|Adjectives||Possessive Adjectives||Demonstrative Adjectives|
|Interrogative Adjectives||Indefinite Adjectives||"A" Adjectives|
|Adjectival Opposites||Collective Adjectives||Capitalizing Adjectives|
|Quantity Adjectives||Back to Exercises|
A word of caution about adjectives: Don't expect more of them than you should. Nouns and verbs are the basis of a sentence. Adjectives are used to give some color and interest to the thoughts. DO NOT OVER-USE ADJECTIVES!
When you use adjectives, for example like: dull, interesting, beautiful, lovely, exhilarating, exciting they sound fine, but they don’t really describe something enough. You need to let your reader understand why something is dull, interesting, etc. Just using an adjective doesn't say enough.
Adjectives describe, identify, or modify nouns and pronouns. An adjective can come before the word that it modifies. Since adjectives describe how something "is", the verb be is usually used with them.
Correct: An apple is red.
Incorrect: an apple red.
A phrase containing a subject and a verb is called an adjective clause. Robert, who is the eldest in the family, became head of the house when Father died.
If you remove the subject and the verb from an adjective clause, it then becomes an adjective phrase. Robert, eldest in the family, became head of the house after Father died.
An adjective can be modified by an
adverb (or an adverbial phrase or clause): She is wearing a shockingly
low-cut dress. The adverb shockingly modifies the adjective
NOTE: Adjectives don't have a singular, plural, masculine, feminine, or neuter form. They are always the same except in the comparative or superlative form (usually made by adding an er or est ending).
do you put adjectives?
Even though the adjective is after the verb, it does not describe the verb. It describes the subject of the verb (usually a noun or pronoun).
Swedish. He became
impatient when the traffic light
didn’t change. Are you getting tan?
You don’t seem
that sick. Peter's new shirt
looks nice. Mandy felt hot after working in
Does that band sound off-key to you? Apple
pie smells wonderful. Cough medicine tastes bad.
* Occasionally, certain adjectives in combination with certain words do come after the word they modify: (The heir apparent to the throne lives in Geneva proper.)
is combined with an adjective describing a class or group of people, the result
can act as a noun: the young, the rich, the elderly, the homeless,
etc. The difference between a collective noun (which is usually regarded
as singular) and a collective adjective is that the collective
adjective is always considered plural and needs a plural verb:
The young of many
countries have longer school terms than
American youth do.
The rich pay higher taxes, but they can afford to.
The elderly are beginning to demand their rights.
The homeless need safer shelters.
Possessive adjectives: my, your, his, her, its, our, their are similar to possessive pronouns of the objective case, EXCEPT that they are used as adjectives and modify a noun or a noun phrase.
yours, hers, ours, theirs are not used to modify a noun or noun phrase.
I can’t see my hand in front of my face because of the fog. (The possessive adjective my modifies hand and the noun phrase my hand is an object of the verb can’t see. My also modifies face.)
May I have your e-mail address? (The possessive adjective your modifies the noun phrase e-mail address.)
Mario lost his wristwatch at the beach. (His modifies the noun wristwatch. The noun phrase his wristwatch is the object of the verb lost.)
Angela finally returned from her vacation. (Her modifies the noun vacation. The noun phrase her vacation is the object of the preposition from.)
As much as we tried, we couldn’t find our way out of the maze. (The possessive adjective our modifies way, and the noun phrase our way is the direct object of the verb find.)
Their dog always chases my cat. (Their modifies dog. My modifies cat which is the object of chases.)
The tiger chased its trainer out of the cage and around the big circus tent. (Its modifies trainer and the noun phrase its trainer is the object of the verb.)
This, these, that, those, and what are identical to the demonstrative pronouns, but may also be used as demonstrative adjectives.
I couldn’t see the movie because of that woman’s huge hat. (That modifies the noun woman.)
This movie is terrible. (This modifies movie. The noun phrase this movie is the subject of the sentence.)
I borrowed these sunglasses from Annie. (These modifies sunglasses and the noun phrase these sunglasses is the object of the verb borrowed.)
which, what, and whose are interrogative pronouns (words used to ask questions) that can be used to modify a noun or noun phrase. What is a word used to ask a general question. Which is a word used to ask someone to make a choice from a number of possible choices. (example: Which bills have to be paid today? There are seven on the table.)
Which lessons do you have to learn? (Which modifies lessons and the noun phrase which lessons is the object of do ___ have to learn.)
What sweater are you wearing tomorrow? (What modifies sweater
and the noun phrase what sweater is the direct object of the verb
are wearing. )
Whose hat is this? (Whose describes hat, describing a particular hat.)
many, some, few, all, most, etc. may be used
as indefinite adjectives, modifying nouns, or noun phrases.
Many cars today have air bags. (Many modifies the noun cars, and the noun phrase many cars is the subject of the sentence.)
Rita didn’t give her husband any dessert because he was gaining weight. (Any modifies the noun dessert and the noun phrase any dessert is the direct object of the compound verb didn’t give.)
We had prepared only a few sandwiches for lunch, but we shared them with the others. (The indefinite adjective few modifies the noun sandwiches and the noun phrase is the direct object of the verb had.)
Most women enjoy sunsets. (The indefinite pronoun most modifies women and the noun phrase most women is the subject of the sentence.)
Adjectives beginning with "a-" like: ablaze, afloat, afraid, aghast, alert, alike, alive, alone, aloof, ashamed, asleep, averse, awake, aware, are usually predicate adjectives, i.e., they usually come after linking verbs, such as: am, is, are, was, were, being, been, etc.
The cat is asleep.
She was afraid.
Suzy was alone in the house.
The ships were ablaze.
"A-" adjectives are sometimes modified by very much as in very much alive, very much alone.
ADVANCED STUDENTS: If you want to learn about a-adjectives that come before nouns, i.e., the alert horse, the ashamed child, you should research it using other grammar resources. This construction is not used in normal everyday conversational English.
If an adjective is made from a proper noun, it is usually capitalized: Truman administration, Hitler youth, Danish pastry, Greek food, Egyptian music, etc. Some specific periods of history are also capitalized, such as the Roaring Twenties, Victorian drama, the Churchill years, Renaissance painters. Adjectives using seasons of the year or directions are not capitalized unless they are part of a title. They always took the south road when they left town. Saturday is the annual Spring Fling.
Adjective Opposites (antonyms)
To make the opposite of an adjective, add one of the appropriate prefixes: un, im, ir, mis, il, etc. to make a word negative. You must consult a dictionary to know which prefix to use. Here are a few examples:
The weather was very unpleasant.
Getting to school on time today was impossible.
He is misinformed about the schedule.
He gave us an illogical plan to work with. (Formal style: He gave us an illogical plan with which to work.)
Putting less or least in front of an adjective doesn't make it a true opposite, but it does show the reader or listener a comparison that points in the opposite direction. It also sounds more polite than a harsh negative statement.
He is less handsome than his brother is. instead of He is uglier than his brother is.
Mary is less slender than her sister is. instead of Mary is fatter than her sister is.
Don’t use less or least with an adjective that is already a negative. “She is less ungracious than her cousin” should be written, "She is less gracious than her cousin." Use less when the comparison is between two things or people and least when the comparison is among three of more things or people.
There is some soup left in the kettle. (soup is uncountable.)
There are some native English
speakers in the room now. (The word
Do you have any coins? (The word coins is countable.)
Is there any milk in the refrigerator? (milk is uncountable)
The Smiths don't have much money
in real estate investments. (uncountable money)
They have many stocks and bonds. (countable stocks and bonds)
of and lots
of (<<<very informal) are informal ways to say much
and many. If they are used with uncountable nouns,
they mean much, and if they are used with countable nouns, they mean
The Smiths don't have a lot of money in real estate investments. (uncountable money)
They do have lots of stocks and bonds. (countable stocks and bonds)
Little, a little, and quite a little, are used with uncountable nouns. Few, a few, and quite a few are used with countable nouns. Little and few, and very few mean not much or not many. Quite a little and quite a few mean much or many.
NOTE: You may see or hear quite a little meaning much in books or regional speech, (which can be very confusing!) but it's not used as often as quite a bit.
She had little faith in the
political system. (faith is
uncountable; not much
She had quite a little faith in the political system. (much faith)
She did trust a few politicians, though. (The word politicians is countable.)
She trusted very few politicians, though. (In this sentence, very few means almost none; countable.)
She did trust quite a few
politicians, though. (many politicians)
Belinda always puts a little bit of
cinnamon in her cocoa.
She also puts quite a bit of whipped cream on top.
enough modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
Justin has enough food to feed
an army! (food is uncountable. to
feed an army
is an idiom that means there is a very large amount of food available)
Note: some is used with countable and uncountable nouns
much, less, little, a little, very little, some
some, any, most, more, all, a lot of, no, none of the
many, both, several, few/fewer/fewest, a few, quite a few, one of the, a couple of
each, every, any, one
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