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An adjective is a part of speech which modifies a noun, usually making its meaning more specific. Adjectives are used in a predicative or attributive manner. In some languages, attributive adjectives precede the noun. This is the case in the Germanic languages, to which the English language belongs. In other languages, e.g. the Romance languages, the adjective follows the noun.

Some linguists also classify possessive pronouns, such as his or her, and demonstratives, such as this or that as adjectives. However, they can only be used in an attributive manner.

An adjectival phrase is a phrase with an adjective as its head. (e.g. full of toys) . Adjectival phrases may occur as premodifiers to a noun (a bin full of toys), or as predicatives to a verb. (the bin is full of toys.)

Adjectives sometimes in place of nouns, as in many of the Beatitudes (e.g. "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy"); these are called substantives. In languages with grammatical genders, such as Latin, the gender of the adjective may indicate the gender of the implied noun; thus malus means the bad man; mala, the bad woman; malum, the bad thing. In some languages, participles are used as adjectives.

In the following examples, the adjective is highlighted in bold.

  • Attributive use:
    • It is a cold day.
    • He is a kind man.
    • I like blue sky.
  • Predicative use:
    • The sky is blue.
    • The joke she told was so funny, I could not stop laughing all day.
    • He went mad.

Comparison of adjectives

Many adjectives have comparative and superlative forms. In English grammar, these are formed in one of two ways: either by suffixes (big, bigger, biggest) or by the use of the grammatical particles more and most. Some adjectives in English have suppletive forms in their comparison, such as good, better, best.

Which English adjectives are compared by which means is a complex matter of English idiom. Generally, shorter adjectives, Anglo-Saxon words, and shorter, fully domesticated French words (e.g. noble) use the suffixes. Longer words, especially those derived from Greek and Latin, require more and most. A fair number of words, especially longer adjectives that end in Anglo-Saxon derivative suffixes like -ly, can take either form.

Grammatical prescriptivists frequently object to phrases such as more perfect, on the grounds that being perfect is a quality that by definition admits to no comparison. Most speakers of English understand the phrase to mean more nearly perfect, however, and dismiss the prescriptivists' objection as pedantry.

Order of adjectives

  • Value/Opinion
  • Size
  • Age/Temperature
  • Shape
  • Color
  • Origin
  • Material

See also

Last updated: 12-13-2004 16:58:14