Grammar 10 min read

Adjectives: The Ultimate Guide With Tons of Examples

Main Adjectives Takeaways:

  • An adjective is a word that describes or modifies nouns or pronouns.
  • They can describe quantity, color, size, condition, origin, appearance, personality, and time.
  • They can provide degrees of comparison.
  • Attributive adjectives precede the noun they’re describing.
  • Predicate adjectives follow verbs such as become, look, or seem.
  • In certain situations, adjectives can become nouns, and vice versa.
  • Don’t rely on adjectives just to make prose prettier or shore up weak nouns.

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.

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Understanding when and how to use this part of speech gives you an effective way to add color and clarity to your writing. And, to avoid using them incorrectly.

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.

A boy looking curiously at the word ADJECTIVES.
Adjectives are words that describe, identify, or quantify nouns and pronouns.

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.

witty, golden, fair, icy, four-legged, smarter, largest, ancient, ugly, bland
A cute girl, a tall man, a thin boy, and an elderly woman.
Common examples of adjectives. How will you describe the person next to you?

What are the 8 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.

1. Descriptive

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.

the rocky coastline

his torn jeans
the mean cashier
Two boys wearing placards labeled as adjective and noun. The boy wearing the adjective placard is pointing to the boy wearing the noun placard while saying
One of the most common functions of adjectives is to describe nouns and pronouns.

2. Distributive

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.

Distributive adjectives: Any, Each, Every, Either, Neither
She petted every puppy in the room.
I didn’t like either option.
You can pick any appetizer you want.

3. Interrogative

These are descriptive words that ask a question when paired with a noun or pronoun.

Interrogative adjectives: Whose, Which, What
What recipe do you make most often?
Whose coat is that?
Which team are you rooting for?

4. Possessive

This kind of descriptive word shows ownership.

Possessive Adjectives: his, her, its, their, our, my, your, whose
His dog dug up all of our tulips.
I think my parents are older than your parents.
I like to spend time with people whose mindset matches mine.

5. Proper

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 our first date, we went to the German festival at the fairgrounds.
She loved to read Shakespearean sonnets out loud.
He practiced his language skills when he visited a French-speaking region.

6. Quantitative

On the other hand, Quantitative adjectives describe how much or how many noun or pronoun they’re modifying.

Before they got married, he told her he wanted eight children.
Hand me a few cookies.

7. Sequence

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.

I promised to adopt a kitten from the first litter.
Loretta was the second batter to hit a home run.

8. Indefinite

Adjectives generally add specificity to nouns or pronouns. But, they can also point out nonspecific items.

Indefinite adjectives: few, any, no, several, many
Please don’t give me any backtalk.
There was no ice cream in the freezer.
I think he has several jobs available.

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.

1. Positive

Also known as absolute, you may use the positive degree when you’re referring to a single noun.

Betty is tall.
Matthew has a beautiful parakeet.
Lola knows she’s smart.
A boy looking at sunflower. He's thinking of what adjective to use to describe it. Is it beautiful, spectacular, or radiant?
Positive degree is the normal form of an adjective. Meaning, these adjectives don’t make comparisons.

2. Comparative

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).
Betty is taller than Jacob.
Matthew’s last parakeet was more beautiful than the one he has now.
Lola thinks she’s smarter than Mary.

3. Superlative

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).
Betty is the tallest girl on the team.
Matthew has the most beautiful parakeet you’ve ever seen.
Lola thinks she’s the smartest girl in the whole school.

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.

He couldn’t help falling in love with quirky, beautiful Isabelle.

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.

The prize-winning hunting dog was often seen flushing out birds in the woods near the lake.

3. Compound Adjectives

Finally, Compound adjectives contain more than one word. They are typically linked together by a hyphen.

Daisy was only a part-time employee, but they expected her to handle a full-time workload.
The dog vaulted over the six-foot fence as if it was nothing more than a tree stump.

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.

1. Attributive

These are words that are placed immediately before the noun that they’re describing.

a sunny sky
an overstuffed bag

2. Predicate

These descriptive words typically appear after a linking verb.

Predicate adjectives: is, are, am, was, were, seemed, looked
We were exhausted after swimming.
I was furious after talking to the teacher.
Toward evening, the sky looked stormy.

3. Postpositive

Postpositive adjectives are descriptors that immediately follow a noun or pronoun.

the best tickets available
something wicked

Gradable vs. Non-gradable

Almost all adjectives are gradable, letting their meaning be altered by strategic placement of adverbs such as:

  • fairly
  • rather
  • very
  • extremely
  • dreadfully
  • slightly
  • reasonably

By pairing gradable adjectives with these adverbs, their meaning can increase or decrease in intensity.

The pool was slightly cold.
The water in the pool was very cold.
The pool water was extremely cold.
The pool was dreadfully cold.

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.

quickly, arrogantly, dangerously, stupidly

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.

peach tea, sports car, cucumber salad

On the flip side, adjectives can also function as nouns.

In certain circumstances, adjectives can become nouns, and vice versa
In certain circumstances, adjectives can become nouns, and vice versa

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.

The unemployed people would simply become the unemployed.
the rich, the jobless, the accused, the young, the strong,
Note: These adjectives-turned-nouns must always be placed immediately after the definite the.

From Clunky to Clear: Choosing Good Adjectives

Adjectives can add specificity. But unfortunately, they can also be clunky and contribute to flowery, overwritten prose, and an unsavory concoction known commonly as adjective soup.

Descriptive words 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.

Adjective infographic
INK Adjectives Inforgraphic

Just a Quick Adjectives Quiz to Help You Master Your new Skills

Adjective Question #1

Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is FALSE. Adjectives can only describe or modify nouns and pronouns.

Adjective Question #2

Which of these words is an adjective?
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is DELICIOUS. Delicious is a descriptive adjective — it describes food's taste.

Adjective Question #3

Select the adjective(s) in the sentence: Wanda walked behind her little brother.

Please select 2 correct answers

Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answers are HER and LITTLE. Her is a possessive adjective, while little is a quantitative adjective that describes the brother's size.

Adjective Question #4

Select all the examples of quantitative adjectives.

Please select 3 correct answers

Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answers are FIVE, MANY, and FEW. Quantitative adjectives describe the exact or approximate amount of a noun (think quantity).

Adjective Question #5

Which sentence is correct
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is B. Separate the two words in a coordinate adjective with a comma.

Adjective Question #6

Comparative adjectives usually end in -est.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is FALSE. The comparative form of an adjective usually ends in -er. For example, She is taller than her brother.

Adjectives Quiz Result
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Read More: Adjectives Starting With A

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Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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