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ESL/EFL – How to Teach Adjectives

Updated on September 4, 2013
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Below is a comprehensive guide to teaching English adjectives to ESL/EFL students. If you already have a good grasp of English adjectives and are just looking for some interesting teaching activities, why not scroll down to the end to the teaching ideas section?


Adjectives describe nouns, pronouns or noun phrases. They tell us more about people, places and things. For example:

Size – It’s a massive building.

Shape – Marilyn Monroe had an hourglass shape.

Opinion - He’s a horrible man.

Origin – They’re Russian dolls.

Age – It’s a very old picture.

Quantities – Those two cars.

Colour – I don’t like the red one.

Material – A diamond ring.

Use – Jogging pants.

Specific nouns – Look at those boys over there!



Types of Adjectives


Attributive/Common - Most adjectives go before the noun.

Example - It’s a pink dress.


Predicative - Used after the verb ‘To Be, To Seem, To Look, To Appear.’

Example - They are ambitious/They seem unhappy.


Demonstrative - They show where the noun is (When they are accompanied by a noun they are adjectives, when they stand alone they are pronouns).

Example - This paper, That mess, Those children, These cases.


Possessive - Show who things belong to.

Example - My head, Your money, Her perfume, His enemies, Its bed, Our problems, Their development.


Compound - Formed by joining two words, usually hyphenated.

Example - She’s hard-working.


Comparative or Superlative - When comparing two or more things.

Example - She’s taller than her brother/It’s the most exciting city.



A Half Dozen Classy Birds

Source

Comparative Adjectives – Used to compare 2 nouns

Adjective
Rule
Example
With a 1 syllable adjectives
Add 'er…than'
Cheap – cheaper
Adjectives ending in a vowel and a consonant
Double the final consonant
Thin – thinner….than
Adjective with 2 or more syllables ending in ‘y’
Remove the ‘y’ and add ‘ier’
Friendly –friendlier
With 2 or more syllables
Insert the word ‘more + adjective than’
They are more famous than they were last year.
Irregular
 
Good – better than, bad – worse than, far – further than.

Superlative adjectives – Used to talk about 3 or more adjectives.

 
 
 
1 syllable adjective
Add ‘the + adjective + est’
He is the fastest runner
Adjectives ending in a vowel and a consonant
Double the final consonant
Fat –the fattest
2 or more syllables ending in ‘y’
Remove the ‘y’ and add ‘iest’
Healthy – the healthiest
2 or more syllables
Insert the word ‘the most + adjective’
It is the most polluted city
Irregular
 
Good – the best, bad – the worst, far – the furthest

Comparative & Superlative Adjectives - Exceptions

Other information:

  • Adjectives can be gradable or complete.

That house is a bit scary/The heat is sweltering.


  • Adjectives can be also formed from nouns or verbs.

Excitement-Exciting/Bore-Boring.


  • They often have these endings: -ive, -able, -ate, -ible , -ant, -ent, -ous, -ful, -y.

Pensive, Dependable, Fortunate, Responsible, Important, Dependent, Horrendous, Disrespectful, Sassy.


  • Adjectives can be formed using ing or ed, but the meaning is not always the same.

Comforting/Comforted.

I am bored/I am boring.


  • Adjectives don’t have a plural form.

Incorrect: The yellows cars.


  • You don’t join adjectives with conjunctions before a noun.

They went to a lovely and quaint cabin.


  • Adjectives must be used in a certain order when there is more than one of them.

Some Old Celtic Art

Source

Order of Adjectives

In Descending Order
Examples
Opinion
Dopey
Size
Tiny
Age
Young
Shape
Cubed
Colour
Purple
Origin
Canadian
Material
Plastic
Use
Dieting (techniques)

Teaching Ideas - Adjectives

Print off this picture and ask your students to come up with as many adjectives as possible.
Print off this picture and ask your students to come up with as many adjectives as possible. | Source

Teaching Ideas

Guess the Noun

Choose a student to leave the room. Then select a noun from the anywhere in the course book. Get the remaining students to write down an adjective that they would associate with the noun. Call the student back into the room and ask the others to read out their adjectives. The student must guess the noun. For example:

Noun-Pizza.

Adjectives- Delicious, Italian, Vegetable...etc.


My Evil Twin

Students write about an imaginary evil twin and compare themselves to the twin. You could write these examples on the board to get them started:

  • I am a positive person, but my evil twin is very negative.
  • I am a little shorter than my evil twin.
  • I am quite talkative, but my other half is moody and quiet.


English Proverbs

Give the students the common English proverbs below. Each proverb is missing its adjective and the student has to insert the correct one. More advanced levels could try to guess the adjectives or you could write them on the board for the lower levels.

  1. The pen is _______________ than the sword.
  2. Let ________________ dogs lie.
  3. The _____________ bird catches the worm.
  4. Actions speak ______________ than words.
  5. Hope for the ____________, but prepare for the ___________ .
  6. People who live in ____________ houses should not throw stones.
  7. A picture is worth a _______________ words.
  8. There is no such thing as a ______________ lunch.
  9. ____________ things come to those who wait.
  10. The grass is always _____________ on the other side.

Answers: 1-Mightier, 2-sleeping, 3-early, 4-louder, 5-Best, worst, 6-glass, 7-thousand, 8-free, 9-Good, 10-greener.


Adjectives Crossword

Source

Crossword

Feelings/Personality adjectives for Advanced Levels

1. To feel suspicion and resentment towards another person’s success or to feel rivalry

2. To be free from anxiety, pain or fear

3. Someone who shows consideration for others

4. To feel anxious or uneasy

5. To feel irritated or harassed

6. Someone who has a good nature, who is helpful or considerate

7. Enthusiastic or passionate about something

8. Kind, not severe, moderate

9. Full of life or energy

10. When someone is feeling uncomfortably self-conscious

Solutions - Across

1. Jealous

2. Relieved

3. Thoughtful

4. Worried

5. Annoyed

6. Kind

Solutions – Down

7. Zealous

8. Gentle

9. Lively

10. Embarrassed


Alternatively -

For higher levels you could even ask the students to make their own crossword. The students could create the clues and give them to their partner to test.

© 2013 Muttface

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