other connecting verbs, predicative adjectives are found in the complements of noun phrases as the subjects or objects of a clause. Linking verbs that can take complements, such as ‘be’, ‘feel’, or ‘seem’, commonly do so by introducing predicative adjectives.
|cold||“It feels cold today.”|
|quiet||“She was quiet the entire ride home.”|
Type 3 – Nominal Adjectives
Nominative adjectives are far less common than attributive and predicative adjectives.
Nominal adjectives, as the name suggests, are adjectives that function more like nouns than adjectives.
A nominal adjective is formed when the head noun is removed from the construction in which the adjective comes before the noun as part of the broader noun phrase.
|“Donate your money to the poor people.”|
“Do you want warm water or cold?”
“I prefer pepperoni pizza over Hawaiian.”
Type 4 – Comparative and Superlative Adjectives
There are also adjectives (such as ‘smart’ or ‘strong’) that can be used to make comparisons within the English language, as taught in detail earlier.
|nice||“The dress you are wearing is nicer than mine.”||“That is the nicest dress I have ever seen.”|
|strong||“My dad is stronger than my brother.”||“My uncle is the strongest of the three.”|
|smart||“Dan is smarter than Luke.”||“Max is the smartest of the three.”|
|bad||“Losing a phone is worse than losing money.”||“Losing a job is the worst.”|
Type 5 – Interrogative Adjectives
The adjectives ‘what’, ‘which’, and ‘whose’ are the only ones in the English language that have the function of interrogating (making questions).
Interrogative adjectives, like other types of attributive adjectives, are employed to alter nouns within noun phrases.
|what||“What time does the train leave?”|
|which||“Which room do you prefer?|
|whose||“Whose signature for the approval of my application?”|
Type 6 – Indefinite Adjectives
Indefinite adjectives like ‘any’, ‘many’, and ‘no’, which are formed from indefinite pronouns like ‘any’ or ‘nothing’, as described earlier, are another type of special adjective in that they operate similarly to the indefinite articles ‘a’ and ‘an’.
The following expressions all rely on the usage of indefinite adjectives to introduce or discuss non-specific things.
|any||“Are there any other options?”|
|many||“There are many kinds of shoes available in the shop.”|
|no||“No pre-payment was needed in the booking.”|
Type 7 – Eponymous Adjectives
Finally, eponymous adjectives, which are constructed from the name of a real or mythical character, are rather uncommon.
|Christian||“He is a very Christian man.”|
|Confucian||“Clearly, this is a Confucian temple.”|
What are the Five Rules of Ordering Adjectives?
This next section will go over five more guidelines that, if followed, will help you succeed in school and work/business.
Each of the five concerns listed below has been accompanied by explanations and examples that you can refer to in the future.
- Rule 1 – Strictly Attributive Adjectives
- Rule 2 – Strictly Predicative Adjectives
- Rule 3 – Intensifying Adjectives
- Rule 4 – Coordinating Adjectives
- Rule 5 – Ordering Adjectives
Rule 1 – Strictly Attributive Adjectives
Attributives serve the phrase function of the subject or object of a clause when they are contained within a bigger noun phrase.
Predicative adjectives, on the contrary, are used the complement a =another connecting verb.
While many adjectives can be attributive or predicative depending on their context and meaning, a few students should avoid using predicative constructions.
Remember that the following adjectives are strictly attributive if you want to be grammatical in your language use.
|Strictly Attributive |
Rule 2 – Strictly Predicative Adjectives
Similarly, several adjectives are only grammatically correct when used in conjunction with copula or linking verbs in predicative constructions.
|Strictly Predicative |
Rule 3 – Intensifying Adjectives
While adjectives like ‘complete’ can be used to intensify nouns, adjectives can also be amplified by adding words like ‘extremely’, ‘really’, or ‘very’.
|complete||“Her gown was a complete masterpiece.”|
|such||“Today was such a hot and humid day.”|
Rule 4 – Coordinating Adjectives
The rules become slightly trickier when attempting to employ more than one adjective in a row, such as in a sentence.
Notice how the adjectives ‘hot’ and ‘dry’ are both modifying the noun ‘summer’, are both in the same sequence and are both separated by a comma in the previous example.
Coordinate adjectives like these can be linked together with a comma or the conjunction ‘and’.
|“This will be a long and boring day.” |
“Her energetic, infectious performance was applauded by the audience.”
On the other hand, some adjectives may appear to coordinate in this way but would be ungrammatical if a comma or the word ‘and’ were added.
The adjective closest to the noun changes the noun (as in ‘gold watch’), whereas the first adjective (‘new’) modifies the noun phrase (‘new gold watch’).
These adjectives should not be separated by a comma or a ‘and’ because they do not coordinate.
|“He drove on a long dirt road.” |
“The strong tropical typhoon wrecked the whole village.”
Rule 5 – Ordering Adjectives
Finally, and possibly most crucially, there is the issue of how to organize adjectives correctly. When listing many adjectives together, a specific order must be followed.
If students want to improve their odds of academic adjective success, they should learn to use nine of these semantic categories.
While it is not likely that you will ever create or use an expression that includes all nine of the categories listed below, this table can nevertheless be utilized when deciding how to rank your adjectives.
|Category||Example 1||Example 2|
Which Academic Adjectives and Phrases are Best?
We have gathered the most common academic adjectives and expressions and listed them below because certain adjectives and associated expressions are more appropriate while studying academically, such as when conducting research or writing university-level assignments.
150+ of the Most Common Academic Adjectives
|A||absolute, abstract, acceptable, accessible, active, actual, acute, additional, adequate, alternative, apparent, applicable, appropriate, available, average|
|C||central, certain, clear, common, competitive, complete, complex, comprehensive, considerable, consistent, conventional, correct, crucial|
|D||detailed, different, difficult, distinct, dominant|
|E||early, effective, equal, equivalent, essential, excessive, experimental, explicit, extensive, extreme|
|F||favorable, final, fixed, following, formal, frequent, fundamental|
|I||ideal, identical, immediate, important, incomplete, independent, indirect, individual, influential, inherent, initial, interesting, internal|
|J||joyous, jovial, just|
|K||keen, known, knowledgeable|
|L||large, leading, likely, limited, logical|
|M||main, major, male, maximum, mental, minimal, minor, misleading, modern|
|N||natural, necessary, negative, normal|
|O||obvious, original, overall|
|P||parallel, partial, particular, permanent, physical, positive, possible, potential, practical, primary, prime, principal, productive, profound, prominent|
|R||radical, random, rapid, rational, real, realistic, recent, related, relevant, responsible, restricted|
|S||scientific, secondary, selective, separate, significant, similar, simple, social, special, specific, stable, standard, strict, substantial, successful, successive, sufficient, suitable, surprising, symbolic, systematic|
|T||theoretical, traditional, typical|
|U||unique, unlike, unlikely, unsuccessful, useful|
|V||valid, valuable, varied, various, visual, vital|
|Y||yielding, young, youthful|
Why Should We be Familiar with Adjectives?
Now that we have covered everything there is to know about adjectives; it is worth noting that this part of speech is something that should not be taken for granted.
Adjectives are just as essential and colorful as the other word classes, making it possible for us to express ourselves more interestingly and comprehensively.
That being said, we hope that we can answer any questions you might have regarding adjectives and eventually will help you be more confident in employing them, in school, at work, in business, and even in your daily conversations with family and friends.
Additional Reading — ENGLISH GRAMMAR
- What is British English?
- What is American English?
- What is Canadian English?
- What is Australian English?
- 30+ Tips to Speak English Without Grammar Mistakes
- What Are Idioms?
- What Are Verbs?
- What Are Nouns?
- What Are Pronouns?
- What Are Adverbs?
- What Are Tenses?
- What Are Punctuation Marks?
- What Are Prepositions?
- What Are Loanwords?
- What are Phrasal Verbs?
- What Are Collocations?
- What Are Conjunctions?
- What are Modals?
- What is Subject-Verb Agreement?
- What Are Sentence Structures?
- What Are Sentence Parts?
- What are Sentence Functions?
- What Are Clauses?
- What are the Common Slang Words in the English Language?
- What are the Commonly Misspelled Words in English?