Nouns and verbs are needed to make a complete sentence, but adjectives are just as important. It's the job of adjectives to modify nouns, pronouns and even other adjectives. Communication wouldn't be very interesting without some descriptive terms to enhance sentences and clarify meaning. Given their importance, it shouldn't be surprising to learn that there are several different types of adjectives.
Types of Adjectives: 12 Different Forms to Know
1. Descriptive Adjectives
Descriptive adjectives are the most common of the various types of adjectives. Descriptive adjectives are generally what you'd envision when imagining a word modifying a noun. This type of adjective describes a noun by expressing a quality or attribute. A descriptive adjective can take you from “the brother” to “the big brother” or from “the daisy” to “the perky daisy.” In all examples, the adjectives are bold and the nouns they modify are underlined.
- The silly dog rolled around in the filthy mud for hours.
- She’s such a competent cashier.
- He hurt her feelings when he labeled her as an annoying sister.
2. Coordinate Adjectives
Coordinate adjectives are small groups of adjectives that band together to modify the same noun. They’re separated by the word “and” or with commas. Using a phrase with multiple adjectives to modify the same noun can create an adjective phrase.
- She wore a pink and yellow top yesterday.
- It was a bright, sunny, and glorious morning along Tybee Beach.
- Their murder was a sad, sorry, gruesome affair.
Be careful when you’re piling up words before a noun. For example, “blue hospital gown” doesn’t have any commas or the word “and.” That’s because “blue” is modifying “hospital gown.” If in doubt over two words that could possibly be modifiers, place the word “and” between them. If it doesn’t make sense, that means you're dealing with a descriptive adjective rather than a coordinate adjective.
3. Compound Adjectives
A compound adjective is one that is made up of multiple words. This type of adjective is not separate words, as with the coordinative adjective. Instead, compound adjectives are two or more words (or a number and a word) that work as one to modify a noun. They are typically hyphenated.
- I have to write a 900-word essay.
- I bought some fat-free cheese.
- We are taking a five-hour dinner cruise.
- I am looking for a full-time job.
4. Proper Adjectives
Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns, so they must be capitalized. A proper noun is a specific name for a person, place or thing. So, instead of “she,” we have “Marie.” Instead of “country,” we have “Japan.” Proper adjectives look a lot like their ancestral proper nouns. They just shift a little bit. They're typically used to describe something associated with their noun version.
- I adore Japanese food.
- She’s going to a Shakespearean festival.
- Well, that was a Freudian slip.
5. Demonstrative Adjectives
Demonstrative adjectives point to which noun or pronoun you’re speaking about. There are four demonstrative adjectives in the English language: this, that, these, and those. Adjectives typically (but not always) come before the noun they’re modifying. Demonstrative adjectives are always positioned directly in front of the noun they are modifying.
- Would you like this bicycle?
- That car used to be mine.
- I don’t want these accolades.
- Those shoes are gorgeous.
6. Distributive Adjectives
Distributive adjectives refer to members of a class or group as individual entities. They indicate the collective nature with which people or things can be counted. Notable distributive adjectives are any, each, either, every, and neither. Like most of their comrades, these adjectives stand right beside the noun they’re modifying.
- Did any of you do your homework?
- Each attendee received a free gift.
- Either sweater will look great with those pants.
- She bought every handbag in that store.
- Neither doctor called me back.
7. Indefinite Adjectives
Indefinite adjectives describe nouns or pronouns in a non-specific way. These adjectives point to non-specific items. The indefinite adjectives include few, many, no, several, and some. These token words convey that you're hot on the trail of an indefinite adjective.
- Few people get this far.
- Do you have many openings?
- There are no books in this library.
- I reviewed several sources.
- There are some tickets left.
8. Interrogative Adjectives
Interrogative adjectives pose a question. They need a noun or pronoun by their side. In this category, be on the lookout for the following words: what, which and whose.
- What color do you want to paint the cottage?
- Which kimono do you want to order?
- Whose land are we standing on?
There are other words that pose a question, such as “who” and “how,” but they are not adjectives because they don’t modify nouns. For example, you can say, “Whose land are we standing on?” But, it would be incorrect to say, “Who land are we standing on?” or, “How land are we standing on?”
9. Possessive Adjectives
These labels are pretty handy, huh? Possessive adjectives show possession. Easy enough, right? Key players in the possessive adjective realm include his, her, my, your, and their. Possessive adjectives usually come before their corresponding nouns.
- Is that their Ferrari?
- Don’t touch our Bugatti.
- I’m sorry; I didn’t know this was your Lamborghini.
10. Predicate Adjectives
With the exception of some possessive adjectives, the examples above are attributive adjectives. That is, they come before the noun they modify. However, things get a little more complicated in the land of linking verbs (am, is, are, was, were). Adjectives that pop up after the linking verb and modify the subject of the sentence are known as predicate adjectives. These adjectives can be tricky to spot because they come after the verb instead of before the noun but still belong to the adjective tribe.
- She is smart.
- We are rich.
- They were efficient.
11. Quantitative Adjectives
Quantitative adjectives describe the quantity of something. They do more than modify a noun or pronoun. They also answer questions like “How much?” or “How many?” This turns words like “one” or “two” into adjectives. Any quantity that’s providing further information about a noun constitutes a quantitative noun.
- She has two children.
- In the near future, I hope to own six puppies.
- In fact, I’ll take the whole litter.
As an aside, when writing numbers, it’s generally accepted practice to write out the numbers zero through nine and use numerals for anything 10 and above.
12. Articles as Adjectives
Here’s where things get tricky. There are three articles (a, an, the) in the English language. Aren’t articles … articles? Yes; they are. There are definite and indefinite articles. The articles also act as adjectives in sentences. They stand beside the nouns they modify.
- I just adopted a dog.
- This is an elephant.
- Don’t take away the iguana.
An Adjectival Attitude
Have you ever heard someone’s writing referred to as flowery? Basically, they loaded it up with descriptors — most likely adjectives or adverbs — and made their writing clunky. Of course, it's important to be aware of and understand the various types of adjectives. Just consider how many adjectives you sprinkle into your writing. There's no need to use multiple kinds of adjectives in every sentence. Like anything else, you don’t want to go too far. With that in mind, put a few selections from this long list of adjectives in your back pocket. Perhaps one of them will serve you well in your next short story, poem or conversation.