Placement of Adjectives
Comparison of Adjectives
Nouns as Modifiers
An adjective modifies a noun or pronoun. Descriptive adjectives identify a quality of a noun or pronoun. Limiting adjectives impose boundaries on the noun or pronoun.
a spicy novel [descriptive]
the other cassette [limiting]
these boots [limiting]
Limiting adjectives include the articles a, an, and the; demonstrative adjectives (this book, those crackers); possessive adjectives (my book, our picnic); interrogative adjectives (whose book, which day, what idea); numerical adjectives (two books, first date); and indefinite adjectives (all books, some roads, any ideas).
PLACEMENT OF ADJECTIVES
Adjectives may be classified as attributive adjectives, appearing before the nouns they modify, or as predicate adjectives, appearing after a linking verb: a form of be or a word such as appear, seem, look, touch, feel, taste, become, grow, or turn.
The small jobs are given low priority, [attributive adjective]
No job is too small.[predicate adjective]
Adjectives in the predicate of a sentence can modify the subject of a linking verb (see subject complements), or they can modify a direct object (see object complements).
The auditorium is full, [subject complement]
I feel sorry for him. [subject complement]
The lack of a raise rendered the promotion meaningless, [object complement]
Because some verbs can function both as linking verbs (which are followed by predicate adjectives) and as action verbs (which are modified by adverbs), writers are sometimes confused about which type of modifier to use. If the subject of the verb is to be modified, use an adjective; if the action of the verb is to be modified, use an adverb.
I feel bad. [Bad is a predicate adjective modifying I, the subject of the linking verb jed. Compare "I am bad."]
I feel badly. [Badly is an adverb modifying the action verb feel; thus the sentence refers to an impaired sense of touch. Compare "I swim badly."]
COMPARISON OF ADJECTIVES
The comparative form of short adjectives adds the suffix -er and compares two things. The superlative form adds the suffix -est and compares three or more things.
Dave's second film was funnier than the first, [comparative]
Dave's third film was the funniest of the three, [superlative]
However, many two-syllable adjectives and most adjectives of three or more syllables are made comparative by inserting more (or less) in front of them and made superlative by inserting most (or least).
The weather will be more favorable for sailing on the weekend than today. [comparative]
The weather will be most favorable for sailing on Sunday. [superlative]
A few adjectives have irregular forms of comparison:
Do not use more or most before an adjective ending in -er or -est. Such double comparisons are redundant. For the same reason, do not add -er to an already comparative form or -est to an already superlative form.
Gina is the
most fastest sprinter on the team.
Her performance gets
more better all the time.
At the same time, her competition seems to get worse
She recorded her best
est time last season
When two or more descriptive adjectives modifying the same noun can be reversed and still make sense, or when they can be connected by and or or, they should be separated by commas. These adjectives are known as coordinate adjectives.
The coach is building a young, energetic, creative team.
Do not separate the final coordinate adjective from its noun with a comma.
Amelia is a conscientious, honest, reliable
When adjectives modifying the same word make sense in only one order, no commas are needed. These adjectives are known as cumulative adjectives; they accumulate as modifiers to form a phrase.
Lee was wearing his old cotton tennis hat. [Tennis modifies hat; cotton modifies tennis hat; old modifies cotton tennis hat; his modifies old cotton tennis hat.]
When limiting and descriptive adjectives appear together, the limiting adjectives precede the descriptive adjectives, with the articles usually in the first position.
The ten gray cars were parked in a row. [article, limiting adjective, descriptive adjective]
In English, descriptive adjectives usually follow a particular order (although it may vary depending on intended meaning and emphasis): quality (beautiful, priceless), size (huge, little), shape (round, flat, short), age (old, new), color (blue, white), origin (Swedish, Baptist), material (cotton, concrete), and noun used as modifier. Strings of more than three or four adjectives are rare.
a beautiful old wooden doll cradle [adjectives of quality, age, and material and noun used as modifier]
a huge red Persian carpet [adjectives of size, color, and origin]
Use a hyphen to connect two or more words that function as a single adjective before a noun unless the first word is an adverb ending in -ly or the pair of words is such a familiar term that no misreading could occur.
Alice Walker is a well-known author, [typical compound adjective consisting of an adverb, well, plus the adjective known]
Alice Walker is a highly regarded author. [The first word is an adverb ending in -ly.]
What color would be best for the dining room chairs? [familiar term that could not cause a misreading]
However, unless a compound adjective is always written with a hyphen, it should not be hyphenated when it follows the noun it modifies. (Consult a dictionary for the accepted form of a compound adjective.)
As an author, Alice Walker is well known.
The work is time-consuming. [The dictionary shows time-consuming written with a hyphen.]
In a series of compound adjectives, the hyphens are suspended. Should the package be sent by first-, second-, or third-class mail?
Three types of changes can turn nouns and verbs and their modifiers into compound adjectives. First, many modified nouns can become compound adjectives with the addition of -ed.
He pitches with his left hand.
He is a left-handed pitcher.
Second, many modified verbs can become compound adjectives with the addition of -ing or -ed.
The grant proposal looked extremely professional.
It was an extremely professional-looking grant proposal.
Third, when modified nouns of measurement are changed into compound adjectives, they are changed from the plural to the singular.
Kiko's grandmother was seventy-five years old.
Kiko's seventy-five-year-old grandmother . . .
NOUNS AS MODIFIERS
Nouns often function as adjectives and modify other nouns, as in potato salad, home economics, telephone book, and mail carrier. Such phrases are direct and concise (contrast mail carrier with person who delivers mail). However, a long string of noun modifiers can be awkward and confusing. In the following example, some of the noun modifiers should be replaced with possessives or prepositional phrases.
change A state college system student financial-aid guidelines overhaul is sorely needed.
to An overhaul of the state college system's guidelines for student financial aid is sorely needed.