Explanation

Adjectives are often called "describing words"; they often occur before a noun or after be.

The surest way to identify adjectives is by the ways they can be used:

  • before a noun, to make the noun’s meaning more specific (i.e. to modify the noun), or
  • after the verb be, as its complement.
  • The pupils did some really good work. [adjective used before a noun, to modify it]
  • Their work was good. [adjective used after the verb be, as its complement]

Adjectives cannot be modified by other adjectives. This distinguishes them from nouns, which can be.

Adjectives are sometimes called “describing words” because they pick out single characteristics such as size or colour. This is often true, but it doesn’t help to distinguish adjectives from other word classes, because verbs, nouns and adverbs can do the same thing.

Not adjectives:

  • The lamp glowed. [verb]
  • It was such a bright red! [noun]
  • He spoke loudly. [adverb]
  • It was a French grammar book. [noun]

See also: adjective phrase, possessive adjective.

Adjectives and meaning

A starter activity, where students are asked to replace the given adjectives and discuss the changes in meaning

What are other ways of expressing the meanings conveyed by adjectives? In this starter activity, students are asked to replace the adjectives in the given examples with some other means of expressing the general meaning of the sentence.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right of this page. It can be displayed on a projector or smart board. The slide in the Activity page presents four example sentences with adjectives. Ask the students to do the following:

Adjectives and meaning: Activity

  1. Kyle was sad.
  2. Derrick was so much smaller than Stanley.
  3. He wasn’t entirely sure.
  4. When she saw what was inside the envelope, Lucy was delighted.
  5. It was a big meeting, and Ben felt incredibly nervous.
  6. It was the most expensive meal I'd ever eaten.
  7. The water tasted terrible!

Adjective identification

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying adjectives.

Adjective identification: Activity 1

Which words do you think are adjectives?

Adjective identification: Activity 2

Somehow, it didn't seem wise.

Is wise an adjective?

Derived nouns and composition

In this activity we will look at suffixes that can change adjectives and verbs into nouns.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 1

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided for you.

Anna was late. It annoyed me. → Anna's lateness annoyed me.

Jeff is shy. I didn’t notice this until the party. → I didn’t notice Jeff’s ___ until the party. I didn’t notice Jeff’s shyness until the party.

Derived nouns and composition: Activity 2

Complete the examples with nouns which are derived from the highlighted adjectives. The first answer is provided.

The peacekeeping forces withdrew. It led to civil war. → The withdrawal of the peacekeeping forces led to civil war.

Noun endings

Exploring suffixes and how they affect word class

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change verbs and adjectives into nouns. This process is a part of derivational morphology

Prefixes in adjectives

In this lesson, students will look at some common prefixes that can be added to adjectives and see how they change meanings.

Goals

  • Identify some common prefixes in adjectives.
  • Describe the meanings contributed by common adjective prefixes.
  • Experiment with acceptable and unacceptable prefixes for particular adjectives.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at adjectives with distinctive prefixes.

Writing an advertisement with adjectives

In this activity, you will write a brief entry advertisement that describes a product and makes it sound as attractive as possible.

Goals

  • Identify the adjectives in an online advertisement.
  • Write an original advertisement using an array of descriptive and effective adjectives.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will write Ebay advertisements to sell products. To make your item sound attractive you will need to describe it in detail, using a range of adjectives. 

Writing an advertisement with adjectives: Activity

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Approximate heights 16cm, 12cm and 8cm.

These little figures have a dense staple polyester filling. All felt used here is a good-quality wool blend. Heads are natural beechwood beads.

Suitable for gentle play or lovely Christmas stocking fillers.

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Adverb or adjective?

Work out whether the highlighted word is an adverb or an adjective

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is an adverb or an adjective:

Identify the adjectives

Click on the words that you think are adjectives to select or deselect them.

Y6 GPaS Test: Adjective or adverb?

Work out whether the highlighted word is an adjective or an adverb

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is an adjective or an adverb:

Y6 GPaS Test: Article or adjective?

Work out whether the highlighted word is an article or an adjective

In each of the following examples, indicate whether the highlighted word is an article or an adjective:

Y6 GPaS Test: Identify the adjectives

Find the adjectives in a range of examples

Identify the adjectives in each of the following examples. Click on the word (or words) to select or deselect them.

Adjective phrases

An adjective phrase is a phrase whose Head word is an adjective. As with other phrases adjective phrases can consist of only one word (the Head) or of more than one word.

Note that the National Curriculum stipulates that phrases should have at least two words, though it concedes in the Glossary entry for noun phrases that "Some grammarians recognise one-word phrases."

Here are some examples of adjective phrases in sentences. The phrases are marked in square brackets and the Head is highlighted.

Adjectives

A very simple definition of adjectives that has sometimes been used is that they are ‘descriptive’ words. But this isn’t really very helpful. Lots of word classes can be ‘descriptive’: a noun like funeral is fairly descriptive, as is the verb leap. We might also say that the adverb quickly describes the verb ran in a sentence like He quickly ran.

Adjectives: Avoiding adjective overuse

Many writers of fiction use adjectives as a quick way of telling us what a character is like: how they appear, how they feel, how we should view them. Look at the following examples of how adjectives are used to provide a basic description:

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