English Grammar: Adjectives

English Grammar: Adjectives

Time to learn about using adjectives in English!

This is a part of a basic series on English grammar. You can find the other posts below:

Adjectives are words that tell us something about nouns. They could tell us how they look, how they smell, the state they are in, etc. Examples of adjectives are in bold:

  • The brown dog ran.
  • The book is heavy.
  • The heavy book is expensive.

Adjectives can either be placed before a noun (like The brown dog ran) or they can be placed after a linking verb (like The book is heavy). You can also combine the two (like The heavy book is expensive). 

There are many ways in which adjectives can be used. First, let us look at how adjectives can be used in the comparative and the superlative. In the comparative, we are looking at how one noun relates to other nouns. The other noun can either be in the sentence or not in the sentence. Examples of comparative adjectives are in bold:

  1. This pillow is softer than that pillow.
  2. This book is heavier.
  3. I like the softer pillow.

In example 1, this pillow is being compared to that pillow. The other noun is in the sentence.

In example 2 and 3, this book and pillow are not being compared to anything else in the sentence, but it is implied that they are compared against some unnamed thing.

Superlative adjectives tell us that something is the best example of something. It is the most of that adjective. Most is a superlative itself. Examples of superlative adjectives are in bold:

  • This is the softest pillow.
  • Their worst song is playing.
  • The ugliest dog won the ugly dog competition.

In English, the superlative comes in two types mostly depending on the length of the word. Some superlatives get the ending -st or -est, and some superlatives are simply the adjective with the word most, best, worst, etc in front of it. For example, it is not correct to say stupidest, but instead to say most stupid. The same can be said about the comparative, which can be seen in some of the examples below.

Below you will find groups of adjectives in their original form, their comparative form, and their superlative form.

  • Good – original form
  • Better – comparative form
  • Best – superlative form
  • Beautiful – original form
  • More beautiful – comparative form
  • Most beautiful – superlative form
  • Soft  – original form
  • Softer – comparative form
  • softest – superlative form

However, it would also be correct to say:

  • Soft – original form
  • More soft – comparative form
  • Most soft – superlative form

In general, if an adjective is one syllable you can add the ending -er for the comparative and -st/-est for the superlative. In general for one syllable adjectives you can also put more before the adjective for the comparative and most before the adjective for the superlative. Both ways work for one syllable adjectives (the words good, better, and best being an exception).

You can also put adjectives together to describe a noun. For example, a noun can be both soft and wet. You can put these adjectives together either with a comma (,) or without a comma. The meaning is only slightly different. Take a look at these two examples:

  1. There is a soft, wet pillow.
  2. There is a soft wet pillow.

Both these sentences mean the same thing. In example 1 the order of the adjectives is not set. In example 2 the order of the adjectives is set. This has a lot to do with what the author is intending to say about the noun. This difference can only be seen in written language, and is not noticeable in spoken language. If you are new to English, this difference is not important for you to understand the meaning of sentences.

Using adjectives in English is what gives our sentences flavor! In the next post we will be looking at a very similar part of speech to the adjective: the adverb. Continue here:

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