What Are Adjectives?
Adjectives are descriptive words that are used to define the state or quality of nouns. Examples include; interesting story, brilliant student, amazing weather, etc. They can also be used to describe quantities of nouns; thousands, little, seven, etc.
Adjectives Modify Nouns
Adjectives principally function to modify/describe nouns and are thus not used to modify adjectives, verbs or adverbs in a sentence.
I had a brilliant day at work.
My biggest worry is failing this exam.
In both sentences, the adjectives can easily be identified as they are used just before the nouns. However, adjectives can do a whole lot more than act as modifiers.
For example, they can be used to complement linking verbs that inform the sensory experience or condition of being.
Jogging is easier than running.
It feels cold outside.
Technically, adjectives used in this context are commonly referred to as predicate adjectives.
Uses of Adjectives
In sentences, adjectives make it easier for a reader to know precisely what you want given to you, how much or how many what you are referring to is, or what kind of thing it is you are talking about.
You can take all four big oranges in the basket
In the above example, four and big are used to describe or modify oranges.
More commonly, adjectives are separated by a comma or conjunction when they are used close together.
He wants to buy a spacious, beautiful house to gift his son.
His son's house is spacious and beautiful
Degrees of Comparison
Adjectives can also function to compare one or more objects, in which case they assume absolute, comparative or superlative forms.
Absolute adjectives are used to describe things as they intrinsically are;
A big house
An interesting story
Expectedly, comparative adjectives, on the other hand, are used to compare two or more things. The suffix –er or –r is added to make the comparative form of most one-syllable adjectives. The –y ending of adjectives with two syllables is replaced with –ier while multi-syllable adjectives are simply used by adding more. Examples include;
A bigger house
A more interesting story
Superlative adjectives inform that something is of the highest degree when it comes to a particular quality. Mono-syllable adjectives are combined with the suffix –est or -st to make a superlative form. Two-syllable adjectives carry the ending –iest in replacement of –y while multi-syllable adjectives become superlatives when the word most are added to them. The article "the" is most often used with a superlative since a superlative object is intrinsically one that you are specific about.
The biggest house
The most interesting story
Coordinate Adjectives are those used in a sentence to modify the same noun. In such cases, a comma or and should be used to separate them.
It looks a dry, sunny day.
It's a long and exciting story.
However, that two adjectives are closely used together doesn't always infer a coordinate relationship. A common scenario of this occurs when one of them forms a semantically single unit with the noun used in the sentence, in which case the other adjective is more or less the only modifier, thus a comma is not used to separate both adjectives.
His pet loves his old cotton mat. Here cotton mat is a single semantic unit modified by the adjective old. Thus, both old and cotton are not separated by a comma. When it's difficult to know whether two adjectives function as coordinates or not, simply insert the conjunction "and" or switch the order of the adjectives. If the new phrase doesn't sound perfect, you likely don't have a coordinate relationship.
Adjectives vs. Adverbs
Since we've been wired to think that adjectives serve no other function but modify nouns, a common mistake is to use an adverb to modify a verb, when a predicate adjective more rightly conveys the meaning of a sentence.
"He feels badly about his mistake" means that he is bad at feeling things. But, if you mean that he is experiencing negative emotions, "He feels bad" fits in more correctly.
When Nouns Become Adjectives and Adjectives Become Nouns
It is also noteworthy to remember that nouns and adjectives can substitute each other in meaning in a sentence depending on their placement.
In "Don't check his test results without his permission," for example, test is a noun, but in the given sentence functions to modify the noun – results.
Similarly, in "Brian takes food to the poor," the word poor assumes the position of a noun, whereas it could easily be referred to as an adjective.