Adjectives are words that are used to modify nouns. They offer more information about the noun after them.

"Adjectives" in the English Grammar

What Are Adjectives?

Adjectives are words that describe or modify nouns or pronouns. They provide additional information about the qualities, characteristics, or attributes of the noun or pronoun they are describing. Adjectives can be used to provide more detail about a person, place, thing, or idea.

Adjectives as Subject Complements

Adjectives do more than describe nouns. They can also act as a subject complement to describe or modify the subject of linking verbs. For example:

This is the happiest dog in the world. → adjective

The man was really happy, because she said "yes" to his proposal. → subject complement

She was breathtaking in that gorgeous dress.

Here, 'breathtaking' is a subject complement, while 'gorgeous' modifies the noun 'dress'

Adjectives: Types

We can categorize adjectives based on different properties:

Based on Placement

Based on their position in a sentence, i.e. where they appear in a sentence, adjectives can be categorized into two main groups:

Based on Capitalization

Based on whether their first letter is capitalized or not, adjectives can be categorized as:

Based on Gradeability

Gradeability in adjectives refers to their ability to express different degrees or levels of the quality they describe. Some adjectives are more gradeable than others, meaning that they can be used to express a wider range of degrees or levels of the quality they describe. With this regard, adjectives can be categorized as:

Based on Comparability

Comparability in adjectives refers to the ability of an adjective to be compared to another noun or pronoun in terms of the degree or level of the quality it describes. Based on comparability, adjectives can be categorized into two main groups:

Based on Formation

Formation in adjectives refers to the process of creating adjectives from other words, such as nouns, verbs, or other adjectives. Based on how they are formed, we can categorize adjectives into two types:

using the superlative form of the adjective 'happy'

Based on Degree

Comparative degree is a feature of some adjectives, which allows for the comparison of two or more nouns or pronouns in terms of the quality described by the adjective. For example, a person may be 'nice,' but another person may be 'nicer,' and a third person may be the 'nicest' of the three. Based on this comparison, adjectives can be:

Based on Restrictiveness

Based on whether the adjectives are necessary to the whole meaning of the sentence or not, they can be categorized into two groups:

Adjective Placement

Adjectives can come before or after the noun they modify. Basically, in English, placement of adjectives can be classified into three categories:

  1. Prepositive adjectives (also called attributive adjectives): appear before the noun
  2. Postpositive adjectives: appear immediately after a noun or after a linking verb
  3. Nominalized adjectives: function as nouns and appear alone

Nominal Adjectives

Nominal adjectives, also known as substantive adjectives, function similarly to nouns in that they can act as the head of a noun phrase. They are often used in contexts where a noun is implied but not explicitly stated, and can be easily understood from the context in which they are used. Check out the examples:

It has been set up to help the homeless.

The charity dedicated $100 to the poor.

In this example, by 'poor' we mean the 'poor people.'

Determiners vs. Adjectives

One key difference between 'determiners' and adjectives is that determiners can only be used before nouns, while adjectives can also be used after verbs.

I am supposed to submit an essay by 10:00 pm.

Moreover, the number of determiners used before a noun is limited to one, while there is no limit to the number of adjectives that can be used before a noun.
Additionally, determiners are essential to clarify the noun they precede, and cannot be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence. In contrast, omitting adjectives may not substantially affect the sentence's meaning.

She had a small beautiful dog.

'She had a dog' But 'She had small beautiful dog'

The following table summarizes the differences between determiners and adjectives.

determiner + determiner adjective + adjective
determiner + adjective adjective + determiner
determiner + noun adjective + noun
noun + determiner noun + adjective
verb + determiner verb + adjective
can omit determiner can omit adjective

What Is an Adjective Phrase?

An adjective phrase is a group of words that functions as an adjective and modifies a noun or pronoun in a sentence.

The smell of the hot delicious cake makes me hungry.

A very big game is on Sunday.

What is an Adjective Clause?

The term 'adjective clause' is often used interchangeably with 'relative clause', as they typically consist of a relative pronoun followed by a clause that modifies a noun. These clauses provide additional information that helps to define or identify the noun they modify. Here are some examples of adjective clauses:

The man who was standing over there, made the girl cry.

The door which was opened by the teacher, was brown and yellow.


In some languages, such as French, adjectives change their form to reflect the gender, case, and number of the noun they describe. This is called agreement. In English, adjectives never agree with the noun they modify.


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Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Comparative adjectives are used to compare one noun to another noun. Superlative adjectives are used to compare three or more nouns.

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