Adjectives describe nouns: The tall man eats the beef pie. The words ‘tall’ and ‘beef’ in this sentence are adjectives because they describe the nouns (the man and the pie).
Comparative adjective: The dog is bigger than the cat.
Superlative adjective: The giraffe is the tallest of all the animals
Comparative adjectives compare two nouns. The comparative adjective usually ends in ‘er’ except for when the stem adjective is more than one syllable (or sometimes two). In this case, we use the word ‘more’ or ‘less’ before it.
For example, ‘The diamond is more beautiful than the emerald’ or ‘the emerald is less beautiful than the diamond’.
Superlative adjectives usually take ‘est’ at the end of the stem except for when adjective is more than one syllable (or sometimes two). In this case ‘the most’ or ‘the least’ is used before it. E.g. ‘the most interesting film’ or ‘the least interesting film’.
Rarely, some one syllable words also require ‘more’/’the most’ in order to express a comparison. For example, the word ‘bored’ needs ‘more bored’ and ‘the most bored’. For example, ‘I am bored, you are more bored, but he is the most bored’.
Irregular adjectives do not use the stem to make the comparative and superlative, they require a different word altogether. For example, the word ‘good’ uses ‘better’ as its comparative adjective, and ‘the best’ as its superlative adjective.
- The book was less interesting than the film, but the television programme was the most boring of them all.
- The bus was slower than the train, but the aeroplane was the fastest of the transport options.
Possessive adjectives are special words which are used before a noun to denote possession of that noun by someone or something. These words are: my, your, his, her, its (no apostrophe), our, their.
Example sentences with possessive adjectives:
My hat is the biggest
Your car is faster than her motorbike
His birthday is in March
It is their turn to come to our house tomorrow.
That house has its windows open
Using adjectives to add information
Adjectives can be used to add interest to a sentence by giving us more information about the noun in the sentence.
They can give us more information about the size, shape, colour, texture or design of an object. They can also give us more information about the personality, emotion or manner of a person.
‘The irritable, fat man lifted the large, heavy box out of the gleaming, red car’.
This sentence tells us that the man is fat and irritable, the box is large and heavy and the car is gleaming and red.
From this information we can infer a few possibilities:
Perhaps the man is irritable because the box is so heavy. The car is gleaming, which means it was probably cleaned recently. Perhaps the man is therefore irritable because he recently cleaned the car, which has made him feel tired – but now he has to lift the box!
In this way, adjectives can add many extra elements to a scene that would otherwise go unmentioned.
None of these words are strictly necessary for understanding the sense of the sentence, but they help to give us much more information and make it more interesting to read.
Adjectives in Use
Different forms of writing in English use adjectives differently. A novel with no adjectives would be quite boring. However, a newspaper story does not normally use many adjectives because it is concerned with reporting the facts.
Adjectives add some creative interest, which is why they are appropriate in a novel. But they are not so appropriate for a more serious, factual publication such as a newspaper or an academic essay.
Adjectives work in a similar way to adverbs. While adjectives give more information about a noun, adverbs give us more information about a verb. Click here to read more about verbs and adverbs.
Do you have any favourite English adjectives?
Do you think adjectives always add interest to a piece of writing – or can they be distracting?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments.