English Grammar Review
Adjectives and Adverbs

Functions of Adjectives

Nouns and pronouns by themselves are informative but they are often not informative enough.




We use adjectives to provide the extra information we want to convey.

several offices

her computer

He is happy.

That last one, happy, is on the other side of the verb from the pronoun it describes. Because it is in the predicate, it is called a predicate adjective.

Adjectives are normally placed in front of the word they modify.

Our secure network has survived several attacks.

However, placing them after the noun is sometimes done for emphasis or creative expression.

Our network, secure and impenetrable, has survived several attacks.

English teachers use words like descriptive and limiting to identify categories of adjectives. Here we will talk about the functions of adjectives. There are three:

(1) describe : happy

(2) identify : her [which one]

(3) quantify : several [how many, how much]

Adjectives that describe

If you tried to write down the entire list of words that function primarily as adjectives that describe things, you would be busy for days.

early event
earnest offer
easy answer

That list gets a lot longer if you add all the nouns that can be used as adjectives to describe other nouns.

event planner
offer letter
answer sheet

Adjectives that identify

These adjectives can be divided further by function.

Possessive adjectives:

Her computer is in our office in Instanbul.

Relative adjectives:

If you know which meeting, I can tell you what time.

Interrogative adjectives:

Which meeting? What time?

Indefinite adjectives:

At each meeting, I made another comment.

Note: As you can see, words that are usually described as pronouns often function as adjectives.

Adjectives that quantify

These adjectives quantify, explicitly or vaguely, how many or how much.

When you enter the lobby, you pass several potted palms on your way to the many elevators. One guard will ask you for both forms of identification. That is enough security. More guards would be a luxury.

What modifies an adjective?

Only adverbs are used to modify adjectives.

Mr. Yilmaz quoted a real good price for supplies. [wrong]

Mr. Yilmaz quoted a really good price for supplies. [right]

What to do about Adjective + Adjective?

Consider the construction:

adjective1 adjective2 noun

When adjective1 describes the noun, use a comma:

Berat delivered a kind, enthusiastic response.

When adjective1 describes the combination of adjective2 + noun, do not use a comma:

Ms. Kaya is a distinguished public speaker.

She is distinguished for her speaking that is done in public. (It's possible she is not as distinguished when speaking in private.)

Multiple adjectives combined in "one-thought modifiers" have unique rules for using hyphens (and not):

That was an open-and-shut case presented by the up-and-coming lawyer. It relied on a true-false test that could only be communicated in compound-complex sentences. The decree was signed with blue-black ink by the attorney wearing the bluish green suit.

Lesson: Functions of Adjectives
Module: Adjectives and Adverbs
Course: English Grammar Review