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Different kinds of adjectives

Updated on August 26, 2013

Adjectives can certainly be confusing to native and non-native speakers of English alike. Many learners tend to be more concerned with an adjective's meaning rather than its grammar. So here is some information about understanding about different kinds of adjectives and their grammar.

What exactly is an adjective anyways?

Adjectives are words that modify nouns (person, place or things). They give us more information about the noun. They add size, shape, colour, dimension, and age to these words and they answer such questions as which one?, what kind?, how many? how much?

Adjectives are often derived from nouns and verbs

Nouns are persons places and things, but you can take a noun and turn it into an adjective. For example: Beauty can become beautiful, danger can turn into dangerous. Sometimes verbs can be used to make adjectives: act can become active, talk can become talkative

Present Participle adjectives

When you use the "ing" form of the verb without a helping verb, you can also create an adjective. The "ing" of the verb is called the present participle.

Take the verb swim. When you add the the "ing" on it, you have swimming. Participles are never used in isolation in English, so when you place one in front of a noun, you have an adjective. For example: swimming lessons.

Past participle adjectives

A verb's past participle can also serve as an adjective. Take the verb cook. The past participle is cooked. When you use cook as a verb in the past tense, you can say I cooked the eggs, but did you know they ate cooked eggs for breakfast? The past participle before the noun now functions as an adjective.

Multi-word adjectives

These are also known as hyphenated adjectives. Here are some examples: well-liked; well-mannered, self-centered. Notice that the second word of the multi-word adjective is a past participle. Try also using the past participle of a phrasal verb. For example, someone can wear you out, and as a result, you feel worn-out.

Comparative adjectives (differences)

Simple demonstration of adjectives

More types of adjectives

Comparatives - when you are analyzing one thing against another thing, you are comparing. The word that describes the extent that a is different than B is known as the comparative adjective. A is smaller than B, X is taller than Y. These comparatives are regular because, all we needed to do, was put an "er" after a one syllable adjective. For some two syllable adjectives, to make them comparative we need to use the word "more". A is more beautiful than B. C is more vocal than D.

Some comparatives are just irregular. One familiar example is the adjective good. If we are talking about how A is different from B, we say A is better than B (in the negative, we could say, A is worse than B--that is also an irregular form).

Superlative adjectives - Adjectives can also be in the superlative form. The superlative is usually used to say which item out of least three is the best. He is the tallest of the three, she is the shortest of the five. With two syllable adjectives you would use the adverb "most" with the superlative: She is the most beautiful (not beautifullest) woman in the world. He is the most accomplished scientist in the country.

Adjectives in a sentence

Where do adjectives go in a sentence? Usually they precede a noun. But in some cases, they go after a verb, when it serves as the complement. This is common with the verb "to be".

example of adjectives as complements

I am sick (adjective). The milk smells bad (adjective), I became tired (adjective)

What order do you place adjectives in a sentence?

According to some grammar books I've read, adjective order in a sentence goes something like this: size, shape, colour, origin, material, use for example, she was wearing a large floppy, white, French, cotton, chef's hat. Most people, though, don't usually stack all five types of adjectives together.

To sum up

Most people learn how to use adjective by constant practice and reading. Understanding the role this part of speech will give you some insight on how to select the right form of the word and where to place in the sentence.

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  • Rhonda_M profile image

    Rhonda Malomet 5 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    Sounds good

  • alancaster149 profile image

    Alan R Lancaster 5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

    A useful primer, Rhonda. As an exercise you could 'dismantle' a popular nursery rhyme or bedtime story into its component parts, 'Mary, Mary, quite contrary' etc.