What is an adjective?

Improve your story-telling with the use of adjectives

icon of a star with a smiley face

Carla Greenwood

December 12, 2023

What is an adjective?

Improve your story-telling with the use of adjectives

icon of a star with a smiley face

Carla Greenwood

Dec 12, 2023

What is an adjective?

Improve your story-telling with the use of adjectives

icon of a star with a smiley face

Carla Greenwood

Dec 12, 2023

Key takeaways

  • Practice, practice, practice – When and how to use adjectives can be confusing at first, especially for children. So, a bit of trial and error is needed to create the perfect descriptive sentence.
  • There are many types of adjectives – The most common types of adjectives include possessive adjectives, comparative adjectives, and demonstrative adjectives.
  • Adjectives add detail and information – Adjectives are describing words that can give a piece of writing more depth. For example, instead of simply writing “a car” you can write “a small, red car.”

Imagine a ripe, sweet apple. Now picture a mushy, brown apple. Which one would you rather eat? The first one, right?

That’s the power of adjectives! Also known as describing words, adjectives can make a boring piece of writing more captivating for the reader by adding more detail. 

However, adjectives can be confusing for some people, especially as there are so many different types of adjectives. 

In this article, we explore what an adjective is and give you all the tools you need to improve your descriptive writing.  

Types of adjectives

In the Cambridge Dictionary, an adjective is defined as a word that describes a noun or pronoun. In the example above, ripe, sweet, brown, and mushy are all adjectives used to describe apples. An apple is a noun — a thing. Adjectives can also be used to describe the quantity of nouns. For example, countless apples or a few bananas.

There are generally four types of adjectives most commonly used in writing:

Descriptive adjectives

A descriptive adjective is just that, it’s an adjective used to describe a noun. Even in everyday speech, we use descriptive adjectives to express the quality of something. For example, which one of the sentences below sounds better? 

“I went to a party.” or “I went to an amazing party?” 

More than likely, it’s going to be the second one because the descriptive adjective makes it sound much more exciting. 

Comparative and superlative adjectives

Comparative and superlative adjectives are used to compare two or more things, or to show a change. 

Comparative adjectives are generally formed by adding -er to the end of a word (or just ‘r’ if the word ends in ‘e’). If you have a two-syllable word (or longer) that ends in ‘y’, this is replaced by -ier. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Cosier
  • Bigger
  • Funnier
  • Longer
  • Higher
  • Faster


You can also use words like “more” as comparatives. For example,

The faster you drive, the more dangerous it gets.

In comparison, superlative adjectives use the suffix -est (or just ‘st’ if the word ends in ‘e’) to indicate that something has the most or least of a quality. You can also use the words ‘most’ or ‘least’ to achieve the same thing. For example:

  • Daniel is the naughtiest kid in class.
  • Sophia is the most charming person at the party, but Tom is the least charming.  
  • I went to the most amazing party last night.

Possessive adjectives

Possessive adjectives show ownership of something. Possessive adjectives include his, her, and their. 

In the following sentence, ‘our,’ ‘my,’ and ‘her’ are the possessive adjectives. 

We all have our favorite color. My favorite color is red. My best friend Akuchi says her favorite color is blue.   

Demonstrative adjectives

A demonstrative adjective is used to describe the position of a noun. Basically, they demonstrate what is being talked about. 

For example:

I’ve been told to put this book on that shelf. 

In this sentence, both “this” and “that” are demonstrative adjectives. The other demonstrative adjectives are “these” and “those.” 

For example:

Those clothes are very wet. 

That car is very expensive. 

Using adjectives in sentences

Adjectives commonly come directly before a noun. These are called attributive adjectives. 

You can add more than one adjective to a sentence but they need to be separated by commas or the word “and,” unless one adjective is describing another. These are known as coordinate adjectives. 

The following examples show the difference between attributive and coordinate adjectives.

  • A messy desk (attributive)
  • A dark night (attributive)


  • The old and rusty bus (coordinate)
  • A bouncy, happy child (coordinate)


Adjectives can also appear after a noun (called predicative adjectives) with the help of something called a linking verb. Normally, a verb is used to describe an action like jumping or walking. However, a linking verb connects the subject of a sentence with a term that describes it. 

Mary was excited.

In the above example, “Mary” is the noun (the subject of the sentence), “was” is the linking verb, and “excited” is the adjective.

Now let’s look at some more examples. The linking verbs are in green.

  • The kitchen looked messy.
  • Driving is faster than walking.
  • The teacher seems sad.
  • The dog was small and playful.
  • The cat’s fur felt smooth.


Sometimes, you will see two adjectives connected by a hyphen, like “middle-aged” or “double-sided.” These are known as compound adjectives and they can be used in conjunction with other adjectives.

Understanding the difference between adjectives and adverbs

Adjectives and adverbs are both used to describe other words. However, there is a difference. An adjective is a modifier of a noun or pronoun. In contrast, adverbs are used to describe adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs. 

This concept can get confusing, especially when you use a linking verb. To make it even more complicated, many words have an adjective and an adverb form. So, how do you know which one to use?

Let’s take a look at the sentence below:

The very large man sat in a really small chair.

The words “large” and “small” are adjectives because they describe nouns (a man and a chair). The words “very” and “really” are describing adjectives (large and small), so they are adverbs. 

Now, let’s look at another sentence:

Gary worked quietly all morning.

In this example, “quietly” is an adverb because it describes the verb “worked.”

Explore adjectives with DoodleEnglish

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Degrees of adjectives

There are three different degrees of adjectives: positive, comparative, and superlative. These are often used to compare similar qualities of one or more nouns. Which one you use will depend on the level of comparison you want to achieve.

Positive degree

A positive degree adjective is an adjective in its most basic form — describing a noun. A positive degree adjective shouldn’t be used to make comparisons. 

For example:

  • A small dog
  • The big house
  • A grumpy cat

Comparative degree

Comparative degree adjectives are used to compare two nouns by adding the suffix -er or using the word “more.” 

For example:

  • The dog is bigger than the cat.
  • A more mischievous cat
  • Jack is taller than Jill.

Superlative degree

Superlative degree adjectives are used to show that something has the highest or lowest quality when compared to two or more nouns by using the suffix “est.” 

For example:

  • Jamie is the tallest boy in class.
  • January is the coldest month of the year.
  • Vera lives in the largest house on our street.

Avoiding common adjective mistakes

Learning when to use adjectives can seem complicated at first. But, remember practice makes perfect!

Below are some of the most common mistakes people make when it comes to using adjectives.

Comparative vs superlative adjectives

In simple terms, comparative adjectives are used to describe two things, whereas superlative adjectives are used to compare more than two things. However, a common mistake is to get these two types of adjectives mixed up. 

For example:

“This is the most delicious cake than the other one.” 

The above sentence is grammatically incorrect because “most” is a superlative, so it shouldn’t be used to compare two things. The sentence below is correct:

“This cake is more delicious than the other one.”

Double comparatives

When you use the comparative form of an adjective, you don’t need to add another comparative, e.g., “more.” 

For example:

Incorrect: My sister is more taller than my brother.

Correct: My sister is taller than my brother.

Using adjectives in the wrong order

When using multiple adjectives to describe a noun, there is a particular order that needs to be followed; opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, and purpose. 

For example, the “red, shiny, small ball” sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it? However, the “small, red, shiny ball” sounds much better because it’s grammatically correct. 

Good writing is informative and concise. Adjectives can be used in a variety of ways to take your writing to the next level. However, overusing them can have the opposite effect, causing it to look cluttered and messy. So, play around with using adjectives and remember that an adjective always describes a noun.

FAQs about adjectives

Adjectives are words that are used to describe nouns. For example, when talking about a dog, you can make your writing more informative by adding adjectives like fluffy, large, tiny, beautiful, playful, noisy, or mischievous.

There are many ways to characterize and subcategorize adjectives in the English language. Some of the most commonly used terms are:

  • Comparative adjectives (e.g., louder, higher)
  • Superlative adjectives (e.g., tallest, smallest)
  • Demonstrative adjectives (e.g., this, that)
  • Possessive adjectives (e.g., his, her)
  • Interrogative adjective (e.g., which, what)
  • Absolute adjectives (e.g., total, extinct)

The most well-known way to use an adjective in a sentence is to add it before the noun you are describing (called an attributive adjective). 

For example, 

The large house. 

However, adjectives can also be predicative, which means that they are used after the noun. This allows for more variation in your sentences. 

For example:

The plums were sweet and delicious.

Adjectives are always used to describe a noun. However, they can appear before or after the noun itself. Adjectives can be identified by the use of a suffix. For example, words ending in -ful, -ous, -able, or, -ive are usually adjectives. As a general rule, adjectives answer potential questions about a noun, like what kind? Or how many?

Screenshot 2023-10-13 at 16.29.14

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