Adjectives Overview & Examples
Classes of Adjectives
Adjectives are classed into four classes: Proper, Common, Numeral, and Pronominal Adjectives.
- Proper Adjective — is that sort of adjective derived from a proper noun; as, English, Cuban, American, African, etc.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Numeral AdjectiveOpens in new window — is one which shows a definite number; as, two, single, third, etc.
The numeral adjectives have three forms; Cardinal, Ordinal, and Multiplicative.
- The Cardinals Opens in new window show how many; as, nineteen, sixty.
- The Ordinals Opens in new window show order; as, ninth, sixtieth.
- The Multiplicatives Opens in new window show how many fold; as, single, double or twofold, triple or threefold.
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 different characteristics of adjectives are briefly summarized below:
Adjectives modify nouns by describing the inherent property of the entity or thing identified by the noun.
- Please hand me that golden bracelet, will you?
- That old man had many nice things to say.
Adjectives can occur in a string, usually of no more than three, and in a preferred order.
- The Samantha’s decided to buy a nice, fancy, old house.
- He married a beautiful attractive young lady.
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.
- Speaking of the two athletes, Atkinson is faster.
- She’s the happiest woman I’ve ever known.
- He was the least successful of all.
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.
- That movie was amazing.
- She had a bored countenance.
- He became even more disturbed.
Adjectives can be modified by adverbs.
- His performance was extremely lively.
- She is attractively beautiful.
Types of Adjectives
Adjectives consist in 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, as the following examples illustrate:
- 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.
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. Consider the following sentences:
- All the board members were present.
- The basket contains seven mangoes.
- Today is the first day of the month.
Consider these examples:
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, as shown in the following examples.
- That car can run as fast as this.
- These bananas are ripe.
- Those books are excellent.
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:
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 ? Note the following examples:
- The dog is coiling its tail.
- His name is Mathew.
- The couples moved to their house.
- Can you lend me your story book?
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:
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, as follows:
- Whose house is that?
- Which car do you want to buy?
- What pet do you want to have?
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: