Definition and Examples of Adjectives

The word class or part of speech known as an adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun. Most adjectives have two extra forms in addition to their fundamental (or positive) forms, such as comparative (more extensive and more beautiful) and superlative (most significant and most beautiful). Although they don’t always do so, adjectives often act as modifiers, adding details about another word or word groups, such as a noun or noun phrase. Adjectives, however, may also function in a phrase as nouns by themselves.

You’ll be employing these crucial parts of speech properly in no time if you learn a few simple grammar principles and the different kinds of adjectives. The most common adjective categories in English are shown here, along with brief descriptions of each.

Absolute Adjectives

The meaning of an absolute adjective, such as supreme or infinite, cannot be enhanced or contrasted. It is sometimes referred to as an absolute, ultimate, or incomparable modifier. Here is an example of an absolute adjective from English Language Centers:

  • He’s dead.

Dead is used as an absolute adjective in this phrase. The company that provides online and in-person English language education claims that the individual is either dead or not. A person cannot be deader than another person without being the deadest of the bunch. According to specific style manuals, absolute adjectives are always in the superlative degree. However, several absolute descriptors may be quantified using the words almost, almost, or practically.

Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

Usually, an adverb of attributes precedes the word it modifies without a connecting verb. Take this passage from Maya Angelou’s book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” for instance:

The Store was bustling with laughter, jokes, gloating, and boasting throughout those precious mornings.

Because it comes before and modifies the noun mornings, tender is an attributive adjective. Adjectives with attribution functions are nominals’ direct modifiers.

On the other hand, a predicative adjective often follows a connecting verb rather than a noun. A subject complement is another word for a predicative adjective. This is an example from the Oxford Online Living Dictionaries:

  • The cat is black.

According to the dictionary, predicative adjectives are often employed following verbs like be, become, grow, look, or appear.

Appositive Adjectives

An adjective that follows a noun and, like a non-restrictive appositive, is separated from the noun by commas or dashes and is referred to as an appositive adjective in traditional grammar. “Arthur was a huge lad,” for instance, “tall, robust, and broad-shouldered.” Arthur Conan Doyle: Beyond Baker Street, Janet B. Pascal

The example demonstrates how appositive adjectives often come in sets of two or three tricolons.

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

The form of an adjective known as a comparative adjective involves comparisons of more significant or lower amounts as well as more or less.

The suffix -er (as in “the quicker bike”) or the words more or less are used to identify comparative adjectives in English (“the more difficult job”). Nearly all one-syllable adjectives and some two-syllable adjectives produce the comparative by adding the suffix -er to the base. The term more or less designates the comparative in most adjectives with two or more syllables.

The form or degree of an adjective that denotes the most significant degree of anything is called a superlative adjective. The adjective most or least, or the suffix -est, is used to indicate superlatives, as in “the quickest bike,” and “the most difficult job.” Like comparative adjectives, superlative adjectives are formed by adding the suffix -est to the base of almost all one-syllable and a few two-syllable adjectives. The term most or least usually designates the superlative in adjectives with two or more syllables. There aren’t superlative versions for all adjectives.

To express what is being compared with after a superlative, the word “in” or “of” plus a noun phrase might be used (as in “the tallest building in the world” and “the best time of my life”).

Compound Adjectives

A compound adjective modifies a noun by combining two or more words (such as part-time and high-speed) (a part-time employee, a high-speed chase). Phrasal adjectives and compound modifiers are other names for compound adjectives.

“A well-known actor” is an example of a compound adjective that typically has its components hyphenated when they occur before a noun but not when they come after (The actor is well known). Usually, hyphens are not used with compound adjectives created with an adverb that ends in -ly, such as “swiftly changing.”

Demonstrative Adjectives

A demonstrative adjective is a predicate that precedes and identifies a specific noun. A demonstrative determiner is another name for a demonstrative adjective. For instance:

  • Son, use this bat to smash that ball into the stands.

In English, there are four demonstratives:

  • These and this are the “near” demonstratives.
  • Those, and that are the “far” demonstratives.
  • This and that, which are singular demonstratives.
  • The demonstratives in the plural, these and those

Denominal Adjectives

A noun is transformed into a denominal adjective by often adding a suffix, such as hopeless, earthy, cowardly, and infantile. An example might be:

  • To a pair of young folks from Idaho, our new neighborhood appeared romantic and extremely San Francisco-like.

In this line, the suffix -ish transforms the noun, San Francisco, into the denominal adjective. The president’s oration was “Lincolnian in its cadences, and in some ways, was the final, impassioned, heart-felt rebuke to all those, including his opponent, who tried to portray him as somehow un-American,” as in the example above. These kinds of adjectives can increase the drama and descriptiveness of a sentence. The author of “The American President” 2012-11-07 The Daily Beast

Nominal Adjectives

An adjective or collection of adjectives that serve as nouns is a nominal adjective. Nominal adjectives are often preceded by the word “the” and may be found as the subject or the object of a phrase or clause, according to “The Complete English Grammar Rules” by Farlex International. For instance: Senior citizens are a fantastic source of knowledge.

In the above phrase, the term senior serves as both the collective noun and the sentence’s subject, despite its usual role as a genuine adjective—an old gentleman. Substantive adjectives are another name for nominal adjectives.

Participial Adjectives

An adjective with the same form as the participle (a verb ending in -ing or -ed/-en) and often has the typical characteristics of an adjective is known as a participial adjective. As an example, what kind of a guy was he, to fall in love with a lying thief? The Hostage Bride by Janet Dailey

The participial adjective lying, which defines the noun thief, is created by changing the verb lie in the phrase by adding the -ing ending. Additionally, rather than using the endings -er and -est, the comparative and superlative forms of participial adjectives are constructed using more, most, least, and less.

Adjectival Observations

Everyone does not like adjectives. Constance Hale’s “Mark Twain, a well-known comic and novelist, had some fairly unfavorable remarks regarding this speech section, according to the book Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose: “When you catch an adjective, kill it. No, I don’t mean completely, but eliminate most of them—then the remaining ones will be useful. When they are close together, they deteriorate. When they are far apart, they provide support.”

Additionally, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw cited the following comment made by former British Cabinet Minister Barbara Castle in his 2002 eulogy: “Aggravate your adjectives. People are interested in nouns and verbs.” Ned Halley “Modern English Grammar Dictionary

While verbs do describe the activity or state of being, nouns are often the topic of a phrase. However, when used correctly and efficiently, as you can see from the preceding examples, adjectives may improve a variety of phrases by offering vibrant, colorful, and in-depth descriptions that add interest to otherwise uninteresting words.

Choose your Reaction!