Definition of adjective
: a word belonging to one of the major form classes in any of numerous languages and typically serving as a modifier of a noun to denote a quality of the thing named, to indicate its quantity or extent, or to specify a thing as distinct from something else The word red in “the red car” is an adjective.
What is an adjective?
Adjectives describe or modify—that is, they limit or restrict the meaning of—nouns and pronouns. They may name qualities of all kinds: huge, red, angry, tremendous, unique, rare, etc.
An adjective usually comes right before a noun: "a red dress," "fifteen people." When an adjective follows a linking verb such as be or seem, it is called a predicate adjective: "That building is huge," "The workers seem happy." Most adjectives can be used as predicate adjectives, although some are always used before a noun. Similarly, a few adjectives can only be used as predicate adjectives and are never used before a noun.
Some adjectives describe qualities that can exist in different amounts or degrees. To do this, the adjective will either change in form (usually by adding -er or -est) or will be used with words like more, most, very, slightly, etc.: "the older girls," "the longest day of the year," "a very strong feeling," "more expensive than that one." Other adjectives describe qualities that do not vary—"nuclear energy," "a medical doctor"—and do not change form.
The four demonstrative adjectives—this, that, these, and those—are identical to the demonstrative pronouns. They are used to distinguish the person or thing being described from others of the same category or class. This and these describe people or things that are nearby, or in the present. That and those are used to describe people or things that are not here, not nearby, or in the past or future. These adjectives, like the definite and indefinite articles (a, an, and the), always come before any other adjectives that modify a noun.
An indefinite adjective describes a whole group or class of people or things, or a person or thing that is not identified or familiar. The most common indefinite adjectives are: all, another, any, both, each, either, enough, every, few, half, least, less, little, many, more, most, much, neither, one (and two, three, etc.), other, several, some, such, whole.
Which horse did you bet on? = Which did you bet on?
What songs did they sing? = What did they sing?
Whose coat is this? = Whose is this?
The possessive adjectives—my, your, his, her, its, our, their—tell you who has, owns, or has experienced something, as in "I admired her candor, "Our cat is 14 years old," and "They said their trip was wonderful."
When two or more adjectives are used before a noun, they should be put in proper order. Any article (a, an, the), demonstrative adjective (that, these, etc.), indefinite adjective (another, both, etc.), or possessive adjective (her, our, etc.) always comes first. If there is a number, it comes first or second. True adjectives always come before attributive nouns. The ordering of true adjectives will vary, but the following order is the most common: opinion word→size→age→shape→color→nationality→material.
Participles are often used like ordinary adjectives. They may come before a noun or after a linking verb. A present participle (an -ing word) describes the person or thing that causes something; for example, a boring conversation is one that bores you. A past participle (usually an -ed word) describes the person or thing who has been affected by something; for example, a bored person is one who has been affected by boredom.
They had just watched an exciting soccer game.
The instructions were confusing.
She's excited about the trip to North Africa.
Several confused students were asking questions about the test.
The lake was frozen.
Examples of adjective in a Sentence
The words blue in “the blue car,” deep in “the water is deep,” and tired in “I'm very tired” are adjectives.
Origin and Etymology of adjective
ADJECTIVE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of adjective for English Language Learners
: a word that describes a noun or a pronoun
ADJECTIVE Defined for Kids
Definition of adjective for Students
: a word that says something about a noun or pronoun In the phrases “good people,” “someone good,” “it's good to be here,” and “they seem very good” the word “good” is an adjective.
Seen and Heard
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