An adjective is a word (such as bitter, dark, sharp, tall, etc.) that describes or modifies a noun (person, place, thing, or animal) or pronoun in a sentence. As a modifier of a noun, an adjective gives information about the noun such as its size (big), age (old), shape (oval), colour (blue), where the noun comes from (Italian), what material (stone, plastic) it is made of and for what purpose it is used for (cutting tool).
There is a girl who lives with her aunt in that house.
(By adding adjectives [in bold] to the sentence above, we get the following sentence.)
There is a little girl who lives with her elderly aunt in that small house.
(The adjectives describe the girl, aunt and house, and we get a more detailed description of what the sentence is saying.)
It is a rotten egg. (Observation)
It is a beautiful painting of dinosaurs. (Opinion)
It is a big cat from Africa. (Size)
It is a rectangular field. (Shape)
It is an ancient castle. (Age)
It is a black bull. (Colour)
It is an Indian elephant. (Origin)
It is a cotton dress. (Material)
It is a school bus. (Purpose)
There are different kinds of adjectives which include the following:
Demonstrative adjectives are this, that, these, and those. We use them to point out specific people or things.
Descriptive adjectives are the most common adjectives. We use them to describe nouns.
Interrogative adjectives are words such as what, which, and whose that modify nouns. We use an interrogative adjective with a noun to ask a question.
Indefinite adjectives are words like all, any, each, few, many, much, most, several, and some that describe nouns in a general or non-specific manner.
Possessive adjectives modify nouns or noun phrases and are words such as my, your, his, her, its, our, and their which we use before nouns to show possession.
Identifying adjectives in a sentence
As the adjective comes immediately before a noun, its position in a sentence is usually between the following:
an article (a, an, the) and a noun: a sandy beach, an old church, the vast ocean
a demonstrative (this, that, these, those) and a noun: this new book, that wild horse
an amount (all, few, most, several, some, most) and a noun: few unpaid volunteers, several bad mistakes
Adjectives as complements
Adjectives can act as complements although not all complements are adjectives. Complements come after the subject and tell us what the subject is. If the complement is only one word, it tends to be an adjective. An adjective complement can be a noun clause or a prepositional phrase that adds to the adjective or modifies it. This means the adjective complement always follows the adjective it complements.
The following examples show the complements in bold.
One-word complement is an adjective.
He is handsome.
You are beautiful.
The sky was cloudless.
The elephants have been trained.
An adjective complement is a prepositional phrase.
The whole family are afraid of big spiders.
He was eager to get started in the business.
They were killed by a tribe.
An adjective complement is a noun phrase.
It is strange how people so often believe in fake news.
We are happy he has come out of a coma.
The parents were excited that she was getting married.
Adjectives ending in –ly
Not all words ending in –ly are adverbs; some of them are adjectives. Adjectives that end in –ly include brotherly, comely, costly, cowardly, early, elderly, friendly, lively, lonely, lovely, manly, motherly, sickly, silly, surly, timely and ugly. For a list of adjectives ending in –ly, see Adjectives ending in –ly.
He gave me some brotherly advice about not being rude to him.
Continuous rain had caused costly delays to the project.
Joe does not have a friendly face, but he has always been friendly towards me.
He makes nightly call to his neighbour’s daughter.
She felt lonely when her husband was imprisoned.
She looked lovely in that raincoat.
My miserly dad had not increased my pocket money for ten years.
His wife was very beautiful, with wavy hair and a shapely body.
She took home a thin, sickly stray kitten.
We got up at an unearthly hour to watch a total lunar eclipse.
Each of the above words ending in –ly is an adjective. It describes the noun that follows it or it follows an auxiliary verb.