What Are Adjectives?

The Quick Answer
Adjectives are describing words.

Definition of Adjective

Adjectives are describing words. Large, grey, and friendly are all examples of adjectives. In the examples below, these adjectives are used to describe an elephant.

Examples:

  • Large elephant
  • Grey elephant
  • Friendly elephant
  • Adjectives Modify Nouns

    The word elephant is a noun. Adjectives are added to nouns to state what kind, what colour, which one or how many. Adjectives are said to modify nouns and are necessary to make the meanings of sentences clearer or more exact.

    Examples:
    • Follow the yellow cab.
    • (In this example, the adjective yellow modifies the noun cab.)
    • Craig caught a large bass.
    • (In this example, the adjective large modifies the noun bass.)
    • It is the girl with the pale face again.
    • The principal words should be in bold.
    • (Beware of the adjective principal - see right)
    • The rusty nail he stood on was the cause of the infection.
    • Please put the old documents in the shredder.
    • There is an essential matter we need to discuss.
    • Peter guessed the right number.

    Adjectives Modify Pronouns

    Although less common, adjectives can also modify pronouns.

    Examples:
    • It is a blue one.
    • (In this example, the adjective blue modifies the pronoun one.)
    • Only a brave few have received a recommendation.

    The Different Types of Adjectives

    Adjectives are describing words. However, there are many other words that are classified as adjectives, some of which do not fall easily under this description.

    Possessive Adjectives

    Possessive adjectives are used to show possession. They are my, your, his, her, its, our and their. (They are a type of possessive pronoun.)

    Read more about possessive adjectives.

    The Articles

    The words a, an, and the are known as articles. They are classified as adjectives. A and an are called the indefinite articles because they are used to indicate non-specific people or things. The is called the definite article because it does indicate a specific person or thing.
    • A cup (i.e., any cup)
    • The cup (i.e., a specific cup)
    Read more about articles.

    Demonstrative Adjectives

    Demonstrative adjectives are used to demonstrate or indicate specific things. This, that, these and those are all demonstrative adjectives.
    • If I hear that parrot again, I will call the RSPCA.
    • (That is a demonstrative adjective. It refers to a specific parrot.)
    • Medals will only be given to those runners who complete the marathon in less than 8 hours.
    • (Those is a demonstrative adjective. It refers to specific people.)
    Read more about demonstrative adjectives.

    Indefinite Adjectives

    Unlike demonstrative adjectives, which indicate specific items, indefinite adjectives do not point out specific things. They are formed from indefinite pronouns. The most common indefinite adjectives are no, any, many, few and several.
    • The chief has heard many people make the same promise.
    • (The indefinite adjective many modifies the noun people.)
    • According to a council spokesman, there are no wallabies left in Derbyshire. However, over the past few months, many walkers have reported seeing several adults with young.
    • (The indefinite adjectives in this example are no, few, many and several.)
    Read more about indefinite adjectives.

    Numbers

    Numbers are classified as adjectives too.
    • Four dolphins stayed with the boat until dawn.
    • (The adjective four modifies the noun dolphins.)
    • All we could muster was 9 cans of beans.
    • (The adjective 9 modifies the noun cans.)

    See Also

    What are compound adjectives? What are adverbs? What are conjunctions? What are interjections? What are nouns? What are prepositions? What are pronouns? What are verbs? A more advanced test on adjectives Compound adjectives Demonstrative adjectives Enumeration of adjectives Indefinite adjectives Interrogative adjectives Predicate adjectives Participles Possessive adjectives