Caleb S.
Caleb S.

What's an Adjective? Definition and Examples

17 min read

Published on: Jun 3, 2024

Last updated on: Jun 19, 2024

Adjective

According to the definition as a part of speech, an adjective is:

“A word that describes or modifies a noun or pronoun, providing additional information about its qualities, attributes, or characteristics.” 

Adjectives can express various aspects such as size, color, shape, age, origin, material, and more, enhancing the specificity and vividness of language. Here are some common adjective words:

  • Blue
  • Happy
  • Fast
  • Delicious
  • Soft
  • Angry

Adjective Examples:

  • The beautiful flowers bloomed in the garden.
  • The tall skyscraper dominated the city skyline.
  • They enjoyed a delicious meal at the Italian restaurant.
  • The table was made of sturdy wooden planks.
  • She held a small, round pebble in her hand.

How to Use Adjectives in Sentences 

Adjectives can be used in two main ways in sentences: Attributively and Predicatively.

Attributive Use 

Attributive adjectives directly modify or describe the noun they are attached to. They typically come before the noun and provide additional information about its qualities or characteristics.

Example: She bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

(The adjective "beautiful" directly modifies the noun "bouquet.")

Predicative Use 

Predicate adjectives come after a linking verb (such as "be," "become," "seem," etc.) and describe the subject of the sentence. They provide information about the subject's state or condition.

Example: The flowers are beautiful. 

(Here, "beautiful" describes the state of the subject "flowers.")

In both cases, adjectives serve to enhance the meaning of the sentence by providing more detail about the noun or subject. The choice between attributive and predicative use depends on the structure and context of the sentence.

Degrees of Adjectives 

Adjectives can also express degrees of comparison, indicating the level of a quality possessed by a noun. 

There are three degrees of comparison: absolute, comparative, and superlative.

Absolute Adjectives 

The absolute form of an adjective does not compare one thing to another; it simply describes the quality of the noun without making any comparisons.

  • Example: The cake was delicious

(Here, "delicious" describes the cake without comparing it to anything else.)

Comparative Adjectives 

The comparative form of an adjective is used to compare two things or people, indicating that one has more or less of a quality than the other.

Formation: Usually formed by adding the suffix "-er" to the adjective, or by using "more" or "less" before the adjective.

  • Example: The first book was more interesting than the second one. 

(Here, "more interesting" compares the first book to the second book.)

Superlative Adjectives 

The superlative form of an adjective is used to compare three or more things or people, indicating that one has the highest or lowest degree of quality among all others.

Formation: Usually formed by adding the suffix "-est" to the adjective, or by using "most" or "least" before the adjective.

  • Example: Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. 

(Here, "tallest" indicates that Mount Everest has the highest height compared to all other mountains.)

Coordinate Adjectives 

Coordinate adjectives are multiple adjectives that equally and independently modify the same noun. They do not depend on each other to modify the noun and can be rearranged without altering the meaning of the sentence.

Coordinate adjectives are separated by commas when they appear consecutively before a noun.

  • Example: The tall, handsome man walked down the street. 

(Both "tall" and "handsome" independently modify the noun "man.")

In this example, "tall" and "handsome" are coordinate adjectives because they equally describe the noun "man" without relying on each other. They can be rearranged ("The handsome, tall man walked down the street") without changing the meaning of the sentence.

Other Types of Adjectives and Examples 

Did you know that there are other kinds of adjectives too? Let's learn about each type and see examples to understand them better.

Descriptive Adjectives 

Descriptive adjectives provide specific details about the qualities or characteristics of nouns.

Examples:

  • The beautiful sunset painted the sky with vibrant colors.
  • She wore a long dress to the party.
  • The spicy curry filled the room with its aroma.

Quantitative Adjectives 

Quantitative adjectives indicate the quantity or amount of nouns.

Examples:

  • He ate three slices of pizza for dinner.
  • She bought several books at the bookstore.
  • The store had many items on sale.

Demonstrative Adjectives 

Demonstrative adjectives indicate the specific nouns being referred to in terms of their proximity.

Examples:

  • This book belongs on the top shelf.
  • That cat is sitting on the fence.
  • These cookies taste delicious.

Possessive Adjectives 

Possessive adjectives show ownership or possession of nouns.

Examples:

  • Her new car is parked in the driveway.
  • Our family vacation was a memorable experience.
  • Its small size makes it easy to carry.

Interrogative Adjectives 

Interrogative adjectives are used to ask questions about nouns.

Examples:

  • Which movie did you watch last night?
  • Whom did you invite to the party?
  • Whose idea was it to go on a road trip?

Indefinite Adjectives 

Indefinite adjectives refer to nonspecific or unspecified nouns.

Examples:

  • I need some rest after a long day at work.
  • She made enough food to feed everyone.
  • He has no idea what to do next.

Appositive Adjectives 

Appositive adjectives are adjectives that follow a noun and provide additional information or clarification about that noun.

Examples: 

  • Sarah, my best friend, is coming over tonight.
  • The mountain, majestic and imposing, stood tall against the sky.
  • He wore a suit, expensive and tailored to perfection, to the wedding.

Compound Adjectives 

Compound adjectives are formed by combining two or more words to create a single adjective that describes a noun.

Examples:

  • She bought a well-written book.
  • The children were entertained by a fun-filled day at the amusement park.
  • We stayed in a five-star hotel during our vacation.

Participial Adjectives 

Participial adjectives are formed from verbs and end in "-ing" or "-ed". They describe nouns by expressing action or state.

Examples:

  • The burning fire warmed the room.
  • He was captivated by the mesmerizing performance.
  • The exhausted hiker collapsed at the summit of the mountain.

Proper Adjectives 

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns (names of specific people, places, or things) and are capitalized.

Examples: 

  • We enjoyed a delicious meal of Italian cuisine.
  • She admired the intricate details of the Chinese vase.
  • The festival showcased the vibrant culture of Brazilian dance.

Denominal Adjectives 

Denominal adjectives are derived from nouns and describe characteristics related to those nouns.

Examples:

  • The wooden table is sturdy and durable.
  • She selected a leather jacket for the cold weather.
  • They admired the antique furniture in the old house.

Nominal Adjectives 

Nominal adjectives function as nouns but retain some characteristics of adjectives.

Examples: 

  • She preferred the French over the Italian wine.
  • He was known for his love of classical music.
  • The vegetarian option at the restaurant was delicious.

How to Order Adjectives 

Ordering adjectives in English is important for maintaining clarity and grammatical correctness. Generally, adjectives are placed in a specific sequence before a noun. 

The order is as follows:

Adjectives vs Adverbs 

Adverbs and adjectives play crucial roles in modifying words, but they serve different purposes in a sentence.

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, describing how an action is performed, the manner in which something happens, or the degree to which something is done. 

Adverbs are often formed by adding the suffix "-ly" to adjectives, but this is not always the case. Some adverbs have different forms, depending on the original ending of the adjective.

  • Example: Brandon runs slowly.

Adjectives do not modify verbs or other adjectives. They specifically describe nouns or pronouns.

  • Example: The red car.

Adjectives with Linking Verbs 

Adjectives are often used with linking verbs (such as "be," "seem," "become," and "feel") to describe a state or condition, rather than an action. Using adverbs in place of adjectives with linking verbs is a common mistake.

  • Example: "The wife is devoted.

Original Ending

Adverbial Ending

Example

-y

-ily

happy; happily

-le

-ly

gentle; gently

-ic

-ally

tragic; tragically

-ful

-fully

peaceful; peacefully

-less

-lessly

tireless; tirelessly

-ous

-ously

joyous; joyously

-ent

-ently

silent; silently

Adjective Clause 

An adjective clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb and functions as an adjective in a sentence. It provides additional information about a noun or pronoun.

Adjective Clause Examples 

  • The house that was built in the 19th century is now a museum.
  • The car that belongs to my friend is parked outside.
  • I found the necklace that I lost last week.
  • She wore the dress that her mother bought for her.

Adjective Phrase 

An adjective phrase is a group of words that functions as an adjective in a sentence but does not contain a subject and a verb. It provides additional information about a noun or pronoun.

Adjective Phrase Examples 

  • The book on the top shelf is my favorite.
  • The girl with curly hair won the contest.
  • We visited the city near the coast.
  • He bought a laptop at a discounted price.

In summary, adjectives are crucial elements of language, enhancing our ability to communicate with clarity and precision. 

While traditionally associated with modifying nouns, adjectives also extend their influence to adverbs and can even take on the role of nouns in certain contexts. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can adjectives modify adverbs?

In traditional grammar, adjectives typically don't modify adverbs directly. However, adjectives can indirectly modify adverbs when describing a noun related to the adverb.

When nouns are adjectives and adjectives are nouns?

Nouns can act as adjectives when they describe the purpose or function of another noun.

Example: "Coffee" cup, "car" engine.

Adjectives become nouns when they represent a class or group of people or things characterized by the adjective.

Example: The "rich," the "homeless."

Caleb S.

WRITTEN BY

Caleb S. (Masters)

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

Caleb S. is an accomplished author with over five years of experience and a Master's degree from Oxford University. He excels in various writing forms, including articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As a valued author at MyEssayWriter.ai, Caleb assists students and professionals by providing practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style enhancement.

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