Adjectives Help (page 2)
Adjectives give a listener or reader more specific information about a noun or pronoun. For instance, if a group of people were asked to think of the word car, each person might have a different mental image. That's because the word car by itself is too general. But if the words red and convertible were added, the visual images would be more similar because the car has been described more specifically. An adjective is what we call a modifier; it answers any of three specific questions about the noun(s) or pronoun(s) it is modifying: what kind? (friendly, robust, spiky), which one(s)? (this, that, these, those), or how many? (nine, few, many, some).
While adjectives typically come before the noun(s) they are modifying, they may come afterward, too.
Tip: Remember, adjectives paint pictures for a reader or listener. So use colorful adjectives to describe how something or someone looks (scarlet, tall), sounds (noisy, melodic), feels (humid, gloomy), tastes (bitter, chewy), or smells (acrid, pungent).
Three words we use in our everyday language—a, an, and the—are special adjectives called articles. There are two types of articles: the definite article (the), which implies something specific (not just any roadmap but this particular roadmap) and the indefinite article (a or an), which is nonspecific (pick a roadmap; any one will do).
Tip: Sometimes deciding whether to use a or an can be tricky. The best way to decide is to use your ears. The word igloo, for instance, begins with an initial vowel sound (short i ), so it takes the indefinite article an. The word ferocious, on the other hand, begins with an initial consonant sound (f ), so it takes the indefinite article a. But do not let the beginning letter fool you. For instance, although the word one begins with a vowel, it has an initial consonant sound (w), so it takes a, not an.
Proper adjectives look like proper nouns because they are capitalized, but they are modifying nouns, and therefore, are adjectives. The phrases English tea, Wilson family, and Chinese yo-yo begin with a proper adjective, each answering the question what kind? or which one? about the noun it is modifying:
|What kind of tea?||English|
|What kind of yo-yo?||Chinese|
Pronouns as Adjectives
A pronoun such as he, she, or it takes the place of a noun. If a noun can play the role of an adjective, so, too, can a pronoun. Some personal pronouns fall into the category of possessive adjectives: my, your, his, her, its, our, their. Take care not to confuse possessive adjectives with the possessive pronouns mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs. (You can review pronouns in Lesson 3.) While possessive pronouns can stand alone, a noun must follow a possessive adjective, which answers which one? about that noun.
Ronald took his lawnmower to the repair shop.
Victoria and Charles balanced their checkbook together.
Sara cleaned her room until it sparkled.
For comparison, here are a few sentences using possessive pronouns. Notice that here the object does not follow the pronoun.
- That lawnmower is his.
- Those checkbooks are theirs.
- The clean room is hers.
Like possessive adjectives, demonstrative adjectives (this, that, these, those) answer which one? about the object, but they always appear before the noun being modified.
That pool looks so inviting on this sweltering day.
This channel always seems to have so many commercials.
These flowers are exceptionally beautiful in that vase.
Those shoes are so much more comfortable than that pair.
If the word this, that, these, or those is not followed by a noun, but is replacing a noun in the sentence, it is considered a pronoun.
This is broken.
That belongs to Shera.
These are sharp. Be careful.
Those smell rotten.
In the course of writing and speaking, it is often necessary to show how one thing compares to another. We can do this with three different levels of adjectives: the positive degree, the comparative degree, and the superlative degree.
In the positive degree, a simple statement is made about the noun:
This sushi is good.
In the comparative degree, a contrast is made between two nouns:
This sushi is good, but that one is better.
In the superlative degree, a comparison is made among more than two nouns:
- Of all the sushi, this is the best.
Here are some rules to remember in forming the comparative or the superlative degree:
Rule 1. Add -er and -est to most one-syllable adjectives, like small, smaller, smallest; hot, hotter, hottest. Some one-syllable adjectives are irregular, like good (good, better, best), bad (bad, worse, worst), and many (many, more, most).
Rule 2. For adjectives of two or more syllables, use more and most to enhance the degree, or less and least to decrease the degree.
- agreeable: more agreeable, most agreeable; less agreeable, least agreeable
- spotted: more spotted, most spotted; less spotted, least spotted
Of course, there are always exceptions. Here are some two-syllable adjectives that allow you to use -er and -iest in the comparative degree. Note that the final -y is changed to an -i before the endings are added.
- happy, happier, happiest
- picky, pickier, pickiest
- silly, sillier, silliest
Lastly, some adjectives just cannot be compared no matter how hard you try; they are called absolute adjectives or incomparables. Consider, for instance, the word round. How could something be rounder than round? Or take the word unique: How can anything that is already one-of-a-kind be more unique? Other absolute adjectives are favorite, true, false, perfect, square, free, and complete.
Tip: A simple tip: Add more or most before a long adjective—more frightened, more harmonious, most ridiculous, most delectable.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Adjectives Practice.
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