Adjectives

Adjectives are the third major class of words in English, after nouns and verbs. Adjectives are words expressing properties of objects (e.g. large, blue, simple, clever, economic, progressive, productive, etc) and, hence, qualifying nouns.

Adjectives in English do not change for number or case. The only grammatical category they have is the degrees of comparison. They are also characterized by functions in the sentence.


Degrees of Comparison.


There are three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative. The positive form is the plain stem of an adjective (e.g. heavy, slow, straight, etc) . The comparative states that one thing has more of the quality named by the adjective than some other thing (e.g. Henry is taller than John). The superlative states that the thing has the greatest degree of the quality among the things being considered (e.g. Henry is the tallest boy in the class)

Most one-syllable adjectives, and most two-syllable adjectives ending in -y, -ow, -er, or consonant +-le , with loud stress on the first syllable and weak stress on the second, form their comparative and superlative by the addition of the suffixes -er and -est.


Positive

Comparative

Superlative

clever cleverer cleverest
narrow narrower narrowest
pretty prettier prettiest
simple simpler simplest

Adjectives derived by prefixes from those that use -er/-est also use these suffixes, even though the addition of prefixes makes them longer that two syllables: unhappy - unhappier -unhappiest

All adjectives other than those enumerated above form their comparative by using the intensifier more and their superlative by using the intensifier the most.


Positive

Comparative

Superlative

interesting more interesting the most interesting
generous more generous the most generous
personal more personal the most personal

In a very few cases, English permits a choice between the two devices: commoner / more common, commonest / the most common. Ordinary, when one form is prescribed by the rules, the other is forbidden.

A few adjectives have irregular forms for the degrees of comparison. They are:

good - better - the best

bad - worse - the worst

far - farther - the farthest (for distance)

- further - the furthest (for time and distance)

near - nearer - the nearest (for distance)

  • next (for order)

late - later - the latest (for time)

  • last (for order)

old - older - the oldest (for age)

  • elder - the eldest (for seniority rather the age; used only attributively)


There are some adjectives that, on account of their meaning, do not admit of comparison at all, e.g. perfect, unique, full, empty, square, round, wooden, daily, upper, major, outer, whole, only and some others.

There are sentence patterns in which comparison is expressed:

  1. comparison of equality (as … as)

e.g. The boy was as shy as a monkey.

After his bathe, the inspector was as fresh as a fish.

When he had left Paris, it was as cold as in winter there.


  1. comparison of inequality (not so ... as, not as ... as)

e.g. His skin was not so bronzed as a Tahiti native’s.

The sun is not so hot today as I thought it would be.

You are not as nice as people think.


  1. comparison of superiority (... –er than, ... –est of (in, ever)

e.g. He looked younger than his years, much younger than Sheila or me.

To my mind the most interesting thing in art is the personality of the artist.

My mother was the proudest of women, and she was vain, but in the end she had an eye for truth.

It’s the biggest risk I’ve ever had to take.


  1. comparison of inferiority ( less ... than)

e.g. John is less musical than his sister.

He had the consolation of noting that his friend was less sluggish than before.


  1. comparison of parallel increase or decrease (the ... the, ...-er as)

e.g. The longer I think of his proposal the less I like it.

The sooner this is done, the better.

He became more cautious as he grew older.


There are set phrases which contain the comparative or the superlative degree of an adjective:

a) a change for the better (for the worst) – перемена к лучшему ( к худшему)

e.g. There seem to be a change for the better in your uncle. He had a very hearty dinner yesterday.


b) none the less – тем не менее

e.g. It did not take him long to make up his mind. None the less she showed her scorn for his hesitation.


c) so much the better ( the worst) – тем лучше (хуже)

e.g. If he will help us, so much the better.

If he doesn’t work, so much the worst for him.


d) to be the worst for – делать что-то хуже, еще больше

e.g. He is rather the worst for drink.


e) no (none the) worse for – хуже не станет (не стало) от ...

e.g. You’ll be no worse for having her to help you.

You are none the worse for the experience.


  1. if the worst comes to the worst – в худшем случае

e.g. If the worst comes to the worst, I can always go back home to my parents.


g) to go from bad to worse – становиться все хуже и хуже

e.g. Thinks went from bad to worse in the family.


h) as best - в полную меру старания, как только можно

e.g. He made a living as best he could.


i) at (the) best - в лучшем случае

e.g. She cannot get away from her home for long. At (the) best she can stay with us for two days.


Substantivization of Adjectives.


Sometimes adjectives become substantivized. In this case they have the functions of nouns in the sentence and are always preceded by the definite article. Substantivized adjectives may have two meanings:

  1. They may indicate a class of persons in a general sense (e.g. the poor = poor people, the dead = dead people, etc.) Such adjectives are plural in meaning and take a plural verb.

e.g. The old receive pensions.

The young are always romantic, aren’t they?

The blind are taught trades in special schools.


If we wish to denote a single person we must add a noun.

e.g. The old man receives a pension.


If we wish to refer to a particular group of persons (not the whole class), it is aslo necessary to add a noun.

e.g. The young are usually intolerant.

The young men are fishing.


Some adjectives denoting nationalities (e.g. English, French, Dutch) are used in the same way.

e.g. The English are great lovers of tea.

There were a few English people among the tourists.


  1. Substantivized adjectives may also indicate an abstract notion. Then they are singular in meaning and take a singular verb.

e.g. The good in him overweighs the bad.

My mother never lost her taste for extravagant.


Syntactic Functions of Adjectives.


Adjectives may serve in the sentence as:

  1. an attribute

e.g. Do you see the small green boat, which has such an odd shape?

The lights of the farm blazed out in the windy darkness.

Adjectives used as attributes usually immediately precede the noun. Normally there is no pause between the adjective and the noun. Such attributes are called close attributes.

However, an adjective placed in pre-position to the noun may be separated from it by a pause. Then it becomes a loose attribute.

e.g. Clever and tactful, George listened to my story with deep concern.


Yet loose attributes are more often found in post-position to the noun.

e.g. My father, happy and tired, kissed me good-night.


  1. a predicative

e.g. Her smile was almost professional.

He looked mature, sober and calm.


  1. part of a compound verbal predicate

e.g. He stood silent, with his back turned to the window.

She lay motionless, as if she were asleep.


  1. an objective predicative

e.g. I thought him very intelligent.

She wore her hair short.


  1. a subjective predicative

e.g. The door was closed tight.

Her hair was dyed blonde.


It should be noted that most adjectives can be used both attributively and predicatively, but some, among them those beginning with a-, can be used only as predicatives (e.g. afraid, asleep, along, alive, awake, ashamed and also content, sorry, well, ill, due, etc.)

A few adjectives can be used only as attributes (e.g. outer, major, minor, only, whole, former, latter and some others)


Position of Adjectives.


1 Most adjectives can be used in a noun group, after determiners and numbers if there are any, in front of the noun.

e.g. He had a beautiful smile.

She bought a loaf of white bread.

There was no clear evidence.


2 Most adjectives can also be used after a link verb such as ‘be’, ‘become’, or ‘feel’.

e.g. I'm cold.

I felt angry.

Nobody seemed amused.


3. Some adjectives are normally used only after a link verb.


afraid
alive
alone

asleep
aware
content

due
glad
ill

ready
sorry
sure

unable
well


For example, we can say ‘She was glad’, but you do not talk about ‘a glad woman’.

I wanted to be alone.

We were getting ready for bed.

I'm not quite sure.

He didn't know whether to feel glad or sorry.


4. Some adjectives are normally used only in front of a noun.


eastern
northern
southern
western


atomic
countless
digital

existing
indoor
introductory
maximum

neighbouring
occasional
outdoor


For example, we talk about ‘an atomic bomb’, but we do not say ‘The bomb was atomic’.

He sent countless letters to the newspapers.

This book includes a good introductory chapter on forests.


5. When we use an adjective to emphasize a strong feeling or opinion, it always comes in front of a noun.


absolute
complete
entire

outright
perfect
positive

pure
real
total

true
utter


Some of it was absolute rubbish.

He made me feel like a complete idiot.


6. Some adjectives that describe size or age can come after a noun group consisting of a number or determiner and a noun that indicates the unit of measurement.


deep
high

long
old

tall
thick

wide


He was about six feet tall.

The water was several metres deep.

The baby is nine months old.

Note that you do not say ‘two pounds heavy’, you say ‘two pounds in weight’.


7. A few adjectives are used alone after a noun.


designate elect galore incarnate

She was now the president elect.

There are empty houses galore.


8. A few adjectives have a different meaning depending on whether they come in front of or after a noun.


concerned involved present proper responsible

For example, ‘the concerned mother’ means a mother who is worried, but ‘the mother concerned’ means the mother who has been mentioned.


It's one of those incredibly involved stories.

The people involved are all doctors.

I'm worried about the present situation.

Of the 18 people present, I knew only one.

Her parents were trying to act in a responsible manner.

We do not know the person responsible for his death.


Order of Adjectives.


1. We often want to add more information to a noun than you can with one adjective, so we need to use two or more adjectives. In theory, we can use the adjectives in any order, depending on the quality you want to emphasize. In practice, however, there is a normal order.

When we use two or more adjectives in front of a noun, we usually put an adjective that expresses our opinion in front of an adjective that just describes something.

e.g. You live in a nice big house.

He is a naughty little boy.

She was wearing a beautiful pink suit.


2. When we use more than one adjective to express our opinion, an adjective with a more general meaning such as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘nice’, or ‘lovely’ usually comes before an adjective with a more specific meaning such as ‘comfortable’, ‘clean’, or ‘dirty’.

e.g. I sat in a lovely comfortable armchair in the corner.

He put on a nice clean shirt.

It was a horrible dirty room.


3. We can use adjectives to describe various qualities of people or things. For example, we might want to indicate their size, their shape, or the country they come from.

Descriptive adjectives belong to six main types, but we are unlikely ever to use all six types in the same noun group. If we did, we would normally put them in the following order:


size shape age colour nationality material

This means that if we want to use an ‘age’ adjective and a ‘nationality’ adjective, we put the ‘age’ adjective first.

We met some young Chinese girls.


Similarly, a ‘shape’ adjective normally comes before a ‘colour’ adjective.

e.g. He had round black eyes.


Other combinations of adjectives follow the same order. Note that ‘material’ means any substance, not only cloth.

e.g. There was a large round wooden table in the room.

The man was carrying a small black plastic bag.


4. We usually put comparative and superlative adjectives in front of other adjectives.

e.g. Some of the better English actors have gone to live in Hollywood.

These are the highest monthly figures on record.

5. When

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