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What is an Adjective? An Introduction to Adjectives

Do you ever feel like you’re not using the right words to accurately describe something? If so, don’t fret. This problem happens to native English speakers and English as a second language learners alike. Fortunately, this lesson will teach you about adjectives, the part of speech used to describe things. You’ll also learn helpful definitions and examples that can help improve your English. Let’s begin!

Helpful Words for Describing Nouns

What is an adjective? How often do you speak about people, places, and things? If you’re like most people, you use nouns and pronouns all the time in conversation. By adding an adjective, you qualify or alter the mean of a noun. You can use this part of speech to give listeners and readers more information. With the right modifying word, you also can change how others understand your subject and object(s).

Let’s take this sentence for example:

  • The bunny hopped through the forest.

You can probably see the large trees surrounding a tiny bunny as it hops around.

Now, let’s use adjectives to modify the sentence:

  • The chubby bunny hopped through the mysterious forest.

This example draws a different mental image, doesn’t it? The cool thing is that by modifying only the nouns, you arrive at a new scene.

So, what is the meaning of adjective? An adjective describes nouns and pronouns. Some examples include the words cold, quiet, clever, and strange. Click here for more examples or continue reading to learn about clauses.

What’s a Clause?

What is an adjective clause? Here’s an adjective clause definition: A clause contains at least two parts: a subject and a verb. This group of words should also express something about the subject of the sentence.

Even though a clause is more than one word, the whole statement modifies a noun or pronoun. They begin with relative adverbs or relative pronouns such as who, where, when, which, whom, whose, or that.

  • Strawberries, which are grown in California are the sweetest.
  • The students who study the most earn the best grades.
  • I always have fun when I travel to the beach.

As you can see, a clause gives us more information about the subject, without changing the sentence’s meaning.

Care to learn how to cite sources for your next academic paper? Here’s information about MLA format and APA format.

What About a Phrase? What’s That?

How do you define adjective phrase? A phrase is like a clause in that it’s a group of words. However, it does not include a verb. Instead, the phrase includes an adjective and other words that modify nouns. In these examples, the main descriptive word is in bold and the whole phrase is in italics.

  • The baby was perfectly quiet at the movie theater.
  • My bike was recklessly damaged after I jumped off the ramp.
  • Jake is incredibly gifted at playing the air guitar.

Want more information about phrases? Check this out!

What are the Different Types of Describing Words?

What is the function of an adjective? There are different types of adjectives which all play unique roles in a sentence. The most common are articles, which include the words a, an, and the. A and an speak on general things, while the discusses specific things.

  • Jessie went on a walk (general). Perhaps she’s going to the store (specific).
  • Thomas wants a stuffed animal (general). He likes the one with green eyes best (specific).

In addition, there are many more categories. Let’s discuss several of them.

Descriptive Describing Words

Want a descriptive adjective definition? These words are your normal describing words. They simply give description to nouns and pronouns. Examples include:

  • Terry disliked the bitter tea.
  • But she loved the tart taste of the tapioca.
  • Henry, however, wanted a heavier meal.

Quantity and Number Words

How would you define adjectives of quantity and number? There are also words that describe how much or how many of something there are. For instance:

  • Steve has a large family of three girls and two boys!
  • He wants as many children as he can have.
  • Have you ever eaten a full pint of ice cream in one night? I have!

Possessive Words

Here’s a possessive adjectives definition. You use possessive adjectives to describe whether something belongs to someone. Words that show possession include theirs, yours, and hers.

  • That’s her photo. It’s taken at her favorite theme park.
  • You heard right, it’s my photo. You can’t take it because it’s mine, not yours.
  • This watermelon is for us! My mom grew it in our backyard.

Demonstrative Words

Curious to know a demonstrative adjective definition? A demonstrative word helps you point out a specific noun or pronoun. You use these, those, that, and this to refer to nouns or pronouns. Which one you use depends on whether something is close to you, far away, plural, or singular.

  • Do you need this key in my hand? (Singular and close to you.)
  • Or are you looking for that key sitting by the bed? (Singular and far away from you.)
  • Are these the keys you’re looking for? (Plural and close to you.)
  • Or did you find those keys downstairs near the front door? (Plural and far away.)

Interrogative Words

You use certain words like what, whose, and which to ask questions or interrogate. If the word precedes a noun, then it is an interrogative description word. That’s the interrogative adjective definition.

  • What television show is your favorite?
  • Whose baseball cap is this?
  • Which video game do you recommend playing?

Are you sure you are following all the rules of grammar? If not, look at this helpful grammar check. Struggling with citing as well? Citation Machine can help you make citations in MLA, APA, and more styles.

Definition of Adjective Scale

Small, smaller, and smallest. These three words tell us about different scales of comparison. Each adjective has an absolute, comparative, and superlative form. These describe a word’s position on the scale. Smallest is smaller than small. Small is larger than something smaller.

Here are some examples:

  • Fred is younger than Jake, who is the youngest in his family.
  • Laurie’s painting is the most beautiful one I’ve seen. It’s much more beautiful than mine.

What’s the definition of adjective in the absolute form?

The absolute form represents the lowest point on the scale of comparison.

  • The weather in Phoenix is hot.

What is an adjective in the comparative form?

Whereas the comparative form represents the middle point.

  • Yet the weather in Timbuktu is hotter.

What is an adjective in the superlative form?

In addition, the superlative represents the top point on the scale.

  • But let’s not forget that El Azizia, Libya has the hottest recorded temperature in history!

Define Adjective Order

You already know that there are a lot of rules when working with adjectives. There’s even a specific order that describing words go in, when you’re speaking in English. First you have a size word, next comes an age word, and finally a color word. Here’s an example:

  • The large, old, blue lunchbox is my great-great grandfathers. Neat, huh?

See if you can come up with an example of your own using three or more different describing words!