What Is an Adjective?

What is an adjective?
How is an adjective used in a sentence?
What are all types of adjectives?

Need answers? Stay tuned and keep reading this article!

Adjectives are one of the nine parts of speech that improve your writing and speaking to make it more specific and more interesting. Adjectives are descriptive words used to quantify or identify unique things and individual people.

Example: The large horse was ravenous.

In this example, the adjectives got depicted in bold, and the noun that it modifies got displayed in italics.

We can further say that adjectives are information gatherers and provide additional information about an object’s size, shape, origin, color, age, or material. Some sentences may even have more than one adjective.

Let’s look at a few examples of adjectives in sentences:

  • It’s a large (size)
  • It’s a square (shape)
  • It’s a new (age)
  • It’s a red (color)
  • It’s a Roman (origin)
  • It’s a plastic (material)
  • It’s a lovely (opinion)
  • It’s a rugged (observation)
  • It’s a dining (purpose)

An adjective comes before a noun:

  • A bright sky
  • A blue shoe
  • A scary dream

Occasionally, an adjective will come after a verb:

  • The sky became bright.
  • His shoe is blue.
  • Her dream appeared scary.

Pronouns can also get modified by a pronoun (He is handsome). Let’s look at a few examples:

  • They were full
  • It seemed odd.
  • These are not cheap.

Take note that we can use two or more adjectives frequently together.


It is blue and red / a handsome old German man.

What is a noun?

A noun is a part of speech that names a place, thing, person, or idea. A noun answers the questions “what?” or “who?”

E.g., man, garden, clown, happiness

What is a pronoun?

A pronoun is a part of speech and is a word that takes the place of a noun. They can do all that a noun can do, such as be subjects, direct objects, etc.

E.g., he, she, it, they

What is a verb?

Verbs are parts of speech that describe an action, state, or occurrence.

E.g., become, jump, happen

It often gets said that an adjective is the “enemy of the noun.” This is because when we use the exact noun, we don’t need to use an adjective.

Here’s an example: A large, stunning house (two adjectives and one noun) – we can say a mansion (one noun).

Examples of Adjectives

Read further for examples of the various adjectives we find in the English language.

Examples of What is an ajcetive

Comparative and Superlative

Almost all adjectives can be superlative or comparative.

Comparative adjectives get used comparing two objects that get modified and their differences. In other words, they get used when we compare two nouns.

Superlative adjectives get used when describing an object at the lower or upper level of quality. In other words, a subject gets compared to a group of objects.

Here are some examples:

  • fat, fatter, fattest
  • handsome, more handsome, most handsome
  • bad, worse, worst

Denominal Adjectives

Adjectives that get formed from a noun are known as denominal adjectives. These adjectives tend to end with a suffix. A suffix is the ending part of a word and regularly follows common patterns.


  • -ish/-like: childish, childlike
  • -ous: gorgeous, harmonious
  • -able/-ible: adorable, edible
  • -y: smelly, pretty
  • -ful/-less: beautiful, sleeveless
  • -al: mathematical, biological
  • -en: wooden
  • -len: woolen

Though, there are instances where several adjectives don’t have a clear form.

Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives get formed when there are two or more adjectives working together to modify the same noun. To avoid confusion, these terms should get hyphenated.


The blue-and-black mark on his leg was due to an accident.

Combining an adjective with an adverb that often ends in “ly,” you are not creating a compound adjective. A hyphen is not needed as the adverb modifies the adjective instead of the noun.


The remarkably hot evening became a long night for us all.

A hyphen should not get placed in a compound adjective if they are capitalized adjectives, for instance, when they are in a title.


The documentary titled “Gender Neutral Workspace” was an exciting watch.

Adjectival Phrases

An adjectival phrase also referred to as an adjective phrase, is a group of words that also includes an adjective, which modifies a pronoun or noun. To identify an adjectival phrase in a sentence, look for the first word in a group of words. The word may be an adjectival phrase if the first word is a preposition or an adverb.

Here are a few examples:

  • We are all ready to go.
  • My son is afraid of the dark.
  • Why is the plumber very late?
  • I have misplaced my light blue

Categories of all Types of Adjectives

Keep in mind that adjectives not only modify words but also describe words. It will be simpler for you to identify the various types of adjectives when you see them.


There are just three articles in the English language, and they’re all adjectives – a, an, and the. a And an are known as indefinite articles, as they get used to discuss people and non-specific things.


  • I need a
  • Let’s go on an

These sentences aren’t naming a specific car or a particular adventure. With no further clarification, any car or adventure will do.

The definite article is the word the. It’s the only definite article and gets used to specify things or people.


  • I need a new car. I’d like the one with the
  • Let’s go on an adventure. The African safari sounds perfect!

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are precisely as their name suggests – they show possession. Possessive adjectives include the following:

  • My
  • Your
  • Her
  • His
  • Our
  • Its
  • Their

Possessive adjectives can also serve as possessive pronouns.

Demonstrative Adjectives

Similar to the article the, a demonstrative article gets used to demonstrate or denote specific animals, people, or things. Examples of demonstrative adjectives include these, this, those, and that.


  • These toys belong in that
  • This is my favorite song.
  • Those shoes belong to me.

Coordinate Adjectives

Coordinate adjectives are adjectives that get separated by commas or the word and, and get shown one after the other to modify the same noun. In the phrases long, hard day, and dark and scary night, the adjectives appear as coordinate adjectives.

Let’s say there are more than two coordinate adjectives in a phrase, the word and will always appear before the final one.


The moon is looking big, bright, and magical tonight.

As some adjectives may appear in a series, you need to be cautious, as not all are coordinates. If we look at an example – blue delivery truckblue and delivery aren’t separated by a comma, as the word blue modifies the phrase delivery truck.

To determine if a group or pair of adjectives are coordinate adjectives, try inserting the word and between them. If the word and works in the sentence, then we have coordinate adjectives, and they will need to get separated by a comma.

Numbers Adjectives

Numbers are usually always adjectives when used in a sentence. If it answers the question “How many?” then a number will be an adjective.

  • The wagon got pulled by three horses
  • She drank 15 beers and got sick afterward.

Interrogative Adjectives

There are three interrogative adjectives, namely what, which, and whose, and they are questions. Interrogative adjectives are like other types of adjectives, as they modify nouns.


  • Which of these do you like best?
  • What is your dad’s name?
  • Whose shoes are those?

Indefinite Adjectives

Indefinite articles get used to consider non-specific things, similarly to the articles a and an. They get formed from indefinite pronouns.

Examples of typical indefinite articles include:

  • Any
  • Many
  • No
  • Several
  • Few


  • Is there any candy left?
  • It’s taken me many years to grow my hair long
  • There are no plants in the garden left.
  • Few things in life bring me joy.
  • There were several police vans outside the store.

Attributive Adjectives

When we talk about specific traits, features, or qualities, we are referring to attributive adjectives. In simple terms, they get used to discuss attributes. There are several types of attributive adjectives, including:

 Observation adjectives

Refers to subjective measures or indicates value.

E.g., perfect, interesting, best, authentic, cheapest, or beautiful.

Size and shape adjectives

Refers to objective, measurable qualities and comprises specific physical attributes.

E.g., wealthy, round, small, poor, square, slow, and large.

Age adjectives

Refers to general ages in numbers, as well as specific ages.

E.g., young, old, three-year-old.

Color adjectives

It indicates color.

E.g., red, purple, white.

Origin adjectives

Refers to a person, place, thing, or animal and is the source of a noun.

E.g., French, German, Indian, American.

Material adjectives

Refers to what something gets made of.

E.g., silk, cotton, wool, gold.

Qualifier adjectives

They get often considered to be part of a noun and make nouns more specific.

E.g., pillow cover, luxury car.

Grammar Advice

Let’s explore a few grammar rules when it comes to adjectives.

Adjectives versus Adverbs

We have got taught that adverbs modify verbs and adjectives modify nouns. But we can also see that an adjective can function as complements for linking verbs. This leads to a widespread mistake where we substitute an adverb incorrectly in place of a predicate adjective. Let’s look at an example:

I care deeply about what happened.

The verb in this sentence is “care,” – specifically a linking verb – and instead of an adjective, it needs an adverb. An adjective is a description of what you feel, and an adverb will describe how you acted on the feeling. Looking at the example, “care deeply” means you deeply care about things.

Let’s look at two sentences and their differences:

Jack smells terribly.

Jack smells terrible.

When we say that Jack smells terribly, we can confirm that he has a poor sense of smell. When we look at the other example, “Jack smells terrible,” we will refer to Jack as stinking.

When Adjectives Become Nouns and Nouns Become Adjectives

A word can also serve as an adjective if it typically gets used as a noun but will depend on placement in a sentence.


You should always avoid touching someone’s guide dog without first seeking permission.

Generally, the guide is a noun. In this example, though, “guide” modifies the dog.

The Order of an Adjective in a Sentence

Order is crucial when you’re using adjectives, especially in writing. There’s a specific order that adjectives need to go in when listing them in a row. It might be wise to memorize the order if you’re afraid you will forget. Let’s take a look at how to list adjectives correctly in a sentence:

  1. Determiner – An amount or a number, a demonstrative (that, this, those, these), an article (a, the, an), or a possessive adjective (her, his, my, their, our, your).
  2. Observation/Opinion – expensive, broken, ugly, beautiful, gorgeous, delicious
  3. Size – tiny, 3-foot-tall, huge.
  4. Shape – circular, square, oblong
  5. Age – new, 11-year-old, antique
  6. Color – pink, yellow, green-blue
  7. Origin – English, Roman
  8. Material – plastic, silk, wooden
  9. Qualifier – A verb or noun acting as an adjective

This is the correct order to follow for adjectives that come before a noun, and commas don’t separate them.


My ugly oversized round new blue English silk blanket got ripped while I slept.

Here are more examples of the order of adjectives used in context:

  • A beautiful antique Spanish (opinion – age – origin)
  • I bought a brown leather (color – material)
  • A big round red (size – shape – color)

Exceptions to Adjectives

In the English language, we follow the correct order when listing adjectives. However, like everything else in language, there are exceptions to the rules.

Fixed Phrases

There are several collocations or fixed phrases where an adjective comes straight after a noun. These are regularly compound nouns, Where we find the adjective describing the preceding noun.


  • Court-martial
  • God Almighty
  • Secretary-General

It can get deduced that they regularly depict official positions and titles, and there’s no specific rule that tells us when it’s appropriate to use.

Adjectives that Follow Nouns

Certain adjectives can get used after a noun. They get used similarly to relative clauses.

For example:

These are the worst conditions imaginable.

In this example, the adjective ends in -able. These adjectives can occur before or after the noun, and it’s all down to personal preference.

Adverbs can also get used similarly.


Go to the car outside.

I’ll meet you at the restaurant downtown.

If you place an adjective after a noun, you can get a separate meaning. For instance, depending on their positions, present and proper can have different meanings.


  • He addressed the group present. (the group that was there at the time)
  • He addressed the present group. (the current group)

Likewise, adjectives of measurement can describe how much and would then come after a noun. If the adjective came before the noun, the type of measurement would get described instead.


  • We climbed thirty high stories. (each story felt difficult/high)
  • The hotel was thirty stories high. (height)

Adjectives always follow some nouns. These typically get formed with prefixes like every-, any-, and some-, and suffixes like -one or -thing.


  • Something
  • Everything
  • Nothing
  • Somebody
  • Someone
  • Anywhere
  • Everywhere
  • Anybody

Adjective Complements

To describe something particular, you get adjectives that have complements.


  • A competent girl.
  • A girl competent at dancing.

These nouns will generally follow the noun. It would be improper to put the full complement before the noun.

  • A competent at dancing girl. (incorrect)

A relative clause will sound a lot more natural.

  • A girl who is competent at dancing.

You can split the complement with comparative adjectives, adjectives, and superlatives showing sequences. The adjective will then appear before the noun, with the complement following.


  • First
  • Similar
  • Best
  • The same
  • Different
  • Greater

In context:

  • It was the first movie in a series.
  • Our findings are different from the professor.

If the complement and the adjective are together after the noun, they appear natural as a relative clause.


  • I selected the plant that was fifth from the left.

Other Examples

When we define an item by its purpose, that word isn’t typically an adjective, but it functions as one with the noun in that scenario.


  • Baseball player
  • Coffee table
  • Hunting cabin
  • Pool hall

Examples of Adjectives in Poetry, Literature, and Music

A poet, author, or songwriter can intensify the feelings that they want to convey by using adjectives or descriptive language, thereby painting vivid pictures in the reader’s mind. You’re going to get an example for each category to witness the magic of adjectives!


The following is an excerpt from a poem written by the poet William Butler Yeats, called “When You Are Old.”

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;”
This poem gives an accurate description of how a young person could feel for not accepting love as they get older. William Yeats creates a vivid image of a yearning older woman who has feelings for a man she could not accept.


If we look at an example of adjectives in literature, we will refer to the author Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations.”

“My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap. She was tall and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron, fastened over her figure behind two loops, and having a square impregnable bib in front, that was stuck full of pins and needles. She made it a powerful merit in herself, and a strong reproach against [her husband] Joe, that she wore this apron so much.”

Dickens didn’t just describe eye color. He described Mrs. Joe’s rugged personality by detailing her complexion (redness of skin), clothing (course apron), and posture (tall and bony). The way he describes her automatically gives you the impression that she’s got authoritarian and portrays her as irritable. Mrs. Joe’s personality is reinforced entirely by the description of her clothing!


George Harrison of the band, The Beatles, wrote the song “Piggies.” The lyrics are an excellent example of using adjectival nouns (when nouns get used as adjectives).

“Everywhere there’s lots of piggies
Living piggy lives
You can see them out for dinner
With their piggy wives
Clutching forks and knives
To eat their bacon”

If you look closely at the lyrics, you will notice Geroge Harrison describing satirical greediness and consumerism. Songwriting is full of adjectives, and it’s so easy to discern what they are once you understand the various adjectives in English grammar.

Improve your writing and vocabulary by using more descriptive adjectives, but ensure they make sense in the context of what you’re trying to depict.

Ask for a copy editing service


Now that you recognize what an adjective is, you need to learn to use them with discretion and not overdo it.

It’s general practice for a verb and noun to do the describing work, especially when you’re writing. Avoid telling your reader that something is exciting or interesting. Instead, strike a balance and set a detailed scene by sprinkling the number of adjectives you use instead of drowning readers with too many.

Remember that if you’re concise and precise, you present good writing. Adjectives are often needed to convey what you mean precisely. If what you need is an adjective to improve on your content, then go ahead and use it. Just ensure that it’s doing its job, and if not, remove it.

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By David Adewusi

David is a blog writer who likes writing about literature, English grammar, and editing methods. He has also worked as a copy editor and proofreader. He has written excellent blog posts for Scientific Editing.

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