The adjectives in English Grammar – Summary

1. What are adjectives?

Adjectives tell us something about a person or a thing.

2. What do adjectives modify?

Adjectives can modify nouns or pronouns/names.

person thing
Mandy is a careful girl. This is a nice car.
Mandy is careful. The car is nice.
She is careful. It is nice.

3. Where do adjectives go?

An adjective can be put before the noun. Then it is an attribute.

person thing
Mandy is a careful girl. This is a nice car.

An adjective can be put after the verb to be (is). This is called predicative position.

person thing
The girl is careful. This car is nice.

Adjectives can go after the following verbs:

  • appear
  • become
  • feel
  • get
  • go
  • keep
  • turn

When we speak about what something looks like, smells, sounds and tastes – we use the adjective. Mind the difference between adjective and adverb.

  • I feel great.
  • She looks good.
  • It seems impossible.
  • The steak smells fantastic.

4. Can adjectives be used without nouns?

Yes, adjectives can be used without nouns. Mind the definite article the:

  • the rich = rich people

Here is an example from the fairy tale Cinderella:

  • “The good must be put in the dish, the bad you may eat if you wish.”

Here is another example with nationalities in the plural:

  • The Scottish live in the North of the United Kingdom.

5. Can two or more adjectives be used together?

Yes, if you use more adjectives you can put them in front of the noun:

  • a fat old cat

or you can put them after the verb (e.g. to be). In this case and is placed between the last two adjectives.

  • It was cold, wet and windy.

6. Adjectives, ending in -ing and -ed

There are adjectives ending in -ing and -ed. These are participle constructions, used like adjectives. Here are some examples:

A) Here the adjective is put before the noun:

  • Yesterday I read an amusing story in a magazine.
  • Doris has a boring job.
  • We watched the group of excited people.

B) Here the adjective is put after the verb:

  • I was not at all amused by the discussion.
  • Children get bored very quickly.
  • The end of the film was really exciting for me.

7. Gradable and non-gradable adjectives (strong/extreme adjectives)

There are non-gradable adjectives in English. We call them strong or extreme adjectives e.g.: awful, disgusting, gorgeous, huge, lovely, terrified, thrilling, tiny.

We do not usually use the following adverbs with them: a bit, deeply, extremely, fairly, rather, slightly, terribly, very.

We use: absolutely, completely, entirely, simply, totally, utterly.

This box here is very small.

That box over there is absolutely tiny.

Gradable and non-gradable/strong adjectives