Using adjectives in English

- When we use more than one adjective in front of a noun, there is a specific order in which they must appear. In a sentence, the adjectives usually appear after the determiner, and before the noun they modify. The breakdown of the nine categories is found in the chart below.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Number Opinion Size Age Shape Color Origin Material Purpose

- Most nouns do not have more than three adjectives in front of them.

Her ugly old cat
The blue shopping bag
A few new French wines.
Adjective types Examples
Number One, three, a few, several
Opinion Silly, charming, comfortable
Size Large, small, tiny
Age Old, young, new, 12-year-old
Shape Square, rectangular
Color Red, blue, green
Origin American, French, Ghanaian
Material Wood, iron, ceramic
Purpose Running (where the purpose of the noun is to run e.g. running shoes), cooking, school (as in "school supplies")

Adjectives modify nouns, giving them descriptions about size, color, shape, origin, etc. Superlative adjectives are used to describe the noun to the upper and lower limits of a quality. There are some basic rules on how to convert an adjective into a superlative adjective.

Add “-est” onto a one-syllable word to make the superlative form. If this word ends with an “–e”, just at the –“st”.

Fine à finest
Large à largest

Two-syllable adjectives that end in “-y” require you to change that letter to an “-i” and then add on the ‘-est”.

Funny à Funniest
Groovy à grooviest

For all adjectives that are two or more syllables, use the words most or least to indicate either the upper, or the lower limit of the adjective.

Comfortable à most comfortable / least comfortable
Rectangular à most rectangular / least rectangular

Adjectives modify nouns, adding descriptions about size, color, shape, origin, etc. Comparative adjectives are used to compare two nouns. For example: “This table is larger than that one”.

Add “-er” onto a one-syllable word to make the comparative form. In some cases an adjective ending in a consonant requires us to double that consonant before adding the “-er”. When it already ends with an “-e”, just add on the “-r”.

Large à larger
Fat à fatter

When a two-syllable adjective ends in a “-y”, we must change it to and “-i” before adding the “-er”.

Crazy à crazier
Happy à happier

Three-syllable adjectives require adding “more” or “less.”

Comfortable à more comfortable / less comfortable
American à more American / less American

- Uncomparable adjectives describe absolute conditions. You cannot use modifiers like “more” or “less” with them. They cannot be used in the comparative form either.

Most common uncomparable adjectives
Absolute False Favorite Impossible
Perfect Possible Inevitable Complete
Broken Only Ideal Infinite
Fatal Adequate Whole Unique

Comparative adjectives are used to compare two nouns. For example: “This dog is faster than that one.” It is used with the word than, which compares the two items. Below you can see the two sentence structures possible.

Subject + To be + Adjective + -ER + Than
The dresser is bigger than the chair.
The soup is spicier than the lasagna.
Subject + To be + More + Adjective + Than
Lisa is more comfortable than I am.
Bruno is more studious than Casey.

The superlative adjective is used to distinguish one item from all the other items in a group by using “-est” or the most / least. Below are the two sentence structures possible with superlative adjectives.

Subject + To be + The + Adjective + -EST
She is the youngest child.
New York City is the coolest city in the world.
Subject + To be + The + Most + Adjective
Lisa is the most organized person ever.
This exam is the most important part of our grade.

- A linking verb is used to express further information about the subject, instead of an action. While to be, to become, and to seem are always linking verbs, others are only sometimes used as linking verbs. Here are some of the most common linking verbs in English:

To feel To taste To smell
To appear To look To feel
To grow To prove To remain

- To distinguish these verbs' action form from their linking form, try replacing the verb in question with is in the form of a question. If the question makes sense, it’s in the linking verb form.

Kerry grew tired after dinner. à Was Kerry tired after dinner? *The question makes sense with this sentence; therefore, to grow is being used in the linking verb form.
Chris grew roses in his garden. à Was Chris roses in his garden? * This question doesn’t make sense. This means the verb to grow is being used in the action verb form.

- Usually, only adverbs come directly after a verb in a sentence, modifying it. However, if it’s a linking verb, it will be followed by an adjective.

Subject + Linking Verb + Adjective
Kiralyn appeared tired
The house was cold

- This can be a complicated grammar rule to understand. While the adjective appears after the linking verb, it doesn’t necessarily come directly after it. If the adverb describes the adjective, the adverb will come after the verb and before the adjective.

Subject + Linking Verb + Adverb + Adjective
The Cat was alarmingly still
I felt unusually happy

- Compound adjectives are a combination of two or more adjectives that modify the same noun. They require a hyphen to avoid confusion. Examples include:

French-speaking Small-town Slow-moving Up-to-date
All-too-common Low-risk Ill-equipped Sure-footed
Long-winded Part-time Open-minded Four-year
Erin received high marks on her well-written essay.
Luna installed a state-of-the-art technology in her office.
Stephanie was broken-hearted after her soccer team lost.

There are several other formulas that can be used to make compound adjectives. For example:

Noun + present participle or present participle or adjective

World- famous

Adjective + present participle or present participle or noun


- A compound adjective, composed of a number followed by a time period, requires a hyphen and the singular form of the time period.

A three-week vacation, not three-weeks vacation
A two-year contract, not two-years contract

To show an equality between two items in a comparative phrase we can use one of four sentence structures: "as," "nearly," "quite as," and "just as." These create a positive sentence structure; however, each one means something slightly different.

Jonathan is as funny as Tom

This sentence plainly states that Tom and Jonathan are both equally funny.

Jonathan is nearly as funny as Tom

In this phrase, Jonathan is almost as funny as Tom. This indicates a slight difference betweenthe two.

Jonathan is just as funny as Tom
Jonathan is quite as funny as Tom

Here, the "just" and "quite" emphasize that the two items are the same. For example, this would be used if the interlocutor doesn’t believe that two are equal.