What Is An Adjective?

What is an adjective?

Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns.

That is a nice, short definition. I bet that you can memorize that pretty easily. In fact, make it your goal to memorize that definition.

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The adjectives in the following examples are in bold. They come right before the nouns that they are modifying.

yellow sun

furry monkey

sixteen candles

Caroline's book

This video tells you more about adjectives, and it teaches you how to diagram them. Cool!

Well, what did you think? Was that helpful? You can learn more with videos using these grammar lessons.


The Adjective Questions

What is an adjective? You know that by now, right? Well, there are a few other things you should know about these parts of speech.

There are certain questions about adjectives that you should memorize.

Knowing the adjective questions will help you know for sure whether any word is acting as an adjective.

Adjectives answers at least one of these adjective questions.

1. Which one? (yellow, the, that)

2. What kind? (furry, plastic, special)

3. How many? (sixteen, several, many)

4. Whose? (Caroline's, his, its, John's)


The Adjective Questions At Work

What is an adjective? It's something that describes a noun or pronoun.

Let's look at this cute monkey here. How would you describe it?

You could say it is a furry monkey.

The adjective furry describes the noun monkey and answers the adjective question Which one? or What kind?

Which monkey? The furry monkey. What kind of monkey? The furry monkey.

Let's pretend that this monkey belongs to a girl named Bianca. You could say that it is Bianca's monkey.

The adjective Bianca's describes the noun monkey and answers the adjective question Whose?

Whose monkey? Bianca's monkey.


Articles

Articles are special kinds of adjectives. (By the way, what is an adjective? Do you remember? Good.)

Good news! There are only three articles in the English language! That's easy! They are the, a, and an.

  • The = Definite Article

The article the is called a definite article. This is because it points out a definite, or specific person, place, or thing.

If I said, "Read the book." I am not referring to any old book, but to a specific book.

  • A & An = Indefinite Articles

The articles a and an are called indefinite articles. This is because they do not point out specific people, places, or things.

If I said, "Read a book." You could read any book that you wanted to read.

Use a before words that begin with consonant sounds and use an before words that begin with vowel sounds.

So, you would say, "a game" (g is a consonant sound), but "an ant" (a is a vowel sound).

It seems kind of funny, but articles answer the adjective question, Which one?


Proper Adjectives

Proper adjectives start with capital letters just like proper nouns. In fact, proper adjectives are made from proper nouns.

They normally answer the adjective question, What kind?

Proper Noun Proper Adjective
America American cars
English English grammar
Mexico Mexican food

Comparatives & Superlatives

Many adjectives can have different degrees. By this I mean that something can have more or less of an adjective's quality.

For instance, you may find the weather in California to be hot, Tahiti's weather to be hotter, and the Sahara Desert's to be the hottest.

Do you see how there are different degrees of the adjective hot?

We've just used the comparative and superlative forms of the word hot to show this adjective's different degrees.

Positive Comparative Superlative
hot hotter hottest

Comparative Adjectives

Use the comparative form when you are comparing two things.

In the examples below, we are comparing Emily and her neighbor.

Emily is richer than her neighbor.

Emily is more beautiful than her neighbor.

Okay, now that we'd all like to meet the rich and beautiful Emily, let's look at the patterns of comparative adjectives.

Most comparative adjectives end in -er (richer, happier, taller) or begin with more (more beautiful, more peaceful, more spontaneous).

There are also irregular comparatives which do not follow this -er or more pattern (better, less, worse).

Superlative Adjectives

Use the superlative form when you are comparing three or more things.

In the examples below, we are comparing Emily with her neighbor AND her librarian.

Out of Emily, her neighbor, and her librarian, Emily is the richest.

Out of Emily, her neighbor, and her librarian, Emily is the most beautiful.

Most superlative adjectives end in -est (richest, happiest, tallest) or begin with most (most beautiful, most peaceful, most spontaneous).

But, just like comparative adjectives, there are some irregularities (best, least, worst).

In the chart below, positive simply means the form of the adjective before it is in its comparative or superlative form.

Regular Comparatives and Superlatives

Positive Comparative Superlative
happy happier happiest
beautiful more beautiful most beautiful

Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives

Positive Comparative Superlative
good better best
little less least
bad worse worst

Neither Comparative Nor Superlative

Some adjectives cannot change degrees!

For example, a woman is either pregnant or she isn't. There is no pregnanter or pregnantest.

Your best buddy might be your main man, but you don't have a mainer or mainest man.

Feeling overwhelmed? Just remember the answer to the question, What is an adjective? (It's a word that describes a noun or pronoun, remember?) That's the most important thing to remember.

Want to see more examples of adjectives? Click here.


"A man's character may be learned from
the adjectives which he habitually
uses in conversation." - Mark Twain


Adjective or Pronoun?

Some words can be either adjectives or pronouns depending on how they are acting in the sentence.

How are you going to tell the difference?

Well, what is an adjective? It's a word that describes a noun or pronoun, right?

So, if a word describes a noun or pronoun, it's an adjective.

If a word takes the place of a noun instead of describing it, then it is a pronoun.

Adjective Why?
Both pens fell on the floor. Both describes the noun pens, and it answers the adjective question, Which ones?
Gee, Martha, this pie is delicious! This describes the noun pie, and answers the adjective question, Which pie?


Pronoun Why?
Both of us are going to the movie. Both is not describing a noun.
Is this my piece? This does not describe a noun.

Predicate Adjectives

Predicate adjectives are a bit tricky because they involve linking verbs. You will learn all about them when you are diagramming. Go ahead and read about them, but don't lose any sleep over memorizing this stuff right now.

Focus on memorizing the answer to the question, What is an adjective? and the adjective questions.

Predicate adjectives come after linking verbs and describe the subject of the sentence.

I feel happy.

Happy describes the subject I, and it comes after the linking verb feel.

This banana is ripe!

Ripe describes the subject banana, and it comes after the linking verb is.


Learn To Diagram Sentences!

Do you know your stuff? Click here to learn how to diagram adjectives.

If you still can't answer the question, What is an adjective?, the diagramming page will help you.

If you want to teach or learn grammar the easy way, then follow a step-by-step program that clearly lays everything out for you and allows you to move at your own pace. The Get Smart program is presented in a logical sequence, so it's not an overwhelming mishmash of information. Before you know it, you'll be a grammar and sentence diagramming pro!

The whole program is online, so you have instant access to these lessons and videos. It's easy and fun. You can get it at www.English-Grammar-Revolution.com/daily-diagrams.html
Keep learning and have fun!

Elizabeth O'Brien is the creator of the Grammar Revolution step-by-step grammar and sentence diagramming programs. Her programs are guaranteed not only to teach you grammar, but also to give you more confidence in your communication skills.

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What is an adjective?

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