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What Are Adjectives?

Adjectives are describing words used throughout English to provide more information about the nouns they modify. You regularly see them in creative writing, though they can appear anywhere at any time.

Definition Of Adjectives

Adjectives are words that describe the nature and quantity of nouns. For instance, some adjectives refer to qualities of nouns, such as “big,” “green” or “ugly.” Others refer to the state of a noun, such as “intelligent,” “generous” or “greedy.” Adjectives can also describe the quantity of a noun, such as “twelve,” “numerous” or “thousands.”

Examples Of Adjectives Modifying Nouns

Adjectives only modify nouns, not verbs or any other part of speech. Here are some examples:

  • A cow was munching on the dewy grass

  • Greedy bureaucrats took all the money

  • Millions of fireflies come out at night when the weather is warm

In these sentences, finding the adjective is easy because it immediately precedes the noun. However, there are instances when they are harder to spot, particularly when they are a complement to a linking verb that describes a sensory experience.

  • The food tastes awful

  • Sailing is slower than going by aeroplane

  • It smells beautiful in the arboretum

In some cases, adjectives tell a person how much of something you want. For instance.

  • Please can I have twenty large melons

In this sentence, both “twenty” and “large” are modifying melons.

If you use multiple adjectives before a noun, you should usually separate them with a comma.

For instance:

  • He bought several delightful, rare gems

Types Of Adjectives

Linguists break adjectives down into three main types: absolute, comparative and superlative.

Absolute Adjectives

Absolute adjectives describe nouns without making any comparisons.

  • A big tree

  • A clever student

  • A nasty surprise

Comparative Adjectives

By contrast, comparative adjectives compare two or more things to each other. In most cases, you can transform an adjective into the comparative form by adding either “er” or “r” to the end of the word. If the adjective ends in “y” you can drop it and replace it with “ier.” For example:

  • A bigger tree

  • A cleverer student

  • A nastier surprise

Superlative Adjectives

Superlative adjectives describe the highest degree of the quality the adjective describes. You create superlatives by adding the “est” or “st” suffix to the end of the word. If it ends in “y,” replace it with “iest.” Because superlatives refer to a single instance of something, it only makes sense to use the definite article “the,” not the indefinite article “a.”

  • The biggest tree

  • The cleverest student

  • The nastiest surprise

Adjectives Versus Adverbs

Adjectives modify verbs while adverbs modify verbs. However, as discussed above, some adjectives are also complements to verbs, which can create confusion. Many people mistakenly use adverbs in place of predicate adjectives.

For example, consider the following sentence:

  • I feel terribly about our argument

Feel is a verb, so, superficially, it appears like terrible should take the adverb form “terribly”. However, because “to feel” is a linking verb, it calls for the adjective form.

In the above sentence:

  1. Adjectives describe what you feel

  2. Adverbs describe how you perform the action of feeling

The correct form of the above sentence is “I feel terrible about our argument.” However, you could also say, “I feel terribly sad about our argument.”

Here’s another example that shows the difference in meaning:

  • Brutus smells bad

  • Brutus smells badly

In the first sentence, we are saying that Brutus has an unpleasant odor. In the second, we are saying that Brutus’ sense of smell is weak.

Adjectives That Can Become Nouns, And Vice Versa

Sometimes adjectives can become nouns, and vice versa, depending on the placement in the sentence.

  • The police helicopter was circling for hours, looking for the suspect

In this sentence, the word “police” is a noun but in this sentence, it modifies “helicopter,” turning it into an adjective.

The reverse is also sometimes true. Adjectives can become nouns. For instance:

  • Charities are always looking for ways to help the vulnerable

The word “vulnerable” is usually an adjective that modifies a noun, such as “person.” However, in this case, it is being used as the noun object of the sentence.

How To Use Adjectives

While adding adjectives to sentences can seem like a good idea, you need to be careful. Good writing is concise, using as few words as possible. You might want to add adjectives to convey more meaning to your audience, but you should ask whether you should. Adjectives are usually scarce in formal writing and speech.

There are also countless situations in which the use of adjectives is redundant. For instance, you will want to avoid expressions such as:

  • A dark night

  • A free gift

  • An overused cliché

  • A universal panacea

  • A verdant green

  • A closed fist

In each of these phrases, the noun already contains all the information that the modifier is trying to add.

Combine Words

Dog + Cat = docat
Legend + Honor = leonor
Foot + Locker = fooocker

Combine Names

Brad + Angelina = Brangelina
Robert + Katelyn = Robyn
Gregory + Janet = Granet

Try our Word Combiner to combine any words or names.

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