If your English teacher is always talking about nouns and verbs and adjectives, and you’re thinking, “What is an adjective?” you’ve come to the right place for answers. We’ll talk about what adjectives are, how you can recognize most of them, where to put them in a sentence, and how to put them in the right order when you have more than one.
The simplest definition of an adjective is that it is a word that describes or clarifies a noun. Adjectives describe nouns by giving some information about an object’s size, shape, age, color, origin or material. They also clarify which thing (noun) the speaker means by giving those kinds of information as well as the speaker’s opinion or observations about it and its purpose.
When an item is defined by its purpose, that word is usually not an adjective, but it acts as one in that situation.
English can be very tricky, so you have to be careful, but a lot of English adjectives end with these suffixes:
Many adjectives also end with -y, -ary and -ate, but lots of nouns and adverbs also end with -y, lots of nouns also end with -ary, and lots of nouns and verbs also end with -ate, so be careful with those.
If you come across a word that ends in -y, -ary or -ate (or any other suffix for that matter), and you want to know whether it’s an adjective or not, just look at where it is and what it’s doing in the sentence. If it comes immediately before a noun, and especially if it comes between an article (a, an, the), a possessive adjective (my, his, her, its, your, our, their), a demonstrative (this, that, these, those) or an amount (some, most, all, a few) and a noun, then it’s probably an adjective.
Adjectives also act as complements. Complements are words that complete the predicate of a sentence when the verb is “be.”
As you can see, not all complements are adjectives. In these examples, “tall” and “smart, handsome and rich” are adjectives, but “teachers for five years” and “my best friend” are both noun phrases. If the complement is only one word, there’s a good chance it’s an adjective. Also if the complement is a list of words, those are probably also adjectives. If an article (a, an, the) or a possessive (my, his, her, its, your, our, their, mine, his, hers, its, yours, ours, theirs) is involved, it’s a noun phrase.
When you list several adjectives in a row, there’s a specific order they need to be written or spoken. Native speakers of English tend to put them in the correct order naturally, but if you’re learning English, you’ll have to memorize the order. It goes like this:
This is the correct order for adjectives that come directly before a noun, and they are separated by commas.
If the adjectives come after the verb “be” as the complement, then the qualifier will stick with the noun at the beginning of the sentence. The adjectives in the complement are separated by commas with the final two being separated by “and.”
Hopefully, the next time your teacher quizzes you by asking, “What is an adjective?” you’ll be able to give a correct and thorough answer.