Adverbs and adjectives

Double-click on any word and see its definition from Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

What is the difference between adverbs and adjectives?

A very basic answer to this question is:

Adjectives are used to describe nouns.

A big mosque
Black cats

Two things to note here:

Adjectives usually come immediately before the noun, and not after it as in some other languages.

Adjectives only have one form, i.e. they do not change when describing plural nouns.

One black cat.
Two black cats (not blacks).

Adverbs are used to describe verbs, adjectives or other adverbs.

He runs quickly.
It is an extremely difficult question.
The car rolled very slowly down the road.

Many adverbs end in the letters ‘ly’, but there are also many exceptions.

Please see the following web site for a very good description of both adjectives and adverbs:

http://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Writing/a.html

Superlative adjectives

Double-click on any word and see its definition from Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

Practise with a grammar game

The superlative is the form of an adjective or adverb that expresses the highest or a very high degree of the quality of what is being described. For example, if you are describing a noun, in the sentence:

“Everest is the highest mountain in the world”

the word highest is a superlative adjective. If you are describing a verb, use a superlative adverb, e.g.

“Of all the runners, Cathy Freeman ran the fastest.”

The word fastest is a superlative adverb.

For further information, please have a look at the web sites listed below. If you do a search through the document for “superlative” or “superlative adjective“, you should find the relevant information quickly.

http://www.edunet.com/english/grammar/ADJECTIVES6.cfm

http://www.easyenglish.com/lesson.asp?best.txt

Possessive adjectives

Double-click on any word and see its definition from Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

” Is the use of the possessive adjective “their” correct in the following sentence:

‘A student studying for their first degree'”?

The answer to this question is both “Yes” and “No”! Strictly speaking, some people might argue that the “correct” form should be either “his” or “her“, depending on the gender of the student. The use of “their” in sentences like this has come about due to a desire to avoid sexism. As it is now common usage, a descriptive grammarian would therefore say that it is “correct”. However, if in doubt, here are a couple of suggestions to avoid the problem altogether:

Firstly, you could use “his or her” or “his/her”, but this can make for some ugly sentences, especially if the possessive adjective is repeated more than once.

Secondly you can just change the noun to plural:

“Students studying for their first degree”.

For further information, please have a look at the web sites listed below. If you do a search through the document for “possessive adjective“, “their” or “sexism“, you should find the relevant information quickly.

http://cmfd.univ.trieste.it//grammar.html#sexist

http://jcomm.uoregon.edu/~cbassett/j203/grammar.html

Comparative adjectives

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Practise with a grammar game

Adjectives of just one syllable form the comparative by adding “-er”:

Bright … brighter
Clear … clearer
Fast … faster

If a one syllable adjective ends in “e”, simply add “r”:

Nice … nicer
Fine … finer
Ripe … riper

For some adjectives, it is necessary to double the last letter before adding “-er”. (For spelling: doubling letters, see next week’s grammar question).

Big … bigger
Slim … slimmer
Flat … flatter

All adjectives of three or more syllables form the comparative with “more “.

Beautiful …more beautiful
Comfortable … more comfortable
Typical … more typical

Adjectives of two syllables are more complicated. To see which is the usual form you should see your dictionary. Most adjectives of two syllables form the comparative with “more”:

Famous …more famous
Thankful … more thankful
Boring …more boring
Faithless … more faithless

However, some adjectives of two syllables form the comparative with “-er”:

Those that end in “y”, change the “y” to “i” and add “-er”:

Happy … happier
Funny … funnier
Easy …easier

Those ending in a vowel-sound that is not stressed:

Yellow …yellower
Simple …simpler
Tender …tenderer

In addition, there are some (common) irregular comparative adjectives:

Good …better
Bad …worse
Far …farther or further
Little (quantity) …less
Much … more
Ill …worse
Old …older or elder

http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/ADJECTIVES6.cfm

For more information on comparative adjectives see the following web sites:

http://www.edufind.com/english/grammar/ADJECTIVES5.cfm

For a quiz on comparative adjectives, see:

http://www.aitech.ac.jp/~iteslj/quizzes/vm/compsup.html

Adjective order

Double-click on any word and see its definition from Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

Practise with a grammar game

What is the correct order of adjectives before a noun?

Michael Swan (Practical English Usage, Oxford University Press, 1997) writes:

“Unfortunately, the rules for adjective order are very complicated, and different grammars disagree about the details” p. 8

He does, however, go on to list some of the most important rules:

1. Adjectives of colour, origin, material and purpose usually go in that order.

Colour origin material purpose noun
red Spanish leather riding boots
A brown German beer mug
A Venetian glass flower vase

2. Other adjectives usually go before words of colour, origin, material and purpose. It is impossible to give exact rules, but adjectives of size, length and height often come first.

The round glass table (NOT the glass round table)
A big, modern brick house (NOT a modern, big brick house)
Long, flexible steel poles
A tall, ancient oak-tree

3. Adjectives which express judgements or attitudes usually come before all others. Examples are lovely, definite, pure, absolute, extreme, perfect, wonderful, silly.

A lovely, long, cool drink
Who’s that silly fat man over there?

4. Numbers usually go before adjectives.

Six large eggs
The second big shock

First, next and last most often go before one, two, three etc.

The first three days
My last two jobs.”

pp. 8-9

He does not mention age, which would normally go after adjectives of size, length and height, but before colour, origin, material and purpose.

A big old straw hat.
A charming young university student.

Thus, a complete list could be:

(article) + number + judgement/attitude + size, length, height + age + colour + origin + material + purpose + noun

a lovely long black leather coat
a valuable Dutch Impressionist painting
a rustic old stone holiday cottage

For more information about adjective order, see:

http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/410/grammar/adjord.htm

http://www.englishclub.net/grammar/adjectives/order2.shtml

For exercises on adjective order, see:

http://www.better-english.com/grammar/adjord.htm

http://www.better-english.com/grammar/adjord2.htm

http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/410/grammar/adjord1.htm

http://web2.uvcs.uvic.ca/elc/studyzone/410/grammar/adjord2.htm

http://www.aitech.ac.jp/~iteslj/quizzes/vm/adjorder.html

http://www.englishoutlook.com/focus/grammar/adjorder.html