Adjective phrases

Understanding adjective Phrase forms

  • ADJECTIVE PHRASES can consist of just an adjective or can also include a preceding adverb and/or a following prepositional phrase.

Yes indeed, adjective phrases can consist of just an adjective, as is the case in 1a, of an adjective with a preceding adverb, as in 1b, with a following prepositional phrase, as in 1c, or with both an adverb and prepositional phrase, as the case is in 1d.

  • 1a)  The customers were angry. [angry → Adj]
  • 1b)  He was extremely upset. [extremely → Adv, upset → Adj ]
  • 1c)  He was upset about the poor service. [upset → Adj, about the poor service → PP]
  • 1d)  He was extremely upset about the poor service. [extremely → Adv, upset → Adj, about the poor service → PP]

Many adjectives are normally followed by a particular preposition. For instance, when upset occurs in predicative position, it is often followed by the preposition about, as seen in 1c) and 1d).

The preposition at, by, and with are also common with upset. Other adjectives take different prepositions. For example, grateful normally takes a prepositional phrase headed by for, as sentence 2) illustrates.

  • 2)  My father was grateful for the police officer’s intervention.

Since English language learners sometimes choose the wrong preposition when attempting to speak or write sentences such as 1c) and 2), and teachers are not always aware of the reason why such sentences are ungrammatical, adjectives that take prepositional phrase complements are presented below, grouped by the preposition they commonly occur with. Each group is illustrated by an example sentence.

Adjectives followed by prepositional phrases beginning with about include angry, annoyed, concerned, delighted, glad, mad, pleased, and upset, as exemplified in 3).

  • 3)  They were concerned about the possibility that he might refuse.

In many cases, at can also occur with these adjectives:

  • They were delighted about/at the response.

Adjectives that are often followed by prepositional phrases beginning with at include adept, aghast, alarmed, amazed, angry, awful, clever, disgusted, gifted, great, hopeless, indignant, mad, pleased, skilled, talented, and terrible.

This group can be divided into two subgroups based on meaning. One subgroup consists of adjectives like amazed and indignant, which they convey a psychological reaction, as shown in 4a).

  • 4a)  The author was amazed at the reaction he received from the critics.
  • 4b)  I am really terrible at sports.

The other subgroup consists of adjectives that describe an ability or lack of ability with regard to some activity, displayed in 4b).

This group includes the adjectives answerable, anxious, bad, difficult, eager, easy, good, grateful, greedy, necessary, prepared, responsible, and sorry.

  • 5a)  Everyone knows that smoking is not good for you.
  • 5b)  We are very sorry for the inconvenience.

This is a fairly large group, which includes angry, bored, busy, cautious, careful, conversant, cross, disappointed, enchanted, familiar, familiar, fed up, fraught, furious, happy, impatient, pleased, obsessed, riddled, satisfied, strict, and tinged. An example is shown in 6).

  • 6) Yes, I am familiar with that term.