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Grammar Handbook: Adjectives

Adjectives are words that are used to modify a noun.


There are three kinds of adjectives known as the positive, comparative, and superlative forms, as in green, greener, greenest.

Adjectives can be grouped into seven categories: nouns as adjectives, adjectives that modify an object, numbers as adjectives, pronouns and articles as adjectives, multiple adjectives, compound adjectives, adjectives used as nouns.

Nouns as adjectives

A noun can be used to qualify (or describe) another noun, as in goose feathers, in which case there are no comparative or superlative forms such as "gooser" or "goosest."

Some nouns can be made into an adjective by adding an ending such as -ish, -like, -ly, -y, -en, -al, -ar, -ory.


Oftentimes, the endings -en and -al will be dropped, and the noun form will be used by itself, as in oak table, wool shirt, and coast line.

Adjectives that modify an object

Adjectives such as "like" and "worth" may be used to modify objects.


Sometimes prepositions like "of" and "with" are used to form adjectives.


Numbers as adjectives

Any words related to number are considered adjectives, including "two," "twenty," "few," "many," "dozen," "third," and so on.

Pronouns and articles as adjectives

Pronouns such as "this," "that," and "those" used to modify a noun are called demonstrative adjectives.

Possessive pronouns such as "my," "your," and "his" used to modify a noun are called possessive adjectives.

Articles such as "a," "an," and "the" are also adjectives.

Multiple adjectives

When using more than one adjective to modify a noun, the adjectives may be separated by a conjunction or by commas.


Compound adjectives

Nouns and adjectives may be combined to modify another noun, in which case the word can be hyphenated (although the hyphen is often a matter of personal preference).


Past participles of verbs can also be used as adjectives, such as "native born," "foreign made," "soft spoken," "warmly dressed," "well behaved," and so on.

Adjectives used as nouns

It is possible to use an adjective as a noun by simply using the adjective as the subject and omitting the noun it modifies. Usually, adjectives used as nouns refer to a specific quality shared by a group (the pleasant) or a specific human characteristic shared by a group of people (the wise).