What exactly are adjectives?

Adjectives are words such as, intellectual, red and funny. An adjective largely modifies a noun and denotes a short period or lasting quality associated with that noun. For example, a smart boy is a boy who is distinguished from other boys by being smart.

Not all adjectives result in a quality associated with a noun. For example, the adjective mere in ‘a mere child’ does not imply the quality of the child.

Sorts of adjectives

Adjectives might be split into the following classes:

Adjectives of quality

Quality of adjectives refer to the variety or quality of a person or thing. They answer the question: ‘of what kind?’

Tokyo is a magnanimous metropolis. (Here the adjective shows a certain quality associated with the city Tokyo.)

Alice is a bright student. (Here the adjective shows a quality connected with the noun Alice.)

Note that adjectives formed from proper nouns are generally considered as adjectives of quality. Examples are: Persian carpets, French wines etc.


Adjectives of quantity

Adjectives of quantity answer the question ‘how much?’. Some, any, much, little, enough, all, no, half, whole are examples.

We need some time.

You have little knowledge.

She has spent all his wealth.

He did not eat any rice.


Adjectives of number

Adjectives of number respond to the question of ‘how many’. Examples are: many, one, two, first, tenth, all etc.

Each foot has five toes.

Wednesday is the fourth day of the week.

All women must live.

There are many mistakes in your report.


Demonstrative adjectives

Demonstrative adjectives answer the question ‘which?’. This, that, these, those and such are examples.

That woman is well read.

This jacket is made of fine leather.

Those mangoes were very sweet.

I like such people.

Please note that, this and that are used with singular nouns. These and those are mainly used with plural nouns.


Interrogative adjectives

When they are used with nouns to ask questions, the questions words what, which and whose are called interrogative adjectives.

Whose glass is this?

Which restaurant shall we go to?

Adjectives used without nouns

Adjectives are often used without nouns.


To refer to some well-known groups of people

The structure the + adjective is used to talk about some well-known groups of people. Examples are: the blind, the deaf, the unemployed, the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the dead etc.

He is collecting money for the deaf. null etc.

Blessed are the meek.

The government has to do something for the blind.

Note that these expressions are always plural. The blind means all blind people. Similarly, the young means all young people. Adjectives are not normally used in this way without the.

Blessed are the meek. (NOT Blessed are meek.)

These expressions cannot be used with a possessive ‘s.

The problems of the blind should be properly addressed. OR Blind people’s problems should be properly addressed. (NOT The blind’s issues must be acceptably addressed.)

In a few fixed phrases, the + adjective can have a singular meaning. Examples include: the accused, the former, the latter, the deceased etc.

The accused was released on bail.

Note that plural meanings are also possible.


Abstract ideas

An adjective can be used after the to refer to some abstract quality or idea.

He just doesn’t conceive in the supernatural.

The future (= futurity) is unknown to us.


Adjectives of nationality

Some adjectives of nationality ending in -sh or -ch can be used after the without nouns. These adjectives include Irish, Welsh, English, British, Spanish, French etc.

English Lessons with a Native English Speaking Teacher.

Note that the expressions the Irish, the English etc., are plural.The singular equivalents are for example an Irishman or an Englishwoman.


About The Author


The writer is an English Language Teacher in Eastern Europe.


The author invites you to visit: http://www.kievnativeenglishspeaker.com

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