Communication 101

Types of Adjectives, How To Use Them, and When

June 9, 2022
7 Min Read

If you ever struggle to come up with the correct word for describing something, the word you’re looking for is an adjective. An adjective is a part of speech that describes a noun (a person, place, or thing) in a sentence or clause. 

Most of us use nouns and pronouns every day when we speak and write. Throwing appropriate adjectives into the mix can add meaning to or qualify nouns. You can add information about a person, place, or thing or influence how readers and listeners understand or perceive a subject or object.

Below, Poised explains the different types of adjectives and how to incorporate them effectively in communication. 

9 Types of Adjectives and How To Use Them

A complete sentence requires nouns and verbs. However, don't underestimate the importance of adjectives because they modify nouns, pronouns, and other adjectives to make for interesting and descriptive communication

Without various kinds of adjectives, many sentences would be unclear and bland and unclear. 

There are many types of adjectives worth learning about, but here are nine of the most common:

1. How To Use Articles

You will seldom hear, read, say, or write a sentence that doesn't contain articles, but it can be challenging to define the role of these words unless you're intentionally looking for it. 

Essentially, an article tells you whether a noun is particular or non-particular. “The” is a definite article used to describe specific nouns; “a” and “an” are indefinite articles used for non-specific nouns.

Consider these two sentences:

  • Jasmine hopes to go hiking at the local trail this weekend.
  • Jasmine hopes to go hiking at a local trail this weekend. 

Both of these sentences are grammatically correct but differ in meaning. The article the suggests that Jasmine has a specific hiking trail in mind or that there is only one trail in the area. The article a in the second sentence implies that Jasmine wants to go hiking despite which trail it is; it also leaves open the possibility that there is more than one local trail.

The is among the most common English language words and can be used before singular, plural, and uncountable nouns. It makes the noun it modifies singular and specific.

Consider these sentences:

  • Singular— He ate the apple with his lunch.
  • Plural — He ate the apples with his lunches each week.
  • Uncountable — He could taste the sweetness as he bit into the Apple.

A and an modify general and non-specific nouns. For instance:

  • Theo bought a TV for his new apartment.
  • Theo found an entertainment system to go with his new TV.

An uncountable noun is anything you can't count with numbers. This typically includes abstract concepts or things too vast, numerous, small, or amorphous to quantify. You can express a general quantity of an uncountable noun with some, a lot of, a handful of, and other phrases.

2. How To Use Possessive Adjectives

As the name suggests, possessive adjectives indicate possession. “Your,” “their,” “his,” “her,” and “my” are some of the most common possessive adjectives in the English language. In most cases, these adjectives precede the corresponding nouns. For example:

  • Look at their jerseys.
  • Do you like our jerseys?
  • Hold on a minute; I don’t recognize the logo on your top.

You can also use possessive adjectives before other adjectives, as in:

Their throwback jerseys make a statement on the court.

3. How To Use Proper Adjectives

Proper nouns are specific names given to people, places, or things. This is when you read about "Jeffrey" instead of "he" in a sentence or "Africa" instead of "nation." 

Since they come from proper nouns, proper adjectives must be capitalized. They are very similar to proper nouns, except they generally describe something related to their noun version. 

For instance:

  • He was attending the Baroque concert.
  • I love Thai cuisine.
  • She's a German tennis player.
  • Petrarchan sonnets are a bit complex.
  • They operate from an Orwellian worldview.

4. How To Use Demonstrative Adjectives 

A demonstrative adjective expresses a noun's relative position in time or space. The four demonstrative adjectives are “this,” “that,” “these,” and “those.”

  • These scissors are sharper than those scissors.
  • Can I see that photo on the back page?
  • She wants those flowers for her garden. 
  • This weather is going to keep me inside all day.

A demonstrative adjective can be singular or plural, always conveying space or time. This and these suggest the noun is close, while that and those indicate it is further away in space and time.

Take a look at these examples of adjectives:

  • This food is spicy, but that food is mild. (space)
  • These pants are new, but those pants are worn out. (space)
  • I don't think I'll ever forget this moment, but that is lost on me. (time)
  • I will answer these questions first and those questions at a later date. (time)

Demonstrative pronouns are often confused for demonstrative adjectives; it's important to distinguish between the two. As with other adjectives, demonstrative adjectives describe nouns while demonstrative pronouns replace nouns.

Consider the following:

  • These pants (adjective) are newer than those (pronoun).
  • This (pronoun) is more beautiful than that flower (adjective). 
  • These journals (adjective) are less expensive than those (pronoun).

5. How To Use Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are just as they sound; they describe nouns or pronouns. These adjectives describe the modification of a noun or pronoun via qualities like appearance, shape, texture, smell, and taste.

For instance:

  • Mackenzie is an attractive woman.
  • He laid the flat board on the ground.
  • The lizard had rough skin.
  • The aroma of the delightful Chicken Tikka Masala filled the room.
  • The delicious Matar Paneer is a neighborhood favorite.

The examples above contain regular descriptive adjectives, meaning they typically appear next to the noun or pronoun they’re modifying. A predicate adjective describes a sentence's subject and follows a linking verb.

For instance:

  • The apprentice is diligent.
  • The house is old.
  • The sculpture is magnificent.
  • The woman was gracious.
  • The truck is powerful.

6. How To Use Interrogative Adjectives

Interrogative adjectives are most known for posing a question, and they always precede a noun or pronoun. The most common interrogative adjectives are the words “what,” “which,” and “whose.”

Consider these sentences:

  • What restaurant do you want to try tonight? 
  • Which shade should we paint the living room?
  • Whose hat is that on the ground?

“Who,” “how,” and other words also pose questions. However, these do not modify nouns and, therefore, are not adjectives. Take, for instance, the correct sentence, “Whose hat is that on the ground?” It wouldn’t make sense to ask, “Who hat is that on the ground?” or “How hat is on the ground?” 

The easiest way to remember how interrogative adjectives work is to think of a suspect being interrogated. The label makes it pretty simple!

7. How To Use Indefinite Adjectives

An indefinite adjective describes a noun or pronoun in a general, non-specific manner. You’ll notice the indefinite adjectives “few,” “several,” “some,” “many,” and “no” modify non-specific items.

For example:

  • Few people achieve that level of success.
  • She has created several online courses for her company. 
  • Would you like some fries with your burger?
  • There were many times I didn’t know what to say. 
  • He had no songs left to perform. 

Many people consider “a few” or “several” to be three, four, or five items. But don’t let that confuse you when it comes to indefinite adjectives! If there isn’t a concrete number, it’s indefinite.

8. How To Use Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives contain multiple words. Unlike coordinative adjectives, compound adjectives are not separate words. They include two or more words, or a number with a word, that work in tandem to modify a noun. 

These adjectives are usually joined by a hyphen and always precede the noun they’re modifying.

Here are a few sentences to demonstrate compound adjectives:

  • Are you ready for the six-hour journey tomorrow?
  • He’ll settle for a side gig, but his ultimate goal is a full-time job. 
  • Will you pick up some fat-free sour cream at the store?
  • She was worried she wouldn’t be able to submit the 800-word paper on time.

9. How To Use Quantitative Adjectives 

Quantitative adjectives accomplish more than modifying a noun or pronoun. They describe the quantity of something, telling the audience how much or how many there are of an item. Common words like “one,” “two,” and “entire” can operate as quantitative adjectives.

If an adjective quantity quantifies and describes a noun in more detail, it’s quantitative:

  • They have three boys. 
  • I currently foster five dogs. 
  • The entire apartment complex heard the sirens last night. 

When using numbers in written communication, keep in mind that the AP style generally calls for spelling out numbers one through nine and using a numeral for 10 and above. 

Elevate Your Communication Skills

Knowing how to use adjectives correctly in your speech and writing can take your communication skills to new heights. Adjectives make sentences more intriguing and can clarify your message and engage your audience. 

Consider the information and advice above if you’re ready to make your communication more dynamic. Remember to use an AI-powered communication coach like Poised to learn in real-time how you can perform better in your video meetings!


Good Descriptive Words for Resumes | Career Trend

Grammar & ESL: Articles—a, an, the | PVCC

Count and Noncount Nouns - Grammar | Walden University

Compound Adjectives | Chicago-Kent College of Law

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