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:

  • Identify the adjectives.
  • Try to rephrase the sentences to express the same general meaning, but without using any adjectives.

Looking at the first example, how do we convey that someone is sad without using the adjective sad? We might say that someone was crying, or that someone felt sadness or felt grief, and so on. Have the students come up with as many paraphrases as they can.

Then ask the following questions:

  • Can you see any other types of word that you’ve used more of than in the original versions?
  • Did you discover any tricks for making this work?
  • Are there any examples that you found harder than others? Why might that have been?
  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!

Following this, ask students to experiment with some of the adjectives in this text (from The Iron Woman by Ted Hughes):

The marsh was always a lonely place. Now she felt the loneliness. As she stood there, looking up, the whole bluish and pinky sky of soft cloud moved slowly. She looked again along the drain, where the reeds leaned all one way, bowing gently in the light wind.

  • What happens if you remove an adjective? What difference does it make to the story world?
  • What happens if you replace an adjective? How does it affect the meaning of the noun it is modifying?
  • What happens if you add an adjective? Is it necessary?


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