Adjective

What Is an Adjective?

An Adjective is a modifying word which typically attributes qualities to a nounOpens in new window, and is usually placed close to the noun or pronounOpens in new window to which it modifies.

Classes of Adjectives

Adjectives are classed into four classes: Proper, Common, Numeral, and Pronominal.

  1. Proper Adjective — is that sort of adjective derived from a proper noun; as, English, Cuban, American, African, etc.
  2. Common Adjective — is one which describes or limits a noun or a pronoun, but which is not derived from proper noun; as, kind, generous, perfect, honest, cordial, etc.
  3. Pronominal AdjectiveOpens in new window is one which either limits a noun mentioned, or represents a noun understood; as, “This book is awesome,” “This is an awesome book.”
  4. Numeral AdjectiveOpens in new window is one which shows a definite number; as, two, single, third, etc. The numeral adjectives are three forms; Cardinal, Ordinal, and Multiplicative.

Characteristics of Adjectives

Adjectives typically serve to describe the qualities of an entity that a noun represents. An adjective may describe inherent qualities of the entity — for example, its color (purple, blue), size (big, tiny), weight (light, heavy), age (young, old), or quality (good, awful).

The following is a brief summary of the different characteristics of adjectives:

1.  Adjectives modify nouns by describing the inherent property of the entity or thing identified by the noun.

Examples include:
  • Please hand me that golden bracelet, will you?
  • That old man had many nice things to say.

2.  Adjectives can occur in a string, usually of no more than three, and in a preferred order.

Examples include:
  • The Samantha’s decided to buy a nice, fancy, old house.
  • He married a beautiful attractive young lady.

3.  A number of adjectives are gradable and have comparative and superlative forms, –er/–est and/or more/most, as well as less/least for negative gradability. Some native speakers of English treat absolute adjectives (e.g., absolute, unique) as gradable.

Examples include:
  • Speaking of the two athletes, Atkinson is faster.
  • She’s the happiest woman I’ve ever known.
  • He was the least successful of all.

4.  Participial adjectives are formed from present (–ing) and past (–ed) verb forms. They have comparative and superlative forms only with more/most and less/least.

Examples include:
  • That movie was amazing.
  • She had a bored countenance.
  • He became even more disturbed.

5.  Adjectives can be modified by adverbs.

Examples include:
  • His performance was extremely lively.
  • She is attractively beautiful.

Types of Adjectives

Adjectives are of various types. The most common ones are discussed below:

1.  Adjective of Degree — Adjectives of degree indicate the degree of the property meant by the head noun. For example, in the sentence, The show was an utter disaster, the adjective utter describes the degree of the disaster. The degree indicated by such an adjective is usually absolute, as shown below:

  • An absolute hero.
  • A complete team–player.
  • A sheer victory.

2.  Adjective of Quality — Adjectives of quality indicate quality of a person or thing. The sentences below contain adjective of quality:

  • Gretchen is an intelligent student.
  • Politics is a sensitive topic.
  • Muhammed Ali was a brave boxer.
  • Dubai is a renowned city for tourism.

3.  Adjective of Quantity — Adjectives of quantity tells us how much of a thing is talked about.

  • John did not come to school with any writing material.
  • I need some money.
  • Andy has had several appointments cancelled already.
  • According to him, he has only offered few items for sale.
Important Hint!  

Note that adjectives of quantity are sometimes referred as indefinite adjectives.

4.  Adjective of Number — Adjectives of number simply indicate how many persons or things are meant or in what order they stand.

Examples include:
  • All the board members were present.
  • The basket contains seven mangoes.
  • Today is the first day of the month.
Important Hint!  
  • Note that Adjectives that state the exact number of the noun are called cardinalsOpens in new window. For example: nine rulers; three pencils.
  • Those which indicate in what order things stand are called ordinalsOpens in new window. For example, the first month; the third round.
  • All, many, few, several and some are adjectives that do not indicate the exact number. Consider the following examples:
  • All men are mortal.
  • Several instructions were given.
  • The adjectives such as, each, every, either and neither are used when the persons or things are taken one at a time. For example:
  • Every student is expected to use the Ifioque website.

5.  Demonstrative Adjective — The words this, that, these, and those, point to nouns. They are classified as demonstrative adjectives because they are used to demonstrate or indicate which specific thing or person is meant.

Examples include:
  • That car can run as fast as this.
  • These bananas are ripe.
  • Those books are excellent.
Important Hint  

You should not confuse demonstrative adjectives with demonstrative pronounsOpens in new window. They are identical, but a demonstrative pronoun stands alone, while a demonstrative adjective is followed by a noun. See example below:

  • That sounds beautiful. (demonstrative pronoun)
  • That house is beautiful. (demonstrative adjective + noun)

6.  Possessive Adjective — The words my, your, his, her, its, and their are classified possessive adjectives. A possessive adjective shows ownership or possession. It answers the question whose ?

  • The dog is coiling its tail.
  • His name is Mathew.
  • The couples moved to their house.
  • Can you lend me your story book?
Important Hint!  

You should not confuse possessive adjectives with possessive pronounsOpens in new window. A possessive adjective is placed before a noun while a possessive pronoun is used in place of a noun. See example below:

  • That is my car. (possessive adjective + noun)
  • That car is mine. (possessive pronoun)

7.  Interrogative Adjective — The words which, what and whose are classified as interrogative adjective. An interrogative adjective is used with a nounOpens in new window to ask questions.

Examples include:
  • Whose house is that?
  • Which car do you want to buy?
  • Which car do you want to buy?
Important Hint!  

Note that interrogative adjectives differ from interrogative pronounsOpens in new window in the manner that the former is followed by a noun in a sentence. See example below:

  • What time is the meeting? (interrogative adjective + noun)
  • What is that? (interrogative pronoun)
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