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Adjectives – definition
Adjectives modify nouns or pronouns. They can be placed before the noun, or refer back to it.
In most sentences in English, adjectives precede the noun.
big – brown – long – heavy – bright
- This is a long brown pencil box.
- He was wearing a heavy black overcoat.
- It turned out to be a bright sunny day.
Most adjectives are words which describe the object to which they are attached.
Inexperienced writers often pile up adjectives, believing they will be more effective [‘the fierce and ugly old black shepherd dog’]. Experienced writers use fewer, with care.
NB! Adjectives are describing words.
Adjectives can also be made from verbs:
He was the driving force in a prosperous company.
These adjectives are formed from the verbs to dive and to prosper.
Adjectives can also be made from nouns:
Let’s sit on that grass verge, not in the car park.
Adjectives can either be used in a single form, as in ‘the red ball’ or, in multiple form, as in ‘a big shiny yellow beach ball’.
There is a rule of sequence here which requires the following order:
Size — texture — colour — type
The next version of this statement is not a normal English sentence, because it does not follow the descriptive rule of word-order:
The yellow big beach shiny ball.
However, both poetry and advertising deliberately break the rules to make an impact on the reader or listener.
Placing an adjective after the noun it describes often has a poetic effect:
these roses, heavy with dew
When an adjective is formed out of proper noun, it retains the capital letter:
He became a British subject.
It happened during the Victorian period.
If the adjective is formed from a common noun, then no capital is required:
She bought a table cover.
Self-assessment quiz follows …
© Roy Johnson 2003