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How to Write Clear, Readable, Effective Sentences that Readers Love!
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What are Adjectives?

What are Adjectives?An adjective is a word used to modify a noun or a pronoun.

When we say a word modifies a noun, we mean that it restricts the application of the noun to such persons or things. Every adjective has a restrictive force; we can define an adjective as "a word used to restrict the application of a noun by adding something to its meaning."

The adjective is usually placed before its noun. In some instances it follows the noun; such as, The apple is sweet. A cause worthy to defend. Words make men strong. The car rides smoothly on the road.

In many sentences the adjective may either precede or follow the noun, such as: A wise and judicious politican; or, A politician wise and judicious.

Misplacing a single adjective can affect the meaning of a sentence. Note the difference in the meaning of these two sentences:

EX.— I heard only him.
EX.— Only I heard him.


Adjectives are divided into two general classes: 1) descriptive or qualifying adjectives and 2) definitive or limiting adjectives.

Descriptive Adjectives

A descriptive adjective describes or names some quality of the object expressed by the noun or pronoun (i.e. strange, green, French).

EX.— The giant elm tree casted its shadows over the stream.
EX.— These two generous ladies have a mean neighbor.
EX.— The bald-headed eagle is a beautiful bird.

In the examples I have given above, giant, generous, mean, bald-headed, and beautiful are descriptive adjectives. A descriptive adjective answers the question, "What kind of?" in connection with the noun or pronoun modified; as, What kind of elm? Giant. What kind of ladies? Generous.

Definitive Adjectives

A definitive adjective points out or tells how much or how many (i.e. these, two, the, a, that, many).

EX.— This book contains one hundred pages.

This points out the particular book in mind. One hundred tells how many pages.

Limiting Adjectives

Limiting adjectives include the following kinds of words:

1) The articles, the and a (or an).

2) Numeral adjectives: three boys, the third chapter, eleven players, the eleventh month, the first day.

Numeral Adjectives

Numeral adjectives are divided into two classes: cardinals, which include all such adjectives as one, two, three, four, ninety-nine; and ordinals, which include the forms first, second, third, fourth, ninety-ninth, and all others like them.

The words once, twice, thrice are adverbs.

The cardinal numeral adjectives may be used as nouns.

EX.— If we have a tornado, what will become of the food?
EX.— Two twos are four.
EX.— Hundreds lost their lives in that riot.

NOTE— You can use about twenty-five words either as adjectives or as pronouns. Among them are this, these, that, those, each, both, some, any, all, few, many, either, neither, one, another, former, latter, more, most, same, much.

NOTE— This, these, that, those, are called demonstratives, because they point out persons, places, or things.

NOTE— Any, some, other, such, and others are not as definite as the demonstratives, and are therefore called indefinites.

Interrogative Adjectives

In certain uses, interrogative and relative pronouns are among limiting adjectives.

EX.—Which movie do you want to watch next?
EX.— I know which book you are reading next.
EX.— He sold what land he had and whatever food he could buy.
EX.— The man whose wallet you found lives in Texas.
EX.— Which statement of his do you object to?

Possessive Adjectives

Possessive adjectives are the possessive forms of limiting adjectives, such as: my, your, his, her, its, our, their, andwhose, when these words are used as adjectives.

My, your, her, our, and their are always so used; but his, its, and whose are sometimes used as adjectives, sometimes as pronouns.

EX.— I have my book, your package, her purse, and our movie tickets.
EX.—Whose book is this? Is it his book? Is it Brian's book?
EX.—Whose is this book? This book is hers. Its cover is torn.

Proper Adjectives

We call adjectives derived from proper nouns as proper adjectives. You should always begin a proper adjective with a capital letter.

EX.— the French government
EX.— the English language
EX.— the American flag

Adjective Uses of Nouns and Pronouns

A noun may be modified by another noun or by a pronoun. In the following sentences the nouns and pronouns in italics are used adjectively:

EX.— The mechcanic built a car chain.
EX.— The house boat needed repairs.
EX.— The bowling ball rested easily in the wheel chair.
EX.— Brian's hat lay on the steering wheel.
EX.— Whose book is this? It is her book.

Cautions in Using Adjectives

This, that, these, those, them

This and that are the only adjectives that have a plural form. These and those are plural and you must use them with plural nouns. Those kind is incorrect. You should write: that kind or those kinds. Them is not an adjective and you should not use it to modify a noun.

Each otherone another

Each other refers to two objects only; one another refers to more than two objects.

EX.— The two sisters love each other.
EX.— The three sisters love one another.

Either, neitherany one

Either or neither properly refers to one of two. Any one refers to one of several.

First and last

When you use adjectives that express number, use the words first and last before the adjective.

EX.— the first two sentences
EX.— the last ten pages

Misc. Rules

NOTE— When two or more adjectives modify the same noun, the article is used before the first adjective only.

EX.— A black and white dog. (One dog.)

NOTE— When two or more adjectives modify different nouns, one of which is expressed and the rest understood, the article is used before each adjective:

EX.—The black and the white care are mine. (Cat is understood after black.)
EX.—The white and the red house belong to Mr. Henry.
EX.—The Republican and the Democratic party seem to agree on the new law.
EX.— Lisa bought a silk and a cotton towl. (Two towls.)
EX.— Lori bought a silk and a cotton towl. (One towl.)
EX.— Brian drew a map of the Northern and the Southern streets.

Remember: A descriptive adjective is one that describes.

A limiting adjective is one that points out or tells how much or how many.

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