Adjectives

1) What are Adjectives?

Adjectives are words that tell us something about a person or a thing,

2. What do adjectives modify?

Adjectives can modify nouns or pronouns/names.

person thing
Susan is a beautiful girl. That is a beautiful flower.
Susan is beautiful. The flower is beautiful
She is beautiful It is beautiful

3. Where do adjectives go?

Most adjectives can go in two main places in a sentence. An adjective that is put before the noun is an attribute.

person thing
Susan is a beautiful girl. That is a beautiful flower.

An adjective can be put after a verb. This is called predicative position. These verbs are called copular verbs and they refer the adjective back to the subject. 

person thing
The girl is beautiful. This flower is nice.

Adjectives can go after the following verbs:

  • be
  • seem
  • appear
  • look
  • sound
  • smell
  • taste
  • become
  • feel
  • get
  • go
  • keep
  • turn

When we speak about how something looks, smells, sounds and tastes – we use an adjective, not an adverb.

  • I feel fantastic.
  • She looks good.
  • Honey is sweet.
  • The food tastes great.

Compare:

  • She spoke intelligently. (Here the adverb intelligently modifies the ordinary verb spoke.)
  • She appears intelligent. (NOT She appears intelligently. Appears is a copular verb. It should be followed by an adjective, not an adverb.)

You can find out more about the difference between adjectives and adverbs here

4. Can adjectives be used without nouns?

Usually you cannot leave out the noun after an adjective as there is nothing for the adjective to describe:

  • A clever man ( NOT A clever )

But in some cases you can:

A) When you are talking about a group of people and you use the definite article the:

  • the rich = rich people
  • the unemployed = unemployed people

B) With nationalities in the plural:

  • The Scottish are proud of their whisky.

5. Can two or more adjectives be used together?

Yes, if you use more adjectives you can put them in front of the noun:

  • a fat old lady

or you can put them after the verb (e.g. to be). In this case and is placed between the last two adjectives.

  • He was tall, dark and handsome.

6. What order are multiple adjectives placed in?

When a number of adjectives are placed before a noun they have to be placed in a specific order. Not everyone agrees on the exact order but here are the most usual.

Amount Opinion Size Age Shape Colour Origin Material Purpose Noun
six   large      brown       eggs
a beautiful   new round     glass   table
lots of happy   young     Italian   fashion models

7. Adjectives, ending in -ing and -ed

There are adjectives ending in -ing and -ed. These are formed from verbs and are called participles and are used like adjectives. Here are some examples:

A) Here the adjective is put before the noun:

  • Yesterday I saw an interesting film on television.
  • He is a boring person.
  • It was a really exciting match.

B) Here the adjective is put after the verb:

  • I was not interested in the lesson.
  • I get bored very quickly.
  • Children get very excited at Christmas.