Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are adjectives that modify a noun or pronoun by showing its quality. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Descriptive Adjectives in the English Grammar

What Are Descriptive Adjectives?

Descriptive adjectives are used to describe or provide more information about a noun or pronoun by expressing a quality, characteristic, or attribute. They can be used in a variety of ways, such as to compare one noun to another, to provide information about a noun's size, age, color, or shape, or to express a noun's emotional or physical state.

Categories of Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives can be categorized based on their object of description. Some adjectives are exclusively used to describe characteristics of either humans or things, while others can be used to describe both humans and things. Thus, we can categorize them into three groups:

  1. Descriptive Adjectives Describing Humans
  2. Descriptive Adjectives Describing Things
  3. General descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive Adjectives Describing Humans

Adjectives that describe human characteristics are often related to an individual's traits, appearance, emotions, or other attributes that might be temporary or permanent. In the following, we will discuss each subcategory in more detail.

Traits

Human traits can be further categorized into the following groups:

  • Intellectual
  • Physical
  • Personality
  • Moral

Intellectual Traits

Human intellectual traits refer to the abilities and characteristics that are associated with intelligence and mental capacity. Some of the most common adjectives used to describe intellectual traits include:

  • Smart
  • Bright
  • Creative
  • Wise
  • Literate
  • Brilliant
  • Creative
  • Stupid
  • Insane
  • Dumb

Pay attention to the following examples to see how they are used in sentences:

John is a smart businessman who knows how to negotiate deals.

My friend is a very creative person who enjoys painting, writing, and making music in her spare time.

My grandmother is a wise woman who always has good advice to offer.

Physical Traits

Human physical traits are the observable physical characteristics that are unique to each individual. These traits can be inherited genetically or influenced by environmental factors. Some of the most common adjectives used to describe physical traits of humans include:

  • Able
  • Strong
  • Weak
  • Muscular
  • Pregnant

Pay attention to their use in sentence:

After months of training, Jane was finally able to lift the heavy weight with ease, demonstrating her strong physical abilities.

My sister is pregnant and is due to give birth next month.

Personality Traits

Personality traits are the ways that people consistently think, feel, and behave. They are things that make each person unique and can influence their actions and relationships with others. Some of the common descriptive adjectives used to describe an individual's personality traits include:

  • Cool
  • Funny
  • Serious
  • Kind
  • Friendly
  • Sensitive
  • Aggressive
  • Evil
  • Gentle
  • Curious

The comedian was so funny that the audience couldn't stop laughing.

The kind stranger helped the lost child find their way back to their parents.

The coach told the players to be more aggressive on the field.

Moral Traits

Moral traits are related to an individual's sense of right and wrong which guide their behavior and decision-making. Common descriptive adjectives used to describe moral traits include:

  • Fair
  • Honest
  • Moral
  • Decent
  • Guilty

Now pay attention to their use in sentence:

The politician promised to be honest and transparent with the public about their plans and actions.

Despite the difficult circumstances, the decent man always tried to do the right thing.

Emotions

Human emotions are complex psychological experiences that are associated with subjective feelings and physiological responses. They can be positive or negative:

Positive Emotions Negative Emotions
Happy Sad
Proud Angry
Glad Jealous
Calm Afraid
Confident Upset

After receiving the good news, the happy couple jumped for joy and hugged each other.

Sarah's parents were incredibly proud of her accomplishments and hard work.

Even though he tried to hide it, it was clear that the young boy was afraid of the dark.

The angry customer demanded to speak to the manager

Appearance

Human appearance refers to the physical characteristics and traits that are observable in an individual's body, face, and overall appearance. Descriptive adjectives can be used to describe factors such as a person's height, weight, shape, or beauty. The following table presents examples of each group:

Adjectives of Height Adjectives of Weight Adjectives of Shape Adjectives of Beauty
Tall Heavy Slim Beautiful
Short Light Slender Pretty
Gigantic Overweight Chubby Cute
Petite Obese Fat Handsome
Tiny Thin Ugly

The tall basketball player easily grabbed the rebound.

The doctor advised the overweight patient to make some lifestyle changes.

The chubby toddler waddled across the room, giggling and babbling

The handsome actor captivated the audience with his charming smile.

Permanent attributes

Permanent human attributes are physical or behavioral traits that are relatively stable and enduring over time. These traits can be related to a person's age or physical disabilities. Examples of adjectives describing each group are provided in the table below:

Adjectives of Age Adjectives of Disability
Young Blind
Old Deaf
Adolescent Mute
Senior Paralyzed
Juvenile Disabled
Middle-aged Impaired

The young artist showed great promise and skill on the stage.

The senior citizen was a well-respected member of the community.

The deaf community in the city organized a rally to raise awareness about the need for sign language interpreters in public spaces.

The city council approved a plan to install more curb cuts to improve mobility for disabled residents.

Temporary Attributes

Temporary human attributes are physical or behavioral traits that are not permanent and can change over time. They can be related to a person's health, wealth and success, or social status. The table below presents examples of each group of adjectives:

Adjectives of Health Adjectives of Wealth and Success Adjectives of Social Status
Well Rich Noble
Fine Wealthy Famous
Healthy Successful Educated
Sick Affluent Married
Ill Poor Elite

Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise are important for maintaining a healthy mind and body.

After years of hard work and dedication, the author finally became a successful writer.

The noble prince was known for his generosity and compassion towards his subjects.

Descriptive Adjectives Describing Things

Adjectives that describe things are often related to their appearance, the sensory experience they invoke, age, time and sequence, value, complexity, intensity, rationality, probability, or entirety.

Appearance

The appearance of an object can be described in terms of its dimensions, shape, color, and size. Examples of each group are provided in the table below:

Dimension Shape Color Size
Long Round Blue Big
Short Rectangular Red Little
Deep Flat Vibrant Small
Wide Square Bright Huge
Narrow Tight Dark Large
Broad Loose Light Massive

The narrow alleyway was dimly lit and deserted.

The artist used a flat brush to create broad strokes of color on the canvas.

The fields of sunflowers stretched out as far as the eye could see, their vibrant yellow petals swaying gently in the breeze.

The elephant was a huge creature, towering over the other animals at the zoo.

Sensory experiences

Objects can create different sensory experiences for humans through their taste, smell, texture, temperature, and sound.

Adjectives of Taste Adjectives of Smell Adjectives of Texture Adjectives of Temperature Adjectives of Sound
Sweet Scented Soft Cold Loud
Bitter Fragrant Smooth Hot Quiet
Delicious Smelly Rough Warm Silent
Sour Stinky Crispy Cool Noisy
Salty Chilly Audible

The coffee had a bitter taste.

The scented candles filled the room with a warm and inviting fragrance.

The lotion left her skin feeling smooth and soft.

The chilly autumn breeze sent shivers down the woman's spine.

The library was a quiet haven.

Age

The age of an object refers to the length of time that has passed since it was created or manufactured, unlike the age of a human which refers to the number of years since they were born. The age of an object is described using different adjectives from those used to describe the age of a person, for example, while 'young' is used to describe a person, 'new' is its counterpart for objects. Common adjectives used to describe the age of an object include:

  • Old
  • New
  • Fresh
  • Ancient
  • Modern
  • Vintage

The historian studied the ancient artifacts.

The farmer's market was filled with fresh products.

Time

Adjectives of time indicate when an event occurred. They provide information about the duration, frequency, or timing of events. Common adjectives in this category include:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Recent
  • Immediate
  • Temporary
  • Contemporary
  • Ongoing

The present moment is all we have, so it's important to make the most of it.

The company had experienced a recent surge in sales.

Value

Adjectives of value indicate the cost or worth of an object or idea. They include:

  • Expensive
  • Cheap
  • Valuable
  • Free
  • Priceless

The designer handbag was too expensive for the woman's budget.

The nonprofit organization offered free meals to the homeless.

Complexity and Difficulty

Adjectives of complexity can help to describe the level of detail or level of understanding required to grasp or work with something. Here are some examples of adjectives of complexity:

  • Easy
  • Difficult
  • Simple
  • Complex
  • Sophisticated
  • Tough
  • Tricky

The recipe was easy to follow, with simple instructions and few ingredients.

The puzzle was tricky, with a complex design and hidden clues.

Intensity

Adjectives of intensity are adjectives that modify or intensify the meaning of another adjective or adverb in a sentence. They express the degree or intensity of the quality being described.

  • Intense
  • Severe
  • Extreme
  • Absolute
  • Acute
  • Utmost

The hurricane was very severe, with high winds and heavy rain.

The project was an absolute failure.

Probability

Adjectives of probability describe the likelihood or chance of an event occurring. They help to express the degree of certainty or uncertainty associated with a situation. Common adjectives of probability include:

  • Probable
  • Likely
  • Certain
  • Potential
  • Definite
  • Inevitable

Based on the forecast, it was likely that the concert would be rained out.

The detective was certain that the suspect was hiding something.

Entirety

These adjectives describe something that is not divided or is complete or includes all its parts. They include:

  • Whole
  • Full
  • Entire
  • Complete
  • Total

The whole family gathered around the table.

The total cost of the project was much higher than expected

Rationality

Adjectives of rationality describe the qualities or characteristics of something that is or is not rational or based on sound thinking. Some of the common adjectives in this category include:

  • Weird
  • Crazy
  • Stupid
  • Odd
  • Ridiculous
  • Logical
  • Rational
  • Reasonable
  • Sound

The roller coaster ride was crazy, with steep drops and sharp turns.

The painting was odd, with distorted shapes and surreal imagery.

General Descriptive Adjectives

In addition to adjectives that are used to specifically describe humans or things, there are also many adjectives that can be used to describe both humans and things. We categorize these adjectives as general descriptive adjectives. They can be used to describe a person or thing's location or direction, uniqueness, speed, evaluation, cleanness, significance, or emotions and viewpoint.

Location and Direction

Adjectives of location and direction are used to describe where something is in relation to other things or to indicate the direction of movement. Here are some examples:

  • Right/Left
  • High/Low
  • North/South
  • Top/Bottom
  • Front/Back
  • Straight
  • Middle

The children raced to the front of the line.

The top floor of the building had a stunning view of the city skyline.

Uniqueness

Adjectives of uniqueness can be categorized based on whether they indicate uniqueness or commonness:

Uniqueness Commonness
Different Common
Extraordinary Ordinary
Strange Normal
Special Regular
Remarkable Familiar
Unique Typical
Exotic Standard

The chef prepared a special menu for the VIP guests, featuring exotic ingredients and unique flavor combinations.

The traffic during rush hour was typical.

Speed

Adjectives of speed are used to describe how fast something is moving or happening. Here are some examples:

  • Quick
  • Fast
  • Rapid
  • Slow
  • Swift

The patient's heart rate was rapid.

The slow pace of the movie made it difficult for the audience to stay engaged.

Evaluation

Evaluative adjectives can express a positive or negative judgment about the quality or value of something. They include:

Positive Negative
Good Bad
Nice Awful
Fine Terrible
Great Horrible
Ideal Poor
Perfect Unpleasant
Incredible Nasty

The sunny weather was ideal for a day at the beach.

The food at the restaurant was awful, with overcooked dishes that left a bad taste in the customer's mouth.

Cleanness

There are many adjectives that can be used to describe cleanness or uncleanness. Here are some examples:

  • Clean
  • Tidy
  • Neat
  • Spotless
  • Pristine
  • Dirty
  • Filthy
  • Messy
  • Stained

The artist's studio was neat and tidy, with paints and brushes arranged in an orderly fashion.

The hotel room was filthy, with dirty sheets and a bathroom that had not been cleaned in weeks.

Sequence

These adjectives can be used to describe the order or sequence of things, events, or people in a group or a line. They can help to convey the chronological or logical arrangement of items in a list, a series of steps, or a narrative. Some of the most common adjectives of sequence include:

  • First\Last
  • Early\Late
  • Next\Previous
  • Former
  • Current
  • Final
  • Latter

The former CEO passed the torch to the latter CEO.

The next customer in line is the man with the blue hat.

Significance

Many adjectives can be used to describe the significance or importance of a person or object. Here are some examples:

  • Important
  • Significant
  • Main
  • Vital
  • Major\Minor
  • Key
  • Essential
  • Fundamental

The typo in the email was a minor mistake, having no significant impact on the message being conveyed.

John is an essential member of our team, and we rely on his expertise to complete our projects

Quantity

These adjectives can be used to describe the amount or quantity of something, such as food, money, time, or other resources as well as the number of people. Some common examples are:

  • Only
  • Single
  • Double
  • Several
  • Multiple
  • Enough
  • Extra

The single rose in the vase stood out against the white tablecloth,

There were several people waiting in line for tickets.

Inducive and Viewpoint Adjectives

Inducive adjectives describe people or objects that induce a specific feeling. On the other hand, viewpoint adjectives are counterparts of inducive adjectives in that they describe the feelings that are induced by inducive adjectives. However, viewpoint adjectives are only used for people and not objects. For example, while both a person and an object can be 'interesting' (inducive), only a human can be 'interested' (viewpoint) in that particular person or object.
Examples of inducive and viewpoint adjectives include:

Inducive Viewpoint
Interesting Interested
Amazing Amazed
Disgusting Disgusted
Boring Bored
Impressive Impressed
Scary Scared
Surprising Surprised
Confusing Confused
Tiring Tired
Exciting Excited

The smell from the garbage can was disgusting.

The pedestrians were disgusted by the smell from the garbage can.

The lecturer was so boring that many of the students in the audience struggled to stay awake.

The audience was bored by the lecturer's presentation, struggling to stay awake.

Binary Adjectives

Finally, there are sets of adjectives that are the opposite of each other. We call these binary adjectives and categorize them into two groups. While the sets of adjectives in the first group refer to two independent but opposite concepts (for example, dead and alive), sets of adjectives in the second group are derived from one another and one indicates the lack or absence of the other (for example, possible and impossible). Some common binary adjectives are as presented in the table below:

Group 1 Group 2
Alive/Dead Possible/Impossible
Open/Closed Available/Unavailable
RightWrong Comfortable/Uncomfortable
Public/Private Correct/Incorrect
Negative/Positive Dependent/Independent
Awake/Asleep Formal/Informal
Full/Empty Legal/Illegal
Fake/Original Usual/Unusual
True/False Stable/Unstable
Real/Imaginary Safe/Unsafe

The store was closed for renovations, with a sign on the door directing customers to visit the open branch down the street.

The art collector was careful to purchase only original works and not fall victim to fake reproductions or forgeries.

The construction site was marked with signs indicating safe areas for workers to move around in, while also warning of unsafe zones.

The lawyer advised her client to follow only legal methods of obtaining evidence, warning against any illegal tactics that could jeopardize the case.

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