All About Adjectives In English Grammar

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We already had a look at the different parts of speech or word classes that exist in the English language in an earlier article published on the blog. Thus, it’s only natural, to expand and dig a little deeper into one of them in some more detail today. This article is part of a series that explores the word classes of the short overview more in depth.


Today’s article is about an, admittedly, less important word class from a pure sentence-forming view. However, using these words makes writing and our life in general a bit more colorful. We’re, of course, talking about: adjectives. We will have a look at different types of adjectives and at their most prominent features.


Adjectives In The English Language


What Are Adjectives?

Adjectives describe other words, mainly nouns or pronouns and their respective phrases. They modify these other words, adding more detail and information. While they are not required in a sentence like nouns and verbs are, they add greatly to conveying a certain mood, quality or importance in writing. The common attributes adjectives portray are quantity and quality, age, shape and color and size. There are some others as well though. Refer to the examples below:

Quantity or number: three, fifteen, dozen
Quality: beautiful, amazing, incredible, lame, boring
Size: little, small, large, huge, tiny, narrow, wide
Color: green, white, black, violet
Age: old, young, new
Shape: round, heart-shaped, drop-shaped, circular
Proper adjectives: French, antique, European, silk


Adjectives belong to a word class that is considered open. This means that, opposed to closed word classes, new words can be made up and added to the word class of adjectives.


Formerly, words like the, this, your, an and the like were classified as adjectives as well. However, by now, it’s more common to refer to those as pronouns and determiners.


Different Adjective Uses

Adjectives can be used in different ways. Three major ones are as attribution, predicates and even as nouns. Lets have a closer look at the different usages below, of course with examples that will make the explanations easier to understand.


Attributive adjectives are directly preceding the noun they are modifying in English. You could say that this is the typical or most common usage of an adjective.

This is one happy dog.


Predicative adjectives do not appear right before or after the noun or pronoun they modify, but are linked to it via a copula like is.

Marcel and Linda got a little baby boy. They are so happy about it.


Nominal adjectives can almost be seen as proper nouns. They mostly occur in sentences where a comparison is made. Instead of repeating the noun, the simple notion of the adjective is enough to imply the noun that has been left out.

They watched two movies yesterday. André is a fan of the sad movie, but Becky liked the happy.


Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives are formed by joining two or three adjectives together. Here, it’s important to distinguish the difference between a compound adjective and a pair of adverb and adjective. Usually, compound adjectives are written with a hyphen in the middle.

Stephanie is only a part-time employee.
Raphael has an amazing 1-year-old shepherd.

Note that in the last example, amazing is not part of the compound. It is rather a second adjective that also modifies the noun shepherd. Likewise, in the following example, very is not part of the compound either. It’s an adverb that modifies the adjective itself.

The kids were very well-behaved at school today.


Comparative Adjectives

In English, adjectives are comparable. That means that they can be more or even most something. Some adjectives actually use more and most for this comparison, but some change their spelling by using the suffixes –er and –est.

Percy is a very old dog, but my cat Michael is even older. But I am definitely the oldest of us.


Some adjectives, however, form this comparison irregular.

I am very good at lacrosse, but Jane is even better. Shane is the best at it though.


This does not account to all adjectives, however. One tree can seldom be more green or greener than another.



English does not show any agreement between the adjective and the word it modifies. In languages like French, the verb and the modified noun or pronoun always agree with respect to the gender of the noun.

Le lapin blanc. (The white rabbit – rabbit is masculine in French) ?
Le lapin blanche. ?
La chambre blanche. (The white bedroom – bedroom is feminine in French) ?
La chambre blanc. ?