What is an adjective?

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Fun fact!

What do the following adjectives all have in common?

  • lacklustre
  • cold-blooded
  • premeditated
  • worthless

The answer is they were all invented by William Shakespeare in order to add detail to his scripts. When the exact word he wanted wasn’t available, he would quite often combine verbs and nouns to create new adjectives.

Introduction to adjectives

  • Adjectives describe to tell you more about something.

  • Adjectives come in several varieties, including descriptive, quantitative, superlative and comparative.

  • Using adjectives is particularly important in descriptive writing.

Video about the uses of adjectives

Learn about the importance of adjectives and their significance

Why do we use adjectives?

Adjectives can add detail to a noun (such as a person, place, or thing) to make descriptions clearer or more interesting.

Often, they appear directly before a noun in a sentence:

In the noisy town hall some lively discussions took place.

Adjectives can also appear after the noun in some sentences:

The corridor was clean and bright.

The adjectives above can be referred to as descriptive adjectives. These types of adjectives modify the noun in the sentence by adding more information about it.

Similarly, if you describe a noun using a number, this is called a quantitative adjective. These adjectives indicate how many or how much.

I have twenty pounds in my wallet.

There were three boys and two girls.

You were only supposed to eat half of the pizza.

Find the adjectives

Comparative adjectives

One way to describe nouns is by comparing them to something else. One cat might be fiercer, hungrier, faster, softer, fluffier or shyer than another.

The words describing the cat are called comparative adjectives and usually end in –er.

Here are some more examples:

Summer days are longer than winter ones.

My sunflower is taller than yours.

Identify the comparative adjective

Superlative adjectives

We can also compare nouns by using superlative adjectives, which mean that something has more of a particular quality than any other of its kind; that it can't be beaten. Superlative adjectives usually end in –est

She is the strongest player on the best team in the greatest league.

Find the superlative adjective

Key points

Remember

Get the balance right when choosing adjectives in your writing: too many can be overwhelming for a reader; too few and your reader may not have a clear enough picture of what you are describing.

Test your knowledge

Identify all the adjectives