Types of Adjectives

Adjectives are the most used words in sentences. There are several types of adjectives according to their uses. Let's get to know them!

intermediate
"Types of Adjectives" in English Grammar

Adjective Categorizations

We can categorize adjectives based on different criteria, for instance, based on placement, formation, capitalization, gradeability, comparability, degree, and restrictiveness.

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:

Attributive Adjectives

Attributive adjectives are placed directly before a noun and serve to describe or attribute a quality or characteristic to the noun they modify. More than one adjective can modify the same noun. Take a look at the examples:

I have a fast car.

The word 'fast' is describing an attribute of the car.

I'm having a nice peaceful day.

Attributive Adjectives: Types

Attributive adjectives can appear directly before or after a noun. Accordingly, they can be categorized into two groups:

Pre-positive Adjectives

'Pre-positive adjectives' are used before nouns, which means they form a noun phrase. Remember, we can have an unlimited number of attributive adjectives before a noun. For example:

They were waiting in a dark room.

The tall handsome stranger was walking in my direction.

Post-positive Adjectives

A postpositive adjective (also called postnominal adjective) is an adjective that appears immediately after the noun or pronoun it modifies. For example:

We need someone powerful.

Predicative Adjectives

Adjectives that come after a linking verb (such as "be," "seem," "become," "appear," etc.) are known as predicative adjectives because they are part of the predicate and describe the subject of the sentence. Check out the examples:

It sounds creepy, I hope you agree with me.

He seemed crazy this morning.

Based on Formation

Based on how they are formed, we can categorize adjectives into two types:

Simple Adjectives

Simple adjectives are adjectives that consist of a single word. For example:

The little boy was crying.

That sounds nice!

Compound Adjectives

A compound adjective (also called a hyphenated adjective) contains two or more words. They are often separated by a hyphen to avoid confusion or ambiguity. Here are some examples:

The stars enjoyed an intense but short-lived romance.

He always drives old-fashioned cars.

'delicious' here is an example of predicative adjective

Based on Capitalization

Based on whether their first letter is capitalized or not, adjectives can have two groups:

Common Adjectives

Common adjectives are used to describe or modify a noun or pronoun in a general sense. They are not specific to a particular noun or context and can be used to describe a wide range of things. For example:

It was a tremendous explosion.

Don't be stupid!

Proper Adjectives

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. Proper adjectives are formed by capitalizing the first letter of the proper noun and using it as an adjective to describe a noun. For example:

I love Chinese food.

American cars are very strong.

Based on Gradeability

Adjectives can be categorized into two main groups based on whether they have a scalar meaning or an absolute meaning:

Gradable Adjectives

Gradable adjectives can be used to describe the degree or intensity of a quality or characteristic. They express a scale or range of values, and can be used to compare one thing to another. For example:

  • smart, dumb, stupid
  • fast, quick, slow
  • dark, light, bright

Non-gradable Adjectives

Non-gradable adjectives do not express different degrees or levels of a quality or characteristic. Instead, they describe an absolute or inherent quality that cannot be compared or modified. For example:

The party was perfect, I have never seen such a good one in my entire life.

Based on Comparability

Based on comparability, adjectives can be categorized into two main groups:

Comparable Adjectives

Comparable adjectives can be used to describe different degrees or levels of a quality or characteristic and to compare one thing to another. Comparable adjectives can be modified with intensifiers (such as 'very', 'extremely', 'somewhat', etc.) or comparatives (such as 'taller', 'more beautiful', 'less expensive', etc.) to indicate the degree or level of the quality being described. Pay attention to the examples:

The weather is very cold today.

The concert tickets were more expensive than I expected.

Non-comparable Adjectives

Non-comparable adjectives, also known as absolute adjectives, describe an inherent quality that cannot be compared or modified. These adjectives are definitive in nature and cannot be made into superlative or comparative forms, nor can they be intensified. For example:

He was dead in 1996. (Not 'more dead')

I have an extra pen. (Not 'more extra')

Based on Degree

Certain adjectives are considered comparable because they can be used to indicate different degrees or levels of a quality. This comparison is known as degree. For instance, while one person may be described as 'nice', another person may be 'nicer', and a third person may be 'the nicest' of the three. Based on this criterion, adjectives can be:

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Comparative and superlative adjectives are forms of adjectives that are used to indicate different degrees or levels of a quality or characteristic.
Comparative adjectives are used to compare two nouns or pronouns, and indicate that one is of a higher or lower degree or level than the other. They are usually formed by adding '-er' to the end of one-syllable adjectives, or by using the word 'more' before adjectives with two or more syllables.
Superlative adjectives, on the other hand, are used to compare three or more nouns or pronouns, and indicate that one is of the highest or lowest degree or level. They are usually formed by adding '-est' to the end of a one-syllable adjective, or by using the word 'most' before adjectives with two or more syllables. Pay attention to the examples:

The smallest part of its body is its tail.

The previous movie was more interesting.

Based on Restrictiveness

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

Restrictive and Non-restrictive Adjectives

Restrictive adjectives provide essential information about the noun they modify and help to define or limit its meaning. Without the restrictive adjective, the sentence would not convey the same meaning.
Non-restrictive adjectives, on the other hand, provide additional information about the noun they modify, but are not essential to its meaning.
Look at the following examples:

She was an irresponsible woman who always avoids difficult tasks and only does the easy ones.

Here, 'difficult' is restrictive: it tells which tasks she avoids, distinguishing them from the easy ones.

Her task was filing the documents signed by her predecessor, and she performed this difficult task with care and attention.

Here, 'difficult' is non-restrictive: it is already known which task it was, but the adjective describes it more fully.

Nouns Used as Adjectives

Sometimes a noun is used to describe another noun. In that case, the first noun acts as an adjective. For example:

My math teacher is very mean.

I'm reading a love story.

Nominal Adjectives

Nominal adjectives, also known as substantive adjectives, function almost like nouns in that they are meant to be followed by a noun, but the noun is omitted. However, the meaning of the sentence is still clear and the adjective can be easily understood. Check out the examples:

It has been set up to help the homeless.

The charity donated $100 to the poor.

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An attributive adjective is an adjective that appears before the noun or pronoun it describes. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

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