Grammar Guide for Adjectives

What is an adjective? Adjectives are words that describe, modify, or qualify nouns and pronouns. They make writing more specific, interesting, and engaging by creating a picture in the reader's imagination. Valuable information such as color, size, shape, and quantity are conveyed through adjectives. 


ADJECTIVE: describes, modifies, or qualifies a noun or pronoun. They answer the questions Which one? What kind? How many? or How much? How do you feel? How does something feel? Taste? See? Smell? Hear?

  • Which one? I have a  brown coat.
  • What kind? This table is round.
  • How much? We have some milk in the fridge.
  • How many? He has three brothers.
  • Feelings: I am sad.
  • Touch: It is a sharp pin. 
  • Taste: The cookies are sweet.
  • See: You have a messy room.
  • Smell: The laundry smells clean.
  • Hear: I heard a loud noise.
Adjective Classroom Poster / Chart

    1. Groups of Adjectives: Adjectives can be divided into two broad groups of descriptors and determiners.

    A. Descriptor: describe the quality, age, size, or color of a noun. They might be a proper, compound or participial adjective.

    • Quality: beautiful, intelligent
    • Age: young, old, one-year-old
    • Size: big, small, square
    • Color: white, green, silver
    • Proper: Catholic church. French restaurant
    • Compound: good-looking, heart-breaking
    • Participial: swimming pool, drinking fountain

    B. Determiner: are structural words that modify nouns including numbers and articles, as well as possessive, demonstrative, indefinite, and interrogative,  adjectives. These are discussed in greater detail later.

    • cardinal numbers: four, twenty-six
    • ordinal numbers: first, second, fifth
    • articles: a, an, the
    • possessive: my, you, Ann's, Tom's
    • demonstrative: this, these, that, those
    • indefinite: few, some, any, all
    • interrogative: what. whose, which
    2. Position: Where are adjectives in a sentence? 

    A. Before Nouns: An adjective usually comes before a noun. They are placed after an article if one is present.

    • Before Noun:  red car, first day, happy child
    • After Article: an excellent idea, the old door

    B. After Linking Verb: An adjective that describes the subject can come after a linking verb. This is called a subject complement or predicate adjective.

    • That girl is very pretty.
    • The fruit smells fresh.

    C. After a Noun: Place words, time words, and cardinal numbers can come after a noun.

    • Place: the sky above, the ground below
    • Time: the day after, the world hereafter
    • Cardinal numbers: chapter two, paragraph four

    D. After a Pronoun: When an adjective describes a pronoun, it comes after the pronoun.

    • He wore something new
    • Everyone else can go to recess.

    E. Before the Pronoun One: Adjectives can only be placed before the pronoun "one".

    • Did you buy the blue one?
    • No, I bought the green one.

      3. Series of Adjectives: What if there is more than one adjective describing the same noun?  Determiners are placed before descriptive adjectives. Two or more descriptive adjectives the same noun are separated by commas.  There is not a comma between determiner and descriptive adjectives. The general order is: determiners, numbers, general description, physical state, and proper adjectives.

      • She is a beautiful, young, French girl.
      • The twofrisky, orange cats pounced on the unsuspecting mice.

        4. Degrees of Comparison: Adjectives have three degree of comparison. These are positive, comparative, and superlative.

        A. Positive (Absolute) Adjective:

        uses the basic form of the adjective to compare two equal noun / pronouns. The word 'as' is placed before and after the adjective.

        • Today is as hot as yesterday.
        • She is as pretty as her sister.
        • She is not as helpful as Todd.
        • Ann is as beautiful as her mother.
        • This is as important as that.

          B. Comparative Adjective: compares two objects or people. One-syllable adjectives and two-syllable adjectives without a suffix add the suffix -er + than. Multisyllable and two-syllable adjectives with a suffix use "more/less adj. than".

          • 1 Syllable: Today is hotter than yesterday.
          • 2 Syllable (no suffix): She is prettier than her sister.
          • 2 Syllable (with suffix):  He is more helpful than Pam.
          • Multisyllable: She is more beautiful than her mother.
          • Negative: This is less important than that.

            C. Superlative Adjective: compares three or more objects or people. One-syllable adjectives and two-syllables adjectives without a suffix use "the adj-est".  Multi-syllable and two-syllable adjectives with a suffix use "the most/least adj".

            • 1 Syllable: Today is the hottest day of the month.
            • 2 Syllable (no suffix):  She is the prettiest girl in the class.
            • 2 Syllable (with suffix): Caleb is the most helpful of all.
            • Multisyllable: She is the most beautiful girl in her family.
            • Negative: This is the least important of all.

            5. Adjective Forms: 

            A. Regular forms: comparative and superlative adjective using the standard rules listed above.

            • 1 Syllable: as hot as, hotter than, the hottest
            • 2 Syllable (no suffix): as happy as, happier than, the happiest
            • 2 Syllable (with suffix):  as helpful as, more helpful than, the most helpful
            • Multisyllable: as beautiful as, more beautiful than, the most beautiful
            Regular Adjectives Classroom Poster Chart

              B. Irregular Adjective: forms comparative and superlative adjectives in unique ways, similar to irregular verbs.

              • as good as, better than, the best
              • as bad as, worse than, the worst
              • as little as, less than, the least   
              • as many/much as, more than, the most 
              Irregular Adjectives Classroom Poster Chart

                6. Possessive Adjective: indicates ownership or possession. (my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their) These are often confused with pronouns.

                • My brother is at school. 
                • I borrowed her book.
                • Our school is made from red brick.

                 7. Article: is a subgroup of adjectives although some grammars list them as a separate part of speech.There is one definite and two indefinite articles, a and an. A is used before a consonant sound and an is used before a vowel sound. 

                • Definite Article: refers to a known, specific noun.
                  • The hospital is on the corner. The door is open.
                • Indefinite Article: modifies a general, nonspecific noun.
                  • Consonant sound: We have a new neighbor. She is a dancer.
                  • Vowel Sound: He ate an apple. They came an hour ago.

                8. Adjective Order: There are different types of adjectives and these determine their order.

                • Possessive Adj or Determiner: my, their, his, a, the
                • Number: one, three, first, second
                • Opinion: great, beautiful, difficult
                • Size: small, large, long
                • Age: new, young, elderly
                • Shape: circular, oval, rectangular
                • Color: blue, green, white
                • Origin: American, Japanese, Thai
                • Material: plastic, metal, paper
                • She played with the old, batteredhomemadewooden toy for hours.

                Adjective Order Classroom Poster Chart

                Types of Adjectives Classroom Poster Chart

                9. Demonstrative Adjective: indicate near and distant objects using singular and plural forms. This (singular) and these (plural) refer to objects that are near. That (singular) and those (plural) refer to object that are distant.

                • near, single: This pencil is old. 
                • near, plural: These pencils are new. 
                • distant, single: That book is for math. 
                • distant, plural: Those books are for reading class. 

                8. Indefinite Adjective: does not provide specific or precise information about a noun. (any, each, both, few, fewer, several, some, many, much, more, every, most, all, less, enough, another, other, either, neither, no)

                • Do you want any pizza?
                • There are enough books for everyone
                • Both girls are wonderful players.
                • Some students like math and science.

                   10. Interrogative Adjectives: ask a question about a noun. They always come before a noun. "What" asks for clarification or specific information.  "Whose" asks about ownership or possession. "Which" indicates a choice between options.

                  • What time is it? What color is your shirt?
                  • Whose desk is this? Whose turn is it?
                  • Which book should I buy? Which show do you want to watch?

                  11. Nouns as Adjectives: Sometimes a noun can function as an adjective in a sentence. They describe the noun after them.

                  • My math teacher is also my coach.
                  • Do you like our new bus driver?
                  • The cake pan is under the oven.
                  12. Verbs as Adjectives: Participles, also called participial adjectives, are verbs that can act as adjectives. The present and past participle forms are both used.
                  • Present Participle: Where is the drinking fountain?
                  • Present Participle: This coloring book has animals.
                  • Reg. Past Participle: He is a very gifted student.
                  • Reg. Past Participle:I am interested in other cultures.
                  • Irreg. Past Participle:  They found the stolen car.
                  • Irreg. Past Participle:The radio is broken.

                  Participle Classroom Poster / Chart

                  14. Making Adjectives with Suffixes: Both nouns and verbs become adjectives when inflectional suffixes are added. These are listed below.

                  • Noun + Suffix = Adjective: -al, -ar, -ary, -ery, -ed, -en. -esque, -ful,- ical, -ish, -istic, -less, -like, -ly, -ous, -ward, -wide, -y
                  • final, temporary, golden, hopeful, musical, stylish, painless, lifelike
                  • Verb + Suffix = Adjective: -able, -ible, -ant, -ent, -ed, -ile, -ing, -ive, -ory 
                  • enjoyable, possible, important, different, tired, futile, washing, active, sensory

                  Adjective Suffix Classroom Poster / Chart