Grammar Essentials: Adjectives

Read the following text about adjectives. 

An adjective modifies (describes/distinguishes) nouns and pronouns. In other words, adjectives change nouns or pronouns in some way. So movie is a noun, and a scary movie has been changed by the adjective scary.

It’s important to remember, too, adjectives, as in the case of a scary movie, give you a way to inject your point of view into your writing. You might also describe a lovable book, a beautiful dress, or an ominous sky. There’s a certain amount of subjectivity, of course, in all of these words, so you’ll want to work to keep your audience in mind when choosing your adjectives and do your best to make sure your adjectives (or descriptors) are specific, concrete, and will make sense to both you and your audience.

Order of Adjectives

Adjectives need to be placed in a particular order. What information do you post first? If you’re a native English speaker, you can probably figure out the order without any thought. That’s because you understand English grammar—even if it’s only because you know what “sounds” right. And, if you’re a non-native English speaker, you’ve probably been schooled in the order.

Below, you’ll find an image illustrating the royal order of adjectives. Again, native English speakers follow the order—but we don’t always know WHY. Think about it. Why would we automatically write four gorgeous, long-stemmed, red, silk roses rather than four silk, long stemmed, gorgeous, red roses? What drives the order in our description? The first example leads us down a logical path; the second example doesn’t let us know which details are most important.

The Royal Order of Adjectives

Determiner Observation Physical Description Origin Material Qualifier Noun
    Size Shape Age Color        
a beautiful     old   Italian   touring car
an expensive     antique     silver   mirror
four gorgeous   stemmed   red   silk   roses
her     short   black       hair
our   big   old   English     sheepdog
those     square       wooden hat boxes
that dilapidated little           hunting cabin
several   giant   young   American   basketball players
some delicious         Chinese     food

a beautiful old Italian touring car

Determiner

a

Observation

beautiful

Physical Description

Size
 
Shape
 
Age
old
Color
 

Origin

Italian

Material

Qualifier

touring

Noun

car

four gorgeous stemmed red silk roses

Determiner

four

Observation

gorgeous

Physical Description

Size
 
Shape
stemmed
Age
 
Color
red

Origin

Material

silk

Qualifier

Noun

roses

that dilapidated little hunting cabin

Determiner

that

Observation

dilapidated

Physical Description

Size
little
Shape
 
Age
 
Color
 

Origin

Material

Qualifier

hunting

Noun

cabin


Types of Adjectives

Comparatives and superlatives are types of adjectives, but one (comparatives) provides a relative distinction while the other (superlatives) signifies the most extreme.

Comparative adjectives often end in -er, and superlative adjectives often end in -est.

Comparative:

My World of Warcraft fighter is tougher than your character.

Superlative:

My World of Warcraft fighter is the toughest character ever.


There are also some adjectives that are irregular when you turn them into the comparative and superlative, and some, usually adjectives with two syllables, require that you simply add more or most in front of them.

The following examples are of some regular and some irregular adjectives.

Adjective

Comparative

Superlative

kind

kinder

kindest

strong

stronger

strongest

good

better

best

bad

worse

worst

careful

more careful

most careful

awesome

more awesome

most awesome

 


Source: Excelsior Online Writing Lab, https://owl.excelsior.edu/grammar-essentials/parts-of-speech/adjectives/
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 License.

Last modified: Monday, August 30, 2021, 8:28 AM