Adjectives

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Meaning of Adjectives
An adjective is a word that modifies/describes a noun or a pronoun, thus, an adjective gives more information about a noun or a pronoun.
Example; Mary is beautiful. (beautiful is giving information about Mary, and Mary is a noun. We are also told that any word that gives information about a noun or a pronoun is an adjective, we can confidently say ‘beautiful‘ is an adjective. Others examples of adjectives are; handsome, one, green, the, little, strong, tall etc.

Types of adjectives

  1. Descriptive Adjectives; These are adjectives that describe nouns and pronouns. Examples; tall, nice, short, big, etc.
    In fact, there are two types of descriptive adjectives;

a. Attributive Adjectives; These are adjectives that come immediately before the nouns they modify, thus attributing a quality to the noun.
Examples;
i. The beautiful girl was rejected.
Beautiful – attributive adjective, coming before the noun ‘girl’
ii. The noisy neighbour has returned.
Noisy – attributive adjective

b. Predicative/Predicate Adjectives; These are adjectives that form part of the predicate in a sentence and qualify or describe the subject of the sentence. Predicate adjectives come after the nouns they qualify. They also come after linking and copula verbs.
Examples;
i. The students are serious.
Serious – predicative adjective (qualifies the noun, ‘students’)
ii. The stew is salty.
Salty – predicate adjective (qualifies the noun, ‘stew’)
iii. Naomi is beautiful.
Beautiful – predicative adjective (qualifies the noun, ‘Naomi’)
Usage Note; An adjective can form part of the predicate, but may still function as an attributive adjective, that is to say, even though, it comes after the verb in the sentence, but then, it comes before the noun it modifies.
Example;
i. Naomi has a bad smell.
Bad – Attributive adjective (modifies the noun ‘smell’)
However, in this sentence,
ii. Naomi is bad.
Bad – predicate adjective (qualifies the noun, ‘Naomi’).
Also, some adjectives can function as both attributive and predicative.
Example;
The beautiful girl is here.
Beautiful – attributive adjective
The girl is beautiful.
Beautiful – predicative adjective

2. Possessive Adjectives; These are adjectives that modify nouns by indicating possession or ownership. There are seven possessive adjectives; my, your, his, her, its, their, our.
Examples;
a. I left my book on the table.
My – possessive adjective (modifies the noun, ‘book’)
b. Our house was burnt yesterday.
Our – possessive adjective (modifies the noun, ‘house’)

3. Demonstrative Adjectives; These are adjectives that point out the nouns they modify. The four demonstrative adjectives are; this, that, these, those.
Examples;
i. This website contains a lot.
This – demonstrative adjective (modifies the noun, website’)
ii. These boys are criminals.
These – demonstrative adjective (modifies the noun, ‘boys’)
iii. That animal is strong.
That – demonstrative adjective (modifies the noun, ‘animal’)
iv. Those oranges are not good.
Those – demonstrative adjective modifies the noun, ‘oranges’)
Usage Note 1; we use ‘this’ and ‘these’ to modify singular and plural nouns that are close to the speaker at the time of speaking respectively, whereas ‘that’ and ‘those’ are used to modify singular and plural nouns that are far from the speaker at the time of speaking respectively.
Usage Note 2; ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘these’, ‘those’ are also used as demonstrative pronouns. When they are used as demonstrative pronouns, a verb usually comes after them, but not a noun. When a noun comes after them, then they are used as demonstrative adjectives.
Examples;
i. That is cruel.
That – demonstrative pronoun
ii. That action is cruel.
That – demonstrative adjective

4. Interrogative Adjectives; These are adjectives that are used to ask questions. They are always followed by nouns and are used in asking questions. They are three interrogative adjectives. They are; what, which, whose.
Examples;
a. Which; It is used to ask questions to make a choice.
i. Which boy did you send?
ii. Which option do you prefer?
iii. Which colour should we choose?
b. What; It is used to ask questions to make a general choice .
Example;
I. What answer did she give?
c. Whose; It is used to ask questions about whom something belongs.
Examples;
i. Whose book did they steal?

5. Distributive Adjectives; These are adjectives that are used to point out nouns in a group. They single out one or more individual items or people. The common distributive adjectives are; each, every, either, neither.
a. Each; It is used to single out every single member of a group. It is used to speak about group members individually.
Examples;
i. Each student needs a pair of uniform. This means each single student needs a pair of uniform.
Each is also used to talk about only two things and more than two.
Examples;
i. The lady had a watch on each wrist.
ii. The player wore boot on each foot.


b. Every; It is used to speak members of a group collectively. It does not speak about them individually, but it is used to make generations.
Examples;
i. Every student paid the fees.
In the example above, even though ‘every‘ modifies a singular noun, ‘student’, but the meaning is that, all the students in general have paid the fees.
Every‘, unlike ‘each’ is used when talking about three or more things.
Examples;
ii. The lady wore a ring on every finger.
c. Either; One between a choice of two.
Examples;
i. Accra and Kumasi are big cities. Either city can be good for business.
This means, one of the cities can be good for business.
ii. John and Emma came here. Either boy stole the book.
d. Neither; Not one nor the other between a choice of two.
Examples;
i. I have been to Bolga and Wa, neither town is clean.

6. Proper Adjectives; These are adjectives formed from proper nouns. They always begin in capital letters. Example; Japanese motor, Ghanaian dish, Nigerian player etc.

7. Cardinal Adjectives; These are adjectives that modify nouns by numbering (stating how many).
Examples; five children, two boys, eight men etc.

8. Ordinal Adjectives; These are adjectives that indicate the position of nouns in a series.
Examples; third day, fifth month, first student.
Note; Some of the types of adjectives, especially, cardinal and ordinal adjectives, can also be referred to as determiners.

9. Nouns Used as Adjectives; When nouns occur in succession, all the earlier nouns, but the last noun, are adjectives in function, modifying the last noun. Examples; Ancient history teacher.
Ancient and history are adjectives modifying the noun, ‘teacher’.
However, ‘ancient’ and ‘history’ are nouns in isolation, but in the sentence, they are adjectives.

10. Indefinite Adjectives (Quantifiers); These are adjectives that are used before nouns to state their amount or quantity. The amount or quantity is not always specific. Examples include; few, a few, little, a little, many, several, more, much etc.
a. ‘Many’ and ‘few‘; They are used to modify plural count nouns.
i. ‘Few’ means hardly any or a small number. (It is negative in meaning).
Usage Examples
I. I have few books, in fact, I cannot give you any.
II. I wished I could help you, unfortunately, I have few pens left.
ii. ‘a few’ means a small number. It is positive in meaning.
Usage Examples
I. I have a few books in my house, please come for two after school.
II. We had a few workers in the farm, they were able to do the work.
Note; ‘few’ and ‘a few‘ both represent a small number, however, ‘few‘ represents a small number such that the number it represents serves as an impediment or obstacle to the completion of a particular task, whereas ‘a few‘ represents a number that is small, but that number is adequate or enough to be able to accomplish a particular mission or activity.

b. ‘Much’ and ‘little’; They are used with mass or count nouns.
i. ‘much’ means a large amount. Example; There is much water at home.
ii. ‘Little’ means hardly any or a small amount or quantity. It is negative in meaning.
Usage Examples
a. There was little salt in the soup, so the children could not eat.
b. There was little water in the tank, we could not wash today.
iii. ‘a little’ means a small amount or quantity, however, it is positive in meaning.
Usage Examples
a. There was little salt in the soup, the children were able to eat.
b. We had little water in the tank, everybody washed today.

11.Articles; These are adjectives that are used to modify a noun to show whether it is a particular noun or just any. There are two types of articles;
a. The definite article (the); This article is used before a noun to indicate that it is a particular person, object or thing.
Usage Examples;
I. The man came here. (a particular man)
II. I met the teacher today. (a particular teacher)
b. The indefinite articles (a & an); These are articles that are used to modify nouns to indicate they are just any.
Usage Examples
i. I need a boy to do this work. (any boy)
ii. I need a chair to sit. (any chair)
iii. We need an aeroplane to travel. (any aeroplane)
How to Use the Indefinite Article ‘a’
i. The indefinite article ‘a’ is used before singular nouns that begin in consonant sounds. Examples; a boy, a girl, a man etc.
ii. The indefinite article ‘a’ is used before singular count nouns that begin in a vowel letter, but the letter is pronounced as a consonant sound. Examples; a union, a university, a utility etc.
How to use the Indefinite Article ‘an’
i. The indefinite article ‘an‘ is used before a singular count noun that begin in a vowel sound. Examples; an orange, an animal, an umbrella etc.
ii. The indefinite article ‘an‘ is also used before singular count nouns that begin in consonants, but the consonant is pronounced as a vowel. Examples; an heiress, an hour etc.

Degrees of Adjectives
There are three degrees of descriptive adjectives;

a. Positive degree; The positive degree of adjectives is used to describe a single noun or pronoun. This degree is not used for any form of comparison. Examples include; good, strong, nice, beautiful, brave, smart, bad etc.
Usage Examples
i. Ama is beautiful.
ii. The hunter is brave.
iii. The orange is bad.

b. The Comparative Degree; This degree of adjectives is used to compare two nouns or pronouns. Examples include; better, stronger, nicer, more beautiful, braver, smarter, worse etc.
Usage Examples
i. Ama is more beautiful than Mary
ii. The hunter is braver than the farmer
iii. The orange is worse than the mango.
Note; Most monosyllabic adjectives form their comparative degrees by adding ‘er’. Examples; tall+er=taller, short+er=shorter etc.
Most disyllabic and polysyllabic adjectives form their comparatives by adding more/less before them. Examples; beautiful = more beautiful, intelligent = more/less intelligent etc.
Some adjectives also form their comparatives by changing their structure (irregular adjectives). Examples; good = better, bad = worse etc.

c. Superlative Degree; This degree of adjectives is used to compare more than two nouns or pronouns. Examples; best, strongest, nicest, most beautiful, bravest, smartest, worst etc.
Usage Examples
i. Ama is the most beautiful lady in the town.
ii. The hunter is the strongest man in the village.
iii. Orange is the worst fruit.
Note; Most monosyllabic adjectives form their superlative degrees by adding ‘est’. Examples; tall+est=tallest, short+est=shortest etc.
Most disyllabic and polysyllabic adjectives form their superlatives by adding most/least before them. Examples; beautiful = most beautiful, intelligent = most/least intelligent etc.
Some adjectives also form their superlatives by changing their structure (irregular adjectives). Examples; good = best, bad = worst etc.
Also, the superlative degree of comparison is always premodified by the definite article ‘the’.
John is the most intelligent student I have seen.

Gradable and Non-Gradable Adjectives
a. Gradable adjectives; These are adjectives that can be measured in degrees, such as size or quality. They are called gradable adjectives because they can be used in comparative and superlative forms or with grading adverbs such as, extremely and very to show a person has more or less of a quality than another. Examples; beautiful = very beautiful, more beautiful, hot = very hot, extremely hot etc.

b. Non-Gradable Adjectives; These are adjectives that describe or state qualities that are either completely present or completely absent. They describe absolutes, hence, do not have comparative nor superlative forms and cannot also be used with gradable adverbs except; absolutely, utterly, completely and really. Examples of non-gradable adjectives include; excellent, freezing, boiling etc.

Regular and Irregular Adjectives.
a. Regular Adjectives; These are adjectives that form their comparative and superlative forms through regular forms. Thus, they may add ‘-er’ or take more/less to form their comparatives, and add ‘-est’ or take most/least to form their superlatives.
Note; Most monosyllabic adjectives form their comparatives and superlatives by adding ‘-er’ and ‘-est’ respectively.

Note; Disyllabic (two syllables) adjectives that end in ‘y’, ‘er’, ‘le’ and ‘ow’ form their comparatives and superlatives by adding ‘-er’ and ‘-est’ respectively.

Note; A monosyllabic adjective that ends in a consonant preceded by a vowel form its comparative and superlative by doubling the last consonant and then add ‘-er’ and ‘-est’ respectively.

Note; Most disyllabic adjectives that do not end in ‘y’, ‘er’, ‘le’ and ‘ow’ and trisyllabic(three syllables) form their comparatives and superlatives by adding ‘more’ and ‘most’ before them for increasing comparison and then ‘less’ and ‘least’ before them for decreasing comparison respectively.

b. Irregular Adjectives; These are adjectives that form their comparatives and superlatives through irregular forms. Thus, they do not take ‘-er’/more/less and ‘-est/most/least to form their comparative and superlative forms respectively.

Order of Adjectives
When the headword of a noun phrase has a number of adjectives before (modifying) it, it is important to place them in the correct order. Here is an example;
He owns a large green American saloon car. The headword in the statement a large green American saloon car is ‘car’, and the adjectives are; a, large, green, American, and saloon.
The principle of ordering adjectives is that the most important adjectives come closest to the headword.
In the example above, ‘saloon’ tells us the most important information about the car. It tells us the essential nature of the car.
Generally, we follow the order below when more than one adjective is used before a noun.
Opinion; pretty, beautiful, brilliant, lovely, handsome etc
Size; huge, tiny, small, big
Except the adjective ‘little’
Age; old, young, new (and the adjective little) etc.
Shape; round, flat, rectangular, oval, spherical etc.
Colour; black, blue, yellow etc.
Origin (proper adjectives); American, Italian, Japanese etc.
Material; wooden, golden, leather, plastic etc.
Purpose; the use of the noun being modified. Walking, washing, driving etc.
When we take the first letter of each word, we will have the acronym OSASCOMP for the ordering.
Note; Determiners may come first if there are any; examples, a, an, the, some several etc.

Also, adverbs such as, ‘really‘ and ‘very‘ also come after the determiners.
Usage Examples
i. I carry a very small green Italian leather bag. (determiner, adverb, size, colour, origin, material)
ii. There are some new Nigerian traders in town.(determiner, age, origin)

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