Adjectives are words that describe, identify, or quantify nouns and pronouns. They provide details and answer questions such as whose, how many, what type, and which one.
This all-in-one guide provides an overview of adjectives and adjective examples. We’ll also look at their essential function in written and spoken communications.
- An adjective is a word that describes or modifies nouns or pronouns.
- They can describe quantity, color, size, condition, origin, appearance, personality, and time.
- Attributive adjectives precede the noun they’re describing.
- Predicate adjectives follow verbs such as become, look, or seem.
- Adjectives can provide degrees of comparison.
- In certain circumstances, adjectives can become nouns, and vice versa.
- Adjectives shouldn’t exist simply to prettify prose or shore up weak nouns.
The basic adjective definition that we learned from our elementary school days is they are descriptive words.
Of course, there’s more to it. These words can take many forms. What’s more, we can use them to enhance the meaning of a sentence.
Understanding when and how to use this part of speech gives you an effective way to add color and clarity to your writing.
What do Adjectives Describe?
Adjectives describe, or modify, nouns and pronouns. Essentially, they provide the details that make nouns and pronouns more specific. An adjective describes the quality or state of being of a noun. This part of speech also describe the quantity or number.
Each of these descriptive words typically fall into one of the following categories:
- General appearance (pretty, bold, unattractive)
- Shape and size (circular, narrow, deep)
- Color (auburn, inky, clear)
- Condition (damaged, pristine, frozen)
- Quantity (plentiful, countless, few)
- Personality (quirky, funny, heroic)
- Time (yearly, prehistoric, concurrent)
- Sense (ear-splitting, tasty, prickly)
What are Adjectives and Give 10 Examples
As words that provide details about a noun or program, there are almost limitless examples of adjectives. They often answer questions such as whose, how many, what type, and which one.
What are the Eight Types of Adjectives?
There are eight types of adjectives. And, each adjective falls into one of these categories.
Which category depends on its placement and relation with other parts of speech in a sentence.
For instance, these types include descriptive, distributive, interrogative, possessive, proper, quantitative, sequence, or indefinite.
Descriptive adjectives are usually the first kind that come to mind when think about this part of speech.
However, these words assign a quality or attribute to a noun or pronoun. This helps you define your subject clearly and exactly.
Distributive adjectives point out or draw attention to a particular noun in a crowd. Place these before the noun they’re modifying. The noun they modify is usually singular.
These are descriptive words that ask a question when paired with a noun or pronoun.
This kind of descriptive word shows ownership.
We derive proper adjectives from proper nouns. This means that they stand for proper nouns. As a result, you need to capitalize the first letter of these descriptive words.
They identify a specific place, person, or thing. They may be hyphenated.
On the other hand, Quantitative adjectives describe how much or how many noun or pronoun they’re modifying.
Although sequence adjectives are similar to quantitative in that they assign numbers to a noun or pronoun, there’s one significant difference. The former use ordinal numbers to imply order.
Adjectives generally add specificity to nouns or pronouns. But, they can also point out nonspecific items.
Adjectives as Degrees of Comparison
You can also use adjectives to define something to a certain degree. They come in three degree levels: positive, comparative, and superlative.
Also known as absolute, you may use the positive degree when you’re referring to a single noun.
This is your go-to adjective type when you’re comparing two of something.
- Typically, adding -er to an adjective creates the comparative form (e.g., smarter, taller, narrower).
- Other descriptive words become comparatives by adding the word more in front of them (e.g., more beautiful).
- All comparatives should be paired with the word than.
- If the adjective ends in “y,” the “y” should be changed to an “i” before adding -er (e.g., pretty becomes prettier).
When comparing three or more things, the superlative degree is the one to use.
- It’s typically created by adding -est to the adjective (smartest, tallest, narrowest) or pairing the adjective with the word most (most beautiful).
- If the adjective ends in “y,” the “y” should be changed to an “i” before adding -est (e.g., pretty becomes prettiest).
The Three Cs of Multipart Adjectives: Coordinate, Cumulative, and Compound
Sometimes you just need a second adjective to complete the job.
This is where coordinate and cumulative adjectives come into play. They are words that you can combine to provide additional meaning to a single noun or pronoun.
1. Coordinate Adjectives
Both words in a coordinate adjective are equally important. But, a comma should separate them.
2. Cumulative Adjectives
Next, Cumulative adjectives are multiple words that build on one another to create meaning. However, they must maintain a particular order to make sense. They’re easy to recognize because they can’t be reversed and won’t make sense if you use and between them.
3. Compound Adjectives
Finally, Compound adjectives contain more than one word. They are typically linked together by a hyphen.
The Placement of Adjectives
Adjectives may be broken down into types based on their placement in a sentence and their relationship to other parts of speech.
These are words that are placed immediately before the noun that they’re describing.
These descriptive words typically appear after a linking verb.
Postpositive adjectives are descriptors that immediately follow a noun or pronoun.
Gradable vs. Non-gradable Adjectives
Almost all adjectives are gradable, letting their meaning be altered by strategic placement of adverbs such as:
By pairing gradable adjectives with these adverbs, their meaning can increase or decrease in intensity.
Adjectives vs. Adverbs: How to Distinguish Between the Two
Due to their similar sound and appearance, these two parts of speech often get mixed up. Thankfully, there are easy ways to distinguish between the two.
It’s all in the Name
To distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, all you have to do is look at the name: adverbs. As its name implies, adverbs are used to modify verbs, whereas adjectives are used to modify nouns or pronouns.
Look for the -LY
Many adverbs end in -ly, making them easy to identify.
I Feel Bad vs. I Feel Badly: A Brief Comparison
It’s helpful to examine individual sentences when trying to understand the difference between adjectives and adverbs.
For example, in the sentence, “Bob feels bad,” bad is an adjective. Essentially, in this sentence, Bob feels under the weather.
On the other hand, in the sentence, “Bob feels badly,” badly is an adverb (note the -ly!). In this case, feeling badly refers to a poor sense of touch and Bob’s inability to experience tactile sensations.
Abracadabra! When Nouns Become Adjectives and Vice Versa
Here’s where things get tricky: sometimes the parts of speech can masquerade as other parts of speech.
In certain circumstances, nouns modify or clarify other nouns. This effectively turns them into adjectives.
These converted nouns are known as noun modifiers or adjectival nouns.
On the flip side, adjectives can also function as nouns.
This happens when they describe groups of people. In these circumstances, the noun being modified drops away. As a result, the adjective takes the place of the noun.
From Clunky to Clear: Choosing Good Adjectives
Adjectives are also one of the most overused parts of speech, particularly in creative writing. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right ones for your sentences—if you need any at all.
Ultimately, a good adjective is one that adds meaning to your sentence. It should quantify, clarify, and enhance. What it shouldn’t do is shore up a weak noun or exist solely to add prettiness to your prose.
After all, that big house may really be an estate—and that loud, booming shout? Well, it’s really just a shout after all, plain and simple.