Adjectives are words that are used to describe (what kind of?) nouns and pronouns and to quantify (how much of?) and identify (which one?) them. In a nutshell, Adjectives are what define nouns and give them characteristics to differentiate them from other nouns. For example:
He was wearing a blue shirt.
Here ‘blue’ is an adjective as it is describing the noun ‘shirt’ by answering the question ‘what kind of shirt?’
There are seven rooms in the house.
Here ‘Seven’ is also an adjective as it’s telling the quantity/the number of the noun ‘rooms’, answering the question ‘how many rooms?’.
There are different types of adjectives based upon their effect on a noun and what do they tell about the noun. There are five categories of adjectives
1. Adjectives of Quality – These adjectives are used to describe the nature of a noun. They give an idea about the characteristics of the noun by answering the question ‘what kind’.
o Honest, Kind, Large, Bulky, Beautiful, Ugly etc.
New Delhi is a large city with many historical monuments.
Sheila is a beautiful woman.
2. Adjectives of Quantity – These adjectives help to show the amount or the approximate amount of the noun or pronoun. These adjectives do not provide exact numbers; rather they tell us the amount of the noun in relative or whole terms.
o All, Half, Many, Few, Little, No, Enough, Great etc.
They have finished most of the rice.
Many people came to visit the fair.
3. Adjectives of Number – These adjectives are used to show the number of nouns and their place in an order. There are three different sections within adjectives of number; they are –
o Definite Numeral Adjective – Those which clearly denote an exact number of nouns or the order of the noun.
One, Two, Twenty, Thirty-Three etc. also known as Cardinals.
First, Second, Third, Seventh etc. also known as Ordinals.
o Indefinite Numeral Adjective – Those adjectives that do not give an exact numerical amount but just give a general idea of the amount.
Some, Many, Few, Any, Several, All etc.
E.g.: There were many people present at the meeting.
o Distributive Numeral Adjective -Those adjectives that are used to refer to individual nouns within the whole amount.
Either, Neither, Each, Another, Other etc.
Taxes have to be paid by every employed citizen.
4. Demonstrative Adjectives – These adjectives are used to point out or indicate a particular noun or pronoun using the adjectives – This, That, These and Those.
o That bag belongs to Neil.
o Try using this paintbrush in art class.
o I really like those shoes.
o These flowers are lovely.
5. Interrogative Adjectives – These adjectives are used to ask questions about nouns or in relation to nouns, they are – Where, What, Which and Whose.
o Where did he say he was going?
o What assignment did I miss out on?
o Which is your favorite author?
o Whose pen is this?
In some instances, we find that we need to use more than one adjective to describe a noun in a satisfactory manner. In these cases, commas are used to separate the adjectives but some series of adjectives do not require a comma. Therefore, we need to know the difference between Coordinate and Non-coordinate Adjectives –
Coordinate Adjectives – Are those words which can be re-arranged in the series easily and are still grammatically sound. This kind of series makes use of commas. This series can also insert ‘and’ between them and still be correct.
She was a kind, generous, loving human being.
She was a generous, loving, kind human being.
She was a loving, kind and generous human being.
Here we can see that all three sentences are grammatically correct. In this case, the adjectives only need to be separated by commas.
Non-coordinate Adjectives – These are those adjectives which cannot be rearranged in the series. These do not use commas to separate the adjectives. Also, this kind of series do not make sense if we insert ‘and’ between them.
She has two energetic playful dogs.
She has playful two energetic dogs.
She has energetic and playful and two dogs.
Here we see that only the first sentence makes sense and is grammatically correct. The second and third ones are incorrect. Hence, the sentence uses non-coordinate adjectives and does not need commas.
There are certain rules regarding the placement of different kinds of adjectives in a sentence. The general order followed is –
1. Determiners – These are the various articles (the, a, an), demonstratives (this, that, these, those), possessives (my, mine, your, yours, -‘s), quantifiers (all, many etc.), numerals (one, twenty, thirty-seven etc.) and distributives (each, every, neither, either)
2. Observations/Quantity and Opinion – Then come the adjectives that give a quantity (also known as post-determiners) and subjective opinion to the noun, telling ‘how much’ and ‘how was’ the noun.
Few, Most, One, Three/ Beautiful, Ugly, Difficult etc.
The beautiful house.
3. Size – The position after Observations is for the adjectives that tell about the size of the noun, they can be used for an object as well as living thing.
Huge, Little, Bulky, Thin, Vast, Tiny, Lean etc
The beautiful little house.
4. Age -Then is the turn of the Adjectives that tell about the age of a noun either by itself or in relation to another noun.
Young, Old, Teenage, Mature, Recent, Bygone etc.
The beautiful little old house.
5. Shape – Next are the adjectives that tell about the shape or appearance of the noun.
Circular, Crooked, Triangular, Oval, Wavy, Straights etc.
The beautiful little old square house.
6. Colour – After that are the adjectives that tell the shade and hue of a noun.
Pastel, Red, Blue, Metallic, Colourless, Translucent etc.
The beautiful square blue coloured house.
7. Origin – Next are the adjectives that show the different geographical locations associated with a noun.
Southern, Northern, Lunar, Mexican, French etc.
The beautiful blue coloured Mexican house.
8. Material – Next are the adjectives that talk about the raw material or texture of the objects or the behaviour of the living nouns.
Wooden, Plastic, Steely, Metallic, Cottony etc.
The beautiful Mexican limestone house.
9. Qualifier – Lastly, the qualifier or the grammatical modifier comes, which is an additional word or phrase provided to change the meaning of the noun in a sentence.
Pink + eye, Royal + treatment, Hot + fudge etc.
The beautiful Mexican limestone doll house.
List of Adjectives, Adjective Examples