What Is an Adjective and How We Use Them
An adjective or adjectīvum is a word that describes or modifies a noun. They add detail or context to the information you’re sharing. For example, without adjectives, we wouldn’t know if the last movie you watched was boring or exciting or how large or small your house is.
Let’s dive into the nuances of the parts of speech found in the English language and how to best use adjectives when sharing various forms of information.
What Are the Parts of Speech in English?
Parts of speech are words used to classify traditional English grammar. The purpose of parts of speech is to indicate how to use these words in sentences. We classify the eight parts of speech as the adjective, the verb, the noun, the pronoun, the adverb, the preposition, and the conjunction.
We will cover four of the most common parts of speech for this article:
What Is a Noun?
A noun is a word used to describe a person, place, animal, thing, or idea. Nouns are typically the first words that young children or non-native speakers learn.
The highlighted words in the following examples are all nouns:
- Late last year, our family adopted a dog.
- Michael Jackson was a famous singer.
- The train conductor collected everyone’s passes.
A noun can also function as a direct object, an indirect object, a subject, an appositive, a subject complement, an object complement, an adjective, or an adverb.
Qualifiers and determiners are words that precede nouns such as “some” people, “a lot of people,” and “either” the woman or the man.
Like "doctor" or "teacher," many common nouns can refer to men or women. Throughout history, many English nouns have been related to gender.
For example, a man was called an "author" while a woman would be called an "authoress." Other examples are actors and actresses, milkmen, etc. However, with the introduction of gender-neutral language, gender-specific nouns are very rare today.
What Is a Verb?
A verb describes an action (speak), occurrence (grow), or mode of being (exist) and is the grammatical form of a predicate.
Most verbs have two other essential forms called present and past participles. Participles are used to create multiple verb tenses for actions in the past.
Present participles always end in “ing,” such as loving, calling, receiving, and going. Past participles typically end in “ed,” but many past participles have different endings such as loved, broken, and gone.
A linking verb is an expression or word that links a subject to its predicates, such as a form of being, become, seem, feel, look, smell, sound, or taste.
What Is an Adverb?
An adverb modifies an adjective, verb, or other adverbs that express a relation to time, place, cause, manner, degree, or circumstance. An adverb can answer questions such as: When? Where? How? How long? How much? or how often?
Some examples of adverbs are highlighted:
- The roads are very dangerous.
- He stops by occasionally to say hello.
- Every so often, she comes over to my house.
What Is an Adjective?
The most simple definition is: an adjective describes a noun. Concerning function, adjectives can be defined as information gatherers. More specifically, they collect information based on an object's shape, size, color, age/number, origin, or material.
Examples of adjective qualities or states of being can be described as: “funny, exciting, red, fast.” In its basic form, it is a single word.
Some example sentences with adjectives:
- It’s a big cat.
- It’s a black cat.
- It’s an old cat.
Adjectives can also answer questions such as “How many, which ones, or what kind?”
Other types of adjectives are attributive, demonstrative, superlative, coordinate, comparative, and predicate adjectives.
- An attributive adjective is directly adjacent to the noun or pronoun. English speakers use it directly before the noun they modify. For example: “She has a big house.”
- Demonstrative adjectives are used to describe a position in space or time, such as the words “that, those, this, and these.” Examples include: “That person smiled at me, or please hand me those bags.”
- Superlative adjectives describe an object at the lower or upper limit, such as the highest, the smallest, the fastest, the tallest, etc.
- Coordinate adjectives modify the same noun and appear in sequence with one another. For example, the adjectives in the phrases “long, lingering head cold, '' or “bright, sunny day.”
- Comparative adjectives describe the difference between two nouns, such as “This house is bigger than that one, or my job is worse than yours.”
- A predicate adjective is based on the placement of the adjective, which will appear at the end of the sentence when primarily, we place adjectives before the noun or pronoun. (Example: she told a funny joke) An example of a predicate adjective is “Her joke is funny.”
How Are Adjectives Used in Conversation? 4 Ways
- Adjectives Are Descriptive
Adjectives are often used in stories and are a secret weapon for writers to write something compelling by using descriptive words. You can spend time analyzing examples of adjectives and their synonyms in a thesaurus to improve your speaking and writing with the appropriate application of adjectival creativity.
For example, how would you describe a pretty flower, a nice evening, or a delicious meal in your own words? You might say the flower is elegant, delicate, bright, dazzling, or brilliant. Your evening might be marvelous or enchanting, and your meal is satisfying, rich, or decadent.
Descriptive adjectives come before the nouns or pronouns they modify, or they can be used as the subject complement of a sentence after a linking verb.
- Adjectives Make Sentences More Interesting
Adjectives make speech or text informative or thought-provoking for the reader or listener. When authors are writing a book, they can use adjectives to give the text more impact or color.
When you illustrate your text or speech with adjectives you can turn a dull or boring story into something more interesting or meaningful for the reader. This helps the reader feel like they can imagine or picture what is happening in their mind.
- Adjectives Convey Feelings
Adjectives can evoke emotions or feelings in speech or writing. Emotive language is another term used when you deliberately choose word choices to stimulate a reader's emotional response or persuade them. Certain words have a strong emotional impact when applied, such as “magical, enchanting, appalling, radiant, or transformational.”
Emotive language or descriptive adjectives apply to speeches, public addresses, spoken word performances or storytelling, debates, and everyday conversation.
It is often used in fictional or creative writing to give the reader an engaging experience that takes you on a multi-layered journey. This technique is also common in poetry, novels, plays, and short stories.
- Adjectives Can Elevate Your Writing
When used well, adjectives are critical to the English language and can become a powerful writing ally. They’ll make your writing more specific and clear, allowing you to convey your ideas appealingly. You can describe adjectives as “adding the meat to the bare bones of a sentence.”
3 Tips for Using Adjectives in Writing
- Why You Should Skip “Good” and “Great”
Using adjectives such as “good” or “great” can appear grammatically lazy. Many common terms in writing don’t quite have the same impact because they are so overused. You take the risk of sounding too generic and losing your readers' attention when your goal should be to captivate them.
A wise practice when writing a speech, a book, or telling a story would be to learn new adjectives as part of your vocabulary. Instead of “good or great,” consider “exceptional, marvelous or favorable.”
It can be difficult to analyze our own writing or speaking as we do it. Even when trying to review past performances, we may struggle. After all, we are often our own worst critics. That’s where a communication coach like Poised can help.
Poised is an AI-powered communication tool that offers data-driven analysis of video calls that can help improve your speaking habits. Poised will alert you to the overuse of filler words, your speaking/listening ratio, facial expressions/body language, and more.
Writing offers us the unique chance to perfect every sentence until it is just as we want it. Live speeches, interviews, and presentations don’t have that luxury. Poised can be your secret, on-screen editor, guiding you to be the best speaker you can be.
- Write Like You Speak
Writing as you speak can create an instant personal connection with your audience or reader. It establishes trust and allows the reader to feel like they can relate to you. When you write as you speak, you should consider using simple language or the level of language competency that your reader will understand.
- Use Adjectives for Clear Communication
Adjectives provide clarity to your sentences because they add further information and specify the meaning or nuance of what you intend to communicate.
The use of adjectives helps you be more detail-oriented and should apply to certain forms of communication such as instructions, rules, regulations, or policies when not specifying could result in a lack of understanding or compliance.
Adjectives add depth, clarity, and detail to your words, whether you are giving a Ted Talk, writing a novel, acting in a play, or telling a story to your coworkers.
Therefore, it is wise to learn various adjectives to improve your writing or communication, given that they apply to many different situations you will experience throughout your life.