Using Adjectives in English

Lesson 6.1 Adjectives

Using Adjectives in English

6.1.1  An adjective is a content word that describes a noun. Adjectives are the third largest word group in English, after nouns and verbs. An adjective usually goes before a noun but after an article, e.g. a big fork, a green taxi, an old house, etc. The extra information makes the noun more interesting to the listener or reader, because it makes it more specific and therefore easier to imagine. Specific is interesting while general is boring. Consider which is more interesting:

General: “The man wore a t-shirt.”

Specific: “The tall athletic man wore a blue striped t-shirt.”

Exercise 6.1.1

Underline the adjective in each phrase:

a) my lovely goldfish  b) a soft cushion  c) Mike’s younger brother  d) a great day

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6.1.2  We often find adjectives after verb be, e.g. It is a big fork. / There was an empty taxi. Here are some of the most common adjectives with their opposite adjectives:

big / small
happy / sad
bad / good
hot / cold
young / old
beautiful / ugly
clean / dirty
long / short

It is possible to use many adjectives before a noun, e.g. “a large long white wooden Hawaiian
surfboard”, but it is better to limit the number of adjectives to two or three at the most, e.g. “a large white Hawaiian surfboard”.

Exercise 6.1.2

Match the adjectives below with their opposite adjectives:

far     weak     small     nasty     dirty     loud     cold     ugly

a) big __________
b) hot __________
c) near __________
d) nice __________
e) beautiful __________
f) clean __________
g) quiet __________
h) strong __________

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6.1.3  There is a particular order for different types of adjective. For example, we can say: “I met an old Italian man”, but not “I met an Italian old man.” The correct order is:

opinion | size / length | shape | age | colour | origin | material | purpose | noun

Exercise 6.1.3

Change the order of adjectives to make them correct:

a) a wooden beautiful doll
b) an blue old car
c) a Swedish priceless clock
d) an cricket Australian expensive bat
e) smelly yellow round cheeses
f) a middle-aged woman tall
g) my brown favourite jacket
h) a square huge leather folder

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6.1.4  Adjectives have three forms: normal, comparative (for comparing one noun with another), and superlative (for saying that one thing is the most x). If an adjective has one syllable, we usually add -er suffix + than to make comparative form and the + -est suffix to make superlative form:

If an adjective has two or more syllables, we usually use more [adjective] than to make comparative form, and the most [adjective] to make superlative form. For example:

Some longer adjectives do not fit this pattern, e.g. tasty (two syllables) > tastier > tastiest, while a few common adjectives have irregular forms which we need to learn, for example:

Exercise 6.1.4

Rewrite the dialogue to make it correct:

a) My dog is biggest than yours.
b) No, my dog is biggest.
c) But mine is the most beautifulest.
d) No, mine is beautifuler than yours.
e) Your dog is the worse.
f) No, mine is the better!
g) OK, let’s say mine is the nicer.
h) And mine is stronger than.

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6.1.5  Adjectives, verbs, nouns, and adverbs can belong to word families. They look like they belong together, although they may have different suffixes, e.g.

Exercise 6.1.5

Complete the gaps in this word families diagram:

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6.1.6  There is an important group of adjectives which have both -ing and -ed endings, for example: amazing/amazed, boring/bored, etc. In general, we use -ing adjectives to describe things and -ed adjectives to describe how people feel, e.g. “He was bored.” / “The party was boring.” We can use so, very, or another intensifier to make the adjective stronger, e.g. “He was so bored.” / “The party was very boring.” / “I felt absolutely amazed!” / “The concert was too long.” etc.

Exercise 6.1.6

Add a suffix – either -ing or -ed:

a) The match was so bor-_____.
b) We were excit-_____ about the gift.
c) The sushi was disgust-_____.
d) My boss is annoy-_____ now.
e) The headphones were amaz-_____.
f) Jennifer was really surpris-_____.
g) Her reaction was surpris-_____.
h) By the end of the day I felt tir-_____.

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6.1.7  Adjectives can be strong or weak (sometimes called base). Strong adjectives are more interesting than weak adjectives, because they are more expressive – so it is better to use them when we can, e.g.

Remember that English is a rich language and many adjectives have synonyms (words that mean the same), e.g. the concert could be great, wonderful, fantastic, fabulous, terrific, magnificent, pleasing, and brilliant! Begin by learning weak adjectives, then their strong equivalents, then other synonyms.

Exercise 6.1.7

Match the weak adjectives below with the following strong adjectives:

hilarious     priceless     freezing     ancient     unforgettable     silent     lovely     packed

a) cold __________
b) funny __________
c) old __________
d) quiet __________
e) valuable __________
f) nice __________
g) crowded __________
h) memorable __________

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6.1.8  When learning adjectives it is really useful to learn which prepositions they usually collocate (go together with) in different contexts. For example, we are “happy with” somebody or “happy about” something, rather than “happy on” or “happy above”. The material below can help you with adjective and preposition collocations.

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6.1.9  Further material for practising adjectives in English:

  • Basic Shapes – Adjectives
Basic Shapes – Adjectives

Basic Shapes – Adjectives

  • He Never Stopped Moaning! (adjectives gap-fill) – Answers: Big Resource Book, p.107

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He Never Stopped Moaning! (adjectives gap-fill)

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Find the Missing Syllables 1 – Adjectives

  • Translate Slang Phrases (Adjectives) into the IPA

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Translate Slang Phrases (Adjectives) into the IPA

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