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Adjectives

November 6, 2018

Adjectives are words that are used to describe nouns. They are also known as modifiers. These common words follow two basic patterns in English. Students often ask which pattern is better or more common to use, and the answer is that they’re equally common!

Purpose

Adjectives are used to describe nouns (people, places, or things).

  • green coat
  • beautiful sunset
  • cute puppies
  • interesting lesson

Adjectives are also used to describe how someone is feeling.

  • happy
  • sad
  • hot
  • cold

Patterns

There are two basic adjective patterns in English.

Pattern 1: Adjective + Noun

An adjective often comes right before a noun. It stays right before the noun even when there are other parts of speech that are part of the pattern, such as an article, an adverb, or a preposition. This pattern is common for adjectives that describe people, places, or things.

  • soft pillow (Adj + N)
  • a soft pillow (Art + Adj + N)
  • a really soft pillow (Art + Adv + Adj + N)
  • on a really soft pillow (Prep + Art + Adv + Adj + N)

Pattern 2: Be + Adjective

An adjective can also follow the Be verb. This pattern is common for adjectives that describe feelings as well as people, places, or things.

  • She is happy.
  • I am tired.
  • Your brother is nice.
  • This pillow is soft.

Notes

Note #1

To form an adjective, a suffix is often added to the end of a noun. Some common adjective suffixes in English include -able, -al, -ant, -ed, -ent, -ful, -ible, -ic, -ing, -ive, -less, -ous, and -y. For more examples, see English Word Endings: Suffixes That Show the Part of Speech.

  • logical
  • important
  • careful
  • dangerous

Note #2

Some adjectives don’t come from a noun. These adjectives don’t have suffixes.

  • big
  • small
  • good
  • bad

Summary

It’s a good idea to give students similar examples of the two patterns so they can see that there is no difference in meaning. Both patterns are common for describing nouns. It’s their choice which pattern they want to use!

  • This is delicious pizza.
  • This pizza is delicious.



You may also want to remind students that for feelings, Be + Adjective is the more common pattern.

  • He is happy.
  • I am sick.

Related

For more materials on adjectives as well as more advanced adjective tips, see the related resources below!

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Comments (7)

Vaporleaf (Guest)

This is a great simple guide to grammar. You could totally use this outside of ESL, and teach children with this.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks very much!

Tamara V.(Member)

Excellent, l love it. Very straight forward!
Thank you for sharing !

Reply to Comment

Tammy Wik(ESL Library Staff)

Hi Tamara (great name by the way!),

So glad you found the post helpful. I'll pass your compliments along to Tanya!

Scott G.(Teacher)

Thanks for your work. It is helpful. I have a question for you. My university professor always talked about a 'grammar gene'; as in, some people are more genetically wired to understand grammar because they have a grammar gene. I don't think she was serious but I do think there may be something to do with the wiring in the brain. Is grammar like math in that some brains are naturally wired for math/science?

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Scott, that's an interesting theory! I've often wondered that myself since I have a knack for languages and zero talent for math, but I haven't seen any conclusive evidence on it. We have a lesson about left-brained vs. right-brained that you might find interesting: https://esllibrary.com/courses/72/lessons/1241

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