Using Adjectives in English

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Adjectives are the workhorses of description in English. Adjectives are words that describe nouns.

They add details about nouns and pronouns, painting a picture with words. Here’s a breakdown on how to use them effectively:

What do adjectives do?

  • Describe nouns: This is their main function. They tell us more about a person, place, thing, or idea. For instance: a RED car, a DELICIOUS meal, a PRETTY woman, a YELLOW banana or a FUNNY joke.

Where do adjectives go?

  • Before the noun: This is the most common position. We say “the tall tree”, “the red apple” or “interesting stories.”
  • After the noun with a linking verb: Linking verbs like “be”, “seem” or “become” connect the adjective to the subject. We can say “The house is big” or “She seems happy.”
  • A few exceptions: Some adjectives, like “alone” or “asleep,” usually go after the noun only. We say “The dog is asleep” but not “an asleep dog.”
  • How many adjectives can you use? Generally, you can use multiple adjectives to describe a single noun. “The old, creaky stairs” or “the bright, colorful trees” are both grammatically correct.
bright colorful trees

Image by Sabrinasfotos from Pixabay

Adjective strength and emphasis

  • Regular adjectives: These describe without intensity. “The cake was good.”
  • Comparative adjectives: These compare two things. “This cake is better than that one.”
  • Superlative adjectives: These compare more than two things. “This is the best cake I’ve ever had.”
  • Adverbs for emphasis: You can use adverbs like “very” or “really” before adjectives for emphasis. “This is a very good cake.”

Tips for using adjectives well

  • Choose specific adjectives: Instead of “good,” use “delicious” or “sweet” to paint a clearer picture.
  • Vary sentence structure: Don’t just use adjectives before the noun. Try using them in different positions for a more dynamic flow.
  • Use a thesaurus: If you’re stuck in an adjective rut, a thesaurus can help you find more interesting and specific words.

By understanding how adjectives work and using them creatively, you can add richness and detail to your writing and speaking in English.

Using adjectives effectively in English involves understanding their purpose, placement, and agreement with nouns. Here’s a guide:

1. Purpose: Adjectives describe or modify nouns (people, places, things, or ideas) to provide more information about them. They can indicate size, color, shape, age, origin, material, and more.

2. Placement: Adjectives typically come before the noun they modify in English. For example:

   – “The big house”

   – “A beautiful garden”

   – “An old book”

 However, some adjectives can come after the noun, usually when they express the speaker’s opinion or evaluation:

   – “The car is expensive.”

   – “The idea seems interesting.”

3. Degrees of comparison – Adjectives can show degrees of comparison:

   – Positive: This is the base form of the adjective, used to describe one thing without comparing it to others. Example: “The cat is cute.”

   – Comparative: Used to compare two things. Example: “The cat is cuter than the dog.”

   – Superlative: Used to compare three or more things. Example: “The cat is the cutest in the neighborhood.”

4. Agreement: Adjectives must agree in number and gender with the nouns they modify.

   – Number agreement: Adjectives change form to match whether the noun is singular or plural. Example: “The green apple” (singular) vs. “The green apples” (plural).

   – Gender agreement: Some languages, like Spanish or French, require adjectives to match the gender of the noun they modify. In English, gender agreement is not as common, but it can still occur in certain contexts, like with words denoting gender-specific roles. Example: “She is a brave firefighter” vs. “He is a brave firefighter.”

5. Order of adjectives: When multiple adjectives are used to describe a noun, there’s a specific order they generally follow:

   – Quantity or number

   – Quality or opinion

   – Size

   – Age

   – Shape

   – Color

   – Proper adjective (often nationality, material)

   – Purpose or qualifier

      Example: “She bought a lovely small French antique wooden round coffee table.”

6. Use sparingly: While adjectives can add detail and vividness to your writing, using too many can make your sentences cumbersome. Choose the most relevant and descriptive adjectives to convey your message effectively.

The 20 Most Common English Adjectives

  1. Good
    The sandwich is good.
  2. Bad
    Tony is bad.
  3. Small
    This shirt is very small.
  4. Big
    He wants a big apple.
  5. Hot
    The coffee is hot.
  6. Cold
    The coke is cold.
  7. Expensive
    The restaurant is very expensive.
  8. Difficult
    This puzzle is difficult.
  9. Easy
    These crossword is very easy.
  10. Free
    Are you free on Tuesday?
  11. Open
    Are there any open McDonald´s now?
  12. Closed
    All the coffee shops are closed until tomorrow.
  13. Sick
    Paul is sick.
  14. Nice
    Mary is nice.
  15. Hungry
    I am hungry, let’s go eating.
  16. Late
    John and Anne are late for the meeting.
  17. Right
    Do you know the right answer?
  18. Happy
    We are a happy family.
  19. New
    Do you like my new shoes?
  20. Old
    She is 26 years old.

Practice using adjectives in different contexts to become more comfortable with them. Reading extensively can also help you understand how adjectives are used in various contexts.

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