Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Adjective

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Adjective

In English, words are grouped into word classes based on their function in a sentence. There are nine main word classes in English; nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronouns, determiners, conjunctions, and interjections. This explanation is all about adjectives.

Adjective meaning

An adjective is a word usually used to modify and provide more information about a noun or pronoun. Adjectives are often called 'describing words' as they describe a feature or quality of the noun, such as colour, size, quantity etc. Therefore, adjectives can be used to add depth and more meaning to a sentence.

Adjective examples

There are many adjectives in the English language that can be used to tell us more information about a noun.

In the examples below, the adjectives and nouns have been highlighted:

  • A beautiful forest

  • A meaningful gift

  • An old car

  • The baby's first word

  • A red book

  • A relaxed outfit

  • He was happier than her

  • The tallest boy in the class

  • My car

  • That tree over there

  • American football

The order of adjectives

When we use more than one adjective, there is a certain order we put them in.

Take a look at this sentence:

The blue old big car drove down the lane.

It really doesn't sound right, does it? This is because adjectives are arranged in a regular order.

Take a look at this corrected sentence:

The big old blue car drove down the lane.

This sentence just 'feels' better as the adjectives are placed in a recognisable way.

For native English language speakers, putting adjectives in the correct order tends to come naturally, we can just feel it in our bones. However, for non-native speakers, remembering the order of adjectives can be a tricky process.

When there is a sequence of multiple adjectives, their order can be arranged as follows:

  1. Quantity ('three bottles of rum')

  2. Opinion or Observation ('It's a lovely shirt' / 'It's a ripped shirt')

  3. Size ('It's a tiny shirt')

  4. Shape ('It's a square shirt')

  5. Age ('It's a new shirt')

  6. Color ('It's a pink shirt')

  7. Origin ('It's an American shirt')

  8. Material ('It's a cotton shirt')

  9. Purpose ('It's a business shirt')

If we used all of these adjectives in the correct order to describe the shirt, the sentence would look like this, 'Three, lovely, tiny, square, new, pink, American, cotton business shirts.'

Adjective Order of adjectives StudySmarterA big, old, blue car - Pixabay.

The positioning of adjectives

Adjectives can be placed in several different positions within a sentence. These positions include:

  • Before a noun (pre-modification)

  • After a noun (post-modification)

  • On its own as a complement

Pre-modification adjectives

Pre-modification is when an adjective is placed before a noun to add information. For example:

  • The red car

  • The ugly man

  • The happy hamster

  • A loud noise

Adjectives that pre-modify a noun are traditionally called attributive adjectives.

It is important to note that pre-modification is a term that can be applied to any information added before a noun. Other word classes pre-modify a noun, for example, determiners ('the' dog) and adverbs (the 'very' big dog). Whole phrases and clauses may also pre-modify a noun. By adding these different bits of information you create a noun phrase.

Post-modification adjectives

Post-modification is when an adjective is placed after a noun to add information. For example:

  • The car will be red

  • The man was ugly

  • The hamster is happy

  • The noise was loud

These are traditionally called predicative adjectives. The adjective is not used immediately after the noun, instead, it follows an auxiliary verb that links the sentence such as 'is', 'was', or 'seems'.

Adjectives as a complement

Adjectives can also be used as a complement to 'complete the sentence'. This is a form of post-modification however, in this case, the adjective is used with a pronoun rather than a noun. Here are some examples:

  • It will be red

  • He was ugly

  • She is happy

  • It was loud

As you can see, the adjective is used to modify the pronouns ('he', 'she', 'it'). It describes a quality about the person or thing, however, it does not specifically state what is being described. Complements usually follow the forms of the verb 'to be' such as 'is', 'was', and 'will be'.

Most adjectives can be used as a pre-modification, post-modification, or a complement. For example:

The adjective 'happy' can pre modify a verb ('the happy hamster'), post-modify a verb ('the hamster is happy'), or be used as a complement to a pronoun ('it was happy').

There are only a few adjectives that are restricted to one position. For example:

The adjective 'main' can be used to post-modify a noun ('the main reason') but can not be used to pre-modify a noun ('the reason is main').

This is the opposite for the adjective 'alone' which can be used to post-modify a noun ('the child is alone') but can not be used to pre-modify a noun ('the alone child').

Adjective Happy hamster example StudySmarterA happy hamster - Pixabay

Types of adjectives

There are many different types of adjectives, which are categorised based on the functions they perform in a sentence.

The main adjectives are:

  • Descriptive adjectives

  • Evaluative adjectives

  • Quantitative adjectives

  • Interrogative adjectives

  • Proper adjectives

  • Demonstrative and indefinite adjectives

  • Possessive adjectives

  • Compound adjectives

  • Degree of comparison adjectives (positive, comparative, and superlative).

Descriptive adjectives

Descriptive adjectives, sometimes called qualitative adjectives, are used to describe a feature or quality of a thing, person, or object. They add extra information about a noun or a pronoun. For example, in this sentence 'the red car', red is the descriptive adjective as it describes the colour of the car.

Evaluative adjectives

Evaluative adjectives give someone's opinion about a noun. For example, 'The exam was difficult' or 'The cake was delicious'. It can't be proved that the cake was delicious, therefore, it is an opinion (though who doesn't find cake delicious?).

Quantitative adjectives

Quantitative adjectives provide information on the, you guessed it, quantity of the noun. Generally, quantitative adjectives answer the questions how much? and how many?. E.g. 'I have three bags' or 'It took some time.'

Interrogative adjectives

Interrogative adjectives are words that ask a question. They are whose, which, and what. Interrogative adjectives must come before a noun or pronoun to be considered an adjective. E.g. 'Whose drink is this?'

Proper adjectives

Proper adjectives are simply proper nouns acting as an adjective in a sentence. A proper noun is a specific or unique noun, such as a country, a famous person, or a brand. When a proper noun is used to describe another noun, e.g. 'An American shirt', it is considered a proper adjective. Further examples include Indian food and Nike trainers.

Demonstrative and indefinite adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives modify nouns by showing a direct reference to something or someone, e.g. I like that house.' The demonstrative adjectives are; this, that, those, and these. Demonstrative adjectives must go before a noun, otherwise, they are considered demonstrative pronouns.

Indefinite adjectives work in the opposite way to demonstrative adjectives in that they modify the noun in a non-specific way. Indefinite adjectives provide unspecific information about a noun, e.g. ' I gave him some work to do.' Examples of indefinite adjectives are; some, any, many, few, most, and much.

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives are used to show that a noun belongs to someone, e.g. his, hers, our, my, their. Possessive adjectives must go before a noun, otherwise, they are considered possessive pronouns. For example, 'That's my bike.'

Compound adjectives

A compound adjective is when more than one word is used to describe a noun, and these words are joined together in some way. Usually, compound adjectives are joined with a hyphen or are separated from the rest of the sentence with quotation marks. For example, 'The ten-foot-high pole.' and 'He gave her his best 'be quiet' eyes.'

Degrees of comparison

When comparing two or more nouns, adjectives can give further information about the extent of the comparison. We can compare nouns using three types of adjectives, positive, comparative, and superlative.

The initial adjective is the positive degree adjective - it is the basic, unchanged form of the adjective (e.g. fast, slow, big). We then modify the positive degree adjectives to create comparative and superlative adjectives which show a comparison.

Comparative adjectives

A comparative adjective, as the name suggests, compares two or more nouns. This can be:

  • To a lesser degree, for example, smaller or less heavy. These adjectives can be made by adding the suffix '-er' or the word 'less'.

  • To the same degree, for example, 'as big as'.

  • To a higher degree, for example, bigger or more powerful. These adjectives can be made by adding the suffix '-er' or the word 'more'.

Superlative adjectives

This is the highest or lowest possible form of the adjective. For example, 'highest', 'tallest', 'most handsome'. Superlative adjectives can often be made by adding the suffix '-est' or the word 'most'.

Adjective Comparative adjective Superlative adjective StudySmarterComparative and superlative adjectives - StudySmarter Original

You may also hear the term 'grading', which simply means that an adjective can have more or less of the quality that they refer to. Comparative and superlative adjectives are both examples of grading.

Adjectives with irregular forms

There are some adjectives that, when made into comparative or superlative forms, become irregular. A good example of this is the adjective good. When changed into a comparative adjective good becomes better. When changed into a superlative adjective it becomes best.

Adjective Irregular adjectives comparative adjective superlative adjective StudySmarterIrregular comparative and superlative adjectives (StudySmarter Original)

Something similar also happens for the word bad.

Initial positive adjective - bad

Comparative adjective - worse

Superlative adjective - worst

Absolute adjectives

Absolute adjectives are qualitative adjectives that can't be graded, intensified, or compared to anything else. In other words, they are in their 'ultimate' form. Some examples of absolute adjectives include:

  • Perfect

  • Empty

  • Infinite

  • Supreme

A thing can not be more 'perfect' or 'more infinite' than another. Therefore it is in its absolute form.

  • British

  • Northern

  • Annual

  • Rural

It is not possible to have a 'more annual fair' and it is not grammatically correct to say 'more northern'. That is because each of these adjectives describes a group or category.

Adjective phrases

An adjective phrase is a simple phrase (group of words) that is headed by an adjective. The adjective phrase acts as the adjective in a sentence.

These flowers are more beautiful than the others.

In this example, the adjective phrase is 'more beautiful than the others'. The main adjective is beautiful; however, the whole phrase is needed to fully describe the flowers.

Adjectives and suffixes

Some words exist independently as adjectives and do not exist in any other word class, for example:

  • Good
  • Bad
  • Ugly

Other adjectives are formed from nouns by adding a suffix, for example:

  • home → homeless
  • hope → hopeful

Adjectives may also be formed from verbs by adding a suffix, for example:

read → readable

create → creative

The suffix at the end of a word can often indicate the class that a word belongs to.

Here is a list of suffixes that are common for adjectives:

SuffixExamples
-ible, -ableGullible, comfortable
-fulBeautiful, skilful
-yFunny, dirty, sunny
-lessPowerless, homeless
-ousDangerous, nervous
-someTiresome, wholesome
-iveSensitive, supportive
-ishFoolish, selfish
-alSocial, accidental

Adjective - key takeaways

  • An adjective is a word usually used to provide more information about a noun. Adjectives are often called 'describing words' as they describe a feature or quality of the noun such as color, size, quantity, etc.
  • An adjective can be placed either before a noun (pre-modification), after a noun (post-modification), or on its own as a complement.
  • The main adjectives are:
    • Descriptive adjectives

    • Evaluative adjectives

    • Quantitative adjectives

    • Interrogative adjectives

    • Proper adjectives

    • Demonstrative and indefinite adjectives

    • Possessive adjectives

    • Compound adjectives

    • Degree of comparison adjectives (positive, comparative, and superlative).

  • An adjective phrase is a phrase built around the adjective that acts as the adjective in a sentence. For example, 'This flower is nicer than the others'.

Frequently Asked Questions about Adjective

An adjective is a word that modifies and provides more information about a noun. It describes certain features or qualities of the noun such as colour, size, quantity, etc.

Examples of adjectives include qualitative adjectives that describe a feature of a noun e.g. ‘red’ and evaluative adjectives that give an opinion about a noun e.g. ‘difficult’. Some adjectives may show a degree of comparison between two things e.g. ‘better’ whilst superlative adjectives compare nouns to the most extreme degree e.g. ‘best’.

Sure, here are some example adjectives:

  • big
  • bigger
  • biggest
  • small
  • smaller
  • smallest
  • old
  • new
  • tall
  • short
  • one, two, three etc.
  • this, that, these, those
  • Whose, what, which
  • my, your, their
  • American, Indian
  • some, many, all

  • The main adjectives are: 
    • Descriptive adjectives

    • Evaluative adjectives

    • Quantitative adjectives

    • Interrogative adjectives

    • Proper adjectives

    • Demonstrative and indefinite adjectives

    • Possessive adjectives

    • Compound adjectives

    • Degree of comparison adjectives (positive, comparative, and superlative).

An adjective phrase is a simple phrase (group of words) that is headed by an adjective. The adjective phrase acts as the adjective in a sentence. 

Final Adjective Quiz

Question

What are the adjectives in this sentence?: ‘The little boy climbed up the big, green tree’

Show answer

Answer

The adjectives are ‘little’ and ‘big’, and ‘green’ as they describe features about the nouns.


Show question

Question

Place the adjectives in this sentence into the correct order: the wooden blue big ship sailed across the Indian vast scary ocean.


Show answer

Answer

The big, blue, wooden ship sailed across the vast, scary, Indian ocean.

Show question

Question

What are the 3 different positions in which an adjective can be placed?


Show answer

Answer

An adjective can be placed before a noun (pre-modification), after a noun (post-modification), or following a verb as a complement.

Show question

Question

In this sentence, does the adjective pre-modify or post-modify the noun? ‘The unicorn is angry’.


Show answer

Answer

The adjective ‘angry’ post-modifies the noun ‘unicorn’.

Show question

Question

In this sentence, does the adjective pre-modify or post-modify the noun? ‘It is a scary unicorn’.


Show answer

Answer

The adjective ‘scary’ pre-modifies the noun ‘unicorn’.

Show question

Question

What kind of adjectives are ‘purple’ and ‘shiny’?


Show answer

Answer

‘Purple’ and ‘Shiny’ are qualitative adjectives as they describe a quality or feature of a noun

Show question

Question

What kind of adjectives are ‘ugly’ and ‘easy’?


Show answer

Answer

The words ‘ugly’ and ‘easy’ are evaluative adjectives as they give a subjective opinion on the noun.

Show question

Question

Which of the following adjectives is an absolute adjective?


Show answer

Answer

​Perfect

Show question

Question

Which of these adjectives is a classifying adjective?

Show answer

Answer

​Italian

Show question

Question

Convert the noun ‘quick’ to its comparative form.

Show answer

Answer

The comparative form of ‘quick’ is ‘quicker’.

Show question

Question

Convert the noun ‘slow’ to its superlative form.


Show answer

Answer

The comparative form of ‘slow’ is ‘slowest’.

Show question

Question

What is an adjective phrase?


Show answer

Answer

An adjective phrase is a group of words that is ‘built’ around the adjective (it takes centre stage in the sentence). For example, in the phrase ‘the dog is big’ the word ‘big’ is the most important information.

Show question

Question

Give 2 examples of suffixes that are typical of adjectives.


Show answer

Answer

Suffixes typical of adjectives include -able, -ible, -ful, -y, -less, -ous, -some, -ive, -ish, -al.

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'An American football shirt'

Show answer

Answer

Proper Adjective

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'Whose bag is this?'

Show answer

Answer

Interrogative adjective

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'She is a happy-go-lucky type of girl.'


Show answer

Answer

Compound adjective

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'It was the tallest building on the street.'


Show answer

Answer

Superlative adjective 

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'They have four classes today.'


Show answer

Answer

Quantitative adjective

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'They had some rain this week.'


Show answer

Answer

Indefinite adjective

Show question

Question

Identify the type of adjective:

'That's my seat.'


Show answer

Answer

Possessive adjective

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Adjective quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.