Adjectives modify nouns, pronouns, and other adjectives. They provide pertinent information about the words they modify by answering the questions What kind? How many? Which one? How much? Adjectives can add precision, color, and a dash of originality to writing.
- The zoo has a two-year-old male leopard. (What kind?)
- There may be ten planets in our solar system. (How many?)
- He gave her that hat over there. (Which one?)
- I have a bigger TV than he does. (How much?)
The demonstrative adjectives which, what, this, these, that, and those are used to emphasize which items are being singled out and their distance from the speaker. Unlike the pronoun forms of these words, demonstrative adjectives are never used alone.
- I feel sorry for those people caught in the flood. (Pronoun form: I feel sorry for those caught in the flood.)
- Take this car here and that car over by the driveway and park them both in the lot.
- I don’t understand which person you’re talking about.
- He doesn’t know what schedule the driver is using this week.
Many adjectives are used to identify or number the nouns they modify. In nearly all cases, the limiting adjective comes before the noun. Following is a list of some of the more common of these adjectives.
a mango, an orange
the hammer, the screwdrivers
Limiting adjectives a, an, and the are also known as articles. A and an are indefinite articles and refer to an unspecified item in a class (a box, an apple). The is a definite article and refers to one or more specific items in a class (the box, the apples).
Adjectives also are used to show comparisons between or among persons, places, or things. The positive, comparative, and superlative forms represent different degrees of quality or characteristic.
The positive form is the base word (low, cautious). The comparative is formed by adding the suffix er or the word more (lower, more cautious). The superlative requires the suffix est or the word most (lowest, most cautious).
There are several irregular comparative forms as well.
When comparing two items, use the positive and comparative forms. For more than two items, use the superlative.
- The black puppy is smaller than its brother. (comparative)
- The brown puppy is the smallest of the eight. (superlative)
- Jan has a good grade point average, Brian has a better one, while Joan has the best average of all. (positive, comparative, superlative)
- That movie was more boring than a test pattern. (comparative)
- He has the most expensive satellite dish on the block. (superlative)
Compound adjectives generally are hyphenated when they precede the noun they modify. When they follow the noun, they are not hyphenated.
- She wanted a blue-gray living room.
- She even dyed the curtains blue gray.
- That is a past-due bill.
- The bill is past due.
When an adjective follows a linking verb such as feel, become, seem, get, is, look, and smell, the word complements the verb and is known as a predicate adjective. The adjective does not modify the verb but refers to the condition of the subject.
- She looks beautiful.
- He seems unhappy. Is he all right?
- The water is getting hot.