ADJECTIVES: Interesting Facts about the Most Interesting Words in English

In the English language, adjectives are words we used to describe or modify, a noun or a pronoun. They are words that describe the qualities or states of being of nouns: huge, brotherly, bright, long, high, hard. They can also describe the number of nouns: many, hundreds, millions, countless.

Moreover, these words also answer questions like which one, what kind, or how many:

For example: 

that mysterious book

the blue book

several English books

In English grammar, adjectives come before a noun. The ultimate rule is to remember that you cannot put an adjective after a noun. However, in sentences with linking verbs, such as there to be verbs or the “sense” verbs, adjectives can follow the verb.

For example: 

Dan Brown’s books are so mysterious; they seem very intriguing.

These words, in a literary sense, are very important in both written and oral communication. This is simply because it heightens the statement by creating a specific image or tone. Interestingly, unlike the rest of the parts of speech, these words can be stacked. This means that you can put as many as eight adjectives in one sentence. All you need to remember is its Royal Order.

Descriptive adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are words that call up images, tones, and feelings. For instance, there is a difference when say a “steamy weather” and a “stormy weather.” Moreover, there’s also a thin difference between a “good work” and “excellent work” and a “cute pet” and an “adorable pet.” These words conjure different pictures and levels of feeling and admiration.

A number of these words originated from verbs. For example, the verb had injured, without the helper had, is an adjective: an injured knee.

Moreover, the -ing verb form, such as is sleeping, used without its helper is, can also be an adjective: sleeping child.

Nouns can also function as an adjective, too. For instance, the noun English can be used to describe the noun school: the English School. We sometimes combine nouns to produce compound adjectives that describe a noun as a unit, usually joined by hyphens when they precede the noun. When they follow the noun, it is essential we omit the hyphens.

For example: 

I love eating sun-dried fruits.

The girl was a 16-year-old teenager from Cebu.

Other compound adjectives do not use hyphens in any case.

For example:

living room, full moon, snowball. These compound adjectives do not require a hyphen.

Articles

Articles are specific words like an, an, and the. These very flexible words can also become one if it used to answer the question “which one? ” The article “the” describes a noun or pronoun by limiting its reference to a particular or known thing, either singular or plural. The article “a“, for instance, expands the reference to a single non-specific or previously unknown thing. An is similar to a, but we use it when the word following it begins with a vowel sound.

For example: 

The boy took my ice cream. (THE BOY = specific boy and no other boy.)

A boy took my ice cream. (A BOY = not specific ).

Demonstrative adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives are words that answer the question which one(s)? In English grammar, these words are unique because they have both a singular and plural form — this and that are singular; these and those are plurals. These words refer to particular or previously named things. This and these show things nearby (in time or space), whereas that and those suggest distance (in time or space).

For example: 

This pen is red.

These pens are red and blue.

That book is mine.

Those books are mine.

This game is fun.

These games are fun.

That party was great.

Those parties were great.

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives are words that show possession or ownership. These include my, our, your, his, her, its, and their. We always put these words before a noun (or a pronoun) to show who or what owns it.

For example: 

my book

our shoes

your pen

their money

Indefinite adjectives

In contemporary grammar, indefinite adjectives are also called quantifiers. We use these words to describe a noun in a non-specific sense. Some common indefinite adjectives are any, each, few, many, much, most, several, and some.

For example: 

some teachers

few students

Adjective order and punctuation

Interestingly, you can add up as many adjectives as you want in the sentence. In fact, learning its Royal Order is the most interesting lesson you might have when studying this part of speech.

In some cases, it is also possible to rearrange some stacks of adjectives without changing their meaning. We call these sets of words the coordinate adjectives. These describing words are equal and separate in the way they describe a noun.

For instance, we can freely reposition a dull, dark, and depressing day: a depressing, dark, dull day. In writing, we normally use commas to separate two or more coordinate adjectives. On the contrary, we must not put a comma immediately before the noun.

Other groups cannot be repositioned freely. This type is called cumulative adjectives and they can’t be separated by commas.

Take the following example:

Dark chocolate cupcake cannot be changed to the chocolate dark cupcake.

If you were born to English, you may not realize that there are rules for placing this set of word groups in order. For example, the determiner (a, an, the) comes first, then size words, then color, then purpose. You can learn more about the Royal Order of Adjectives by clicking this link.

Adjective Gradability

English adjectives have two classifications: Gradable and Non-gradable. It is interesting to note that many people often disregard learning about the gradability of English adjectives. However, learning this could surely improve your knowledge so that you’ll be able to use adjectives correctly.

Most exams, like IELTS and TOEFL for example, would give higher marks to test takers who can differentiate gradable and non-gradable adjectives and perfectly use them.

Gradable adjectives

The majority of English adjectives are gradable. This means we can have different levels of that quality. For example, you can be a bit hot, very hot, or extremely hot. Thus, we can change the level of these words with the help of modifiers.

For example: 

I am really hungry now because I haven’t had anything since this morning.

It’s extremely hot in Africa.

The Pacific Ocean is a very wide ocean.

Here is a list of some common gradable adjectives and some modifiers that we can use with them.

Modifiers: a little/a bit → pretty/quite → really/very → extremely

Sample Words: hungry, big, busy, clever, cold, deep, fast, friendly, happy, high, hot, wide, important, long, popular, rich, strong, tall, warm, weak, young

Non-gradable: absolute adjectives

Apart from gradable, we also have non-gradable adjectives in English. For instance, we can’t say can’t be a bit finished or very finished. You can’t be a bit dead or very dead. These adjectives describe absolute qualities. To make them stronger, we have to use modifiers like absolutely, totally, or completely.

For example: 

The performance was absolutely brilliant!

The house was totally destroyed by the fire.

Here is a list of some common absolute adjectives and some modifiers that we can use with them.

Modifiers: absolutely/totally/completely

Sample Words:  acceptable, dead, destroyed, finished, free, impossible, necessary, perfect, ruined, unacceptable, etc.

Moreover, extreme adjectives are words that already express the highest degree or levels of quality.

Some commonly used examples are amazing, awful, freezing, boiling, and expansive. These adjectives already contain the idea of ‘very’ in their definitions. However, if we want to make extreme adjectives, stronger, we can use absolutely or really.

For example: 

I am famished now because I haven’t had anything since this morning.

The Pacific Ocean is an expansive ocean.

The Aurora is an amazing natural wonder.

Here is a list of some common extreme adjectives and some modifiers that we can use with them.

Modifiers:  absolutely/really

Sample Words:  awful, excellent, terrified, dead, impossible, unique, chemical, digital, domestic

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