What is an adjective?

One of the many parts of speech in the English language is the adjective. Why do we use adjectives, and how can we recognize them in a sentence?

An adjective is used to describe a noun. Adjectives include words that provide information on the size, color, shape, age, material, origin or purpose of a noun. To determine if a word is an adjective, take a look at its location in a sentence. A word is an adjective if it comes directly before a noun, particularly between a noun and an article (a, an, the), a possessive adjective (my, his, hers), a demonstrative (this, that) or an amount (some, few).

  1. When using adjectives, it’s important to use them in a specific order:
  2. Determiner, such as an article, demonstrative or amount
  3. Observation, such as ‘beautiful’ or ‘thoughtful’
  4. Size, such as ‘big’ or ‘little’
  5. Shape, such as ‘round’ or ‘flat’
  6. Age, such as ‘young’ or ‘two-foot-tall’
  7. Color, such as ‘blue’ or ‘red’
  8. Origin, such as ‘American’ or ‘Italian’
  9. Material, such as ‘plastic’ or ‘linen’
  10. Qualifier, i.e. a noun or verb acting as an adjective, such as ‘football’ in the phrase ‘football player’

So, the correct order of adjectives would be as follows: ‘She gave me a beautiful, small, round, new, blue, Italian glass figurine.’ Note that commas should be used in a list of adjectives to set them apart from each other. However, as we can see in this sentence, using too many adjectives can make a sentence clunky. It’s best not to overuse adjectives, but to simply use those that are most vital to your sentence: ‘She gave me a beautiful, blue, Italian glass figurine’.

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