Adjectives

What is an Adjective? (Definition, Types and Examples)

Hello dear reader, I am quite sure you have heard about Adjectives. But let me show you, by this post, 5 Things to Know about English Adjectives. Here we go…

What is an Adjective?

Adjectives are words that describe or give more information about nouns or pronouns in a sentence. In other words, adjective describes the quality of nouns or pronouns in a sentence. Adjectives limit the words they describe in some way by making them more specific. For instance, the addition of ‘green’ to ‘car’ limits ‘car’ since it excludes any other car by any other colour.

Adjectives tell us something about the colour, size, number, quality or classification of a noun or pronoun. Examples include: red curtains, jet-black hair, brownish eyes, tiny feet, large houses, massive estates, six children, ten questions, twenty-five yards, happy people, delicious meals, mechanical engineering, nuclear weapons, modern languages, Victorian era, etc.

Words that come before a noun are modifiers while words that come after a noun are qualifiers.

Recognition or Formation of Adjectives

We can recognise or form Adjectives in various ways:

Through adjectives suffixes such as:

-able: probable, available, laudable, remarkable, palatable, palpable, calculable, insatiable, etc.

-al: national, international, economical, statistical, chemical, functional, mathematical, ecumenical, irrational, cynical, comical, mechanical, etc.

-ful: hopeful, wonderful, meaningful, careful, beautiful, fruitful, tasteful, useful, faithful, bashful, boastful, lustful, etc.

-ble: edible, possible, flexible, gullible, visible, feasible,

-ish: foolish, smallish, sheepish, youngish, bookish, childish, roundish, girlish, boyish, babyish, churlish, snobbish, etc.

-ous: porous, generous, tedious, industrious, meritorious, ridiculous, ludicrous, garrulous, loquacious, pretentious, religious, judicious, salacious, etc.

-an: Nigerian, Kenyan, African, American, Ethiopian, Estonian, Algerian, Canadian, Bolivian, Malaysian, Ghanaian, Armenian, etc.

-less: listless, brainless, restless, hopeless, wireless, penniless, meaningless, thoughtless, sleeveless, tactless, etc.

-ive: invective, submissive, inventive, attractive, intuitive, impulsive, resistive, educative, correlative, repulsive, imitative, retentive, etc.

-ic: terrific, ballistic, bombastic, artistic, rustic, drastic, classic, elastic, iconic, exotic, dramatic, aerobic, panegyric, dyslexic, etc.

Adjectives formed from Nouns

Examples include:

Attraction/attractive, Nigeria/Nigerian, dyslexia/dyslexic, meaning/meaningful, industry/industrious, baby/babyish, child/childish, retention/retentive, ridicule/ridiculous, danger/dangerous, Ghana/Ghanaian, boast/boastful, wind/windy, star/starry, anger/angry, intelligence/intelligent, ease/easy, virtue/virtuous, luck/lucky, pain/painful, etc.

Adjectives formed from Verbs

Examples include:

Enjoy/enjoyable, help/helpful, sadden/sad, quicken/quick, please/pleasant, persuade/persuasive, permit/permissible, observe/observatory, participate/participatory, anticipate/anticipatory, move/movable, invent/inventive, instruct/instructive, injure/injurious, inform/informative, indicate/indicative, impress/impressive, force/forceful, harm/harmful, disturb/disturbing, etc.

Adjectives formed from Other Adjectives

Examples include:

Sick/sickly, red/reddish, yellow/yellowish, correct/corrective, elder/elderly, comic/comical, classic/classical, historic/historical, electric/electrical, magic/magical, fantastic/fantastical, poetic/poetical, etc.

Functions of Adjectives

The basic function of an adjective is to modify a noun. Any word or phrase that modifies a noun or pronoun is an adjective. If it a phrase, it is an adjectival phrase. Such word or phrase modifies nouns in the following ways:

If It Comes Before the Noun

An adjective is attributive when it precedes a noun. This is an attributive adjective or modifier because it attributes its quality to the noun it precedes. Examples include:

  • Diligent people wake up early in the morning.
  • The brilliant girl is equally beautiful.
  • Careful drivers avoid the lonely
  • Clever people end up being sought after.

If It Comes After the Noun

An adjective that comes after the noun qualifies or post-modifies the noun; hence the name ‘post-modifiers’. Examples include:

  • The governor elect is here.
  • Our ambassador designate has travelled.
  • The heir apparent is uneducated.
  • Supplies available will not go round
  • Babies with dimples are cute.

When we use each of the adjectives in the examples above as modifiers or pre-modifiers, the sentences read as follow:

  • The elected governor is here.
  • Our designated ambassador has travelled.
  • The apparent heir is uneducated.
  • Available Supplies will not go round
  • Dimply Babies are cute.

Adjectives can also function as nouns. Consider these examples:

  • The rich also cry.
  • The poor could be proud.
  • The dead
  • The underprivileged are welcome.
  • The fearful are not allowed.
  • God hates the boastful.

In this case, the verb that accompanies this is usually a Plural Verb.

Types of Adjectives

There are different types of adjectives that are worth examining. They include the following:

Predicative Adjectives

The ‘predicate’ is anything that is said about the subject, which is always a noun. An adjective can function ‘predicatively’. A predicative adjective is one that helps to form the predicate and so comes after the verb. In other words, there must be a verb in between the subject and the adjective for it to be called a predicative adjective. Predicative adjectives can also be seen as the complement of the subject. Complement intensives, that is, complements that refer to the subject can also be seen as predicative adjectives. Examples include:

  • Their demands are tough
  • Your face looks familiar.
  • The questions appeared simple.
  • She was very tired.
  • The music was very mournful.

Gradable and Non-gradable Adjectives

Gradable adjectives are those that can take degrees of comparison: the comparative form and the superlative forms. Examples of gradable adjectives include: soon, clean, etc.

Non-gradable adjectives are those that cannot accommodate the comparative and the superlative forms. Examples of such adjectives include: supreme, beautiful, reasonable, handsome, etc.

Possessive Adjectives

These function the way Possessive Pronouns do. Possessive Pronouns that function as adjectives are called ‘Pronominal Adjectives’. Read more about them on this page.

Demonstrative Adjectives

These types are similar to Demonstrative Pronouns. Read more here.

Degree/Comparison of Adjectives

The degree of Adjectives can be in three forms; the positive, the comparative and the superlative.

The Positive Form

This is the absolute form or the adjective itself. This is the first degree. Examples include: short, tall, fat, slim, gentle, clever, candid, intelligent, etc.

The Comparative Form

The Comparative is the second degree of the adjective formed with the addition of the ‘-er’ to the positive form for adjectives that can be inflected and attachment of ‘more’ to adjectives that cannot be inflected; for instance; more realistic, more tactful, more brilliant, etc. The correct form that we can inflect is largely an issue of length. Monosyllabic adjectives such as: loud, short, tall, slim, etc. add ‘-er’ to become louder, shorter, taller, slimmer, etc. Adjectives with two syllables have both forms as a possibility as in gentler/more gentle, cleverer/more cleverer, etc. Adjectives with three or more syllables usually form their comparatives with the addition of ‘more’. Note that we cannot use the two forms of the comparative (‘-er’ and ‘more’) together on an adjective. To say, ‘more better’ or ‘more shorter’ is ungrammatical. We use the comparative when it involves two people or groups. E. g.

  • She is the neater of the two girls.
  • Ade is more intelligent than Uche.

The Superlative Form

The superlative form is the third degree of the adjective and it is usually formed with the addition of the ‘-est’ to the positive form of the adjectives that can be inflected and the use of ‘most’ to adjectives that cannot be inflected; for instance; most elegant, most ideal, most level-headed, most intelligent, etc. Unlike it is in the case of comparative, three or more entities are involved and the superlative (‘-est’ and ‘most’) and cannot be used together on an adjective. It is wrong to say, ‘most best’ or ‘most shortest’.

In addition, it is good to note that some adjectives are irregular in both their comparative and superlative forms, e. g.

  • Good/better/best
  • Many/more/most
  • Little/less/least
  • Bad/worse/worst

It is only if they begin with ‘un’ that they are likely to end in ‘-er’ or ‘est’ as in ‘untrustworthier/untrustworthiest’.

Some adjectives, by their very definitions, do not normally have a comparative form. They are always in the superlative e. g. unique, best, utmost, optimum, optimal, etc.

Read more on other Parts of Speech.

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