What is an adjective?

An adjective is a descriptive word which describes nouns and pronouns (objects or people). Old, clean, purple and disgusting are all examples of adjectives.

  • They can be used to describe an object:
  • An old man.
  • My glass is clean.
  • His car is purple.
  • Your lunch looks disgusting.

Examples of adjectives

adjective examples - a red bus
adjective examples - good singer
adjective examples - huge spider
adjective examples - lucky pants
adjective examples - party shoes
adjective examples - pretty flowers
adjective examples - sick baby
adjective examples - tired man
adjective examples - trendy lady

where to place an adjective

There are 3 places an adjective can go in relation to the noun in a sentence.

Firstly, an adjective can go before the noun or pronoun. These are called attributed adjectives.

attributed adjectives definition and examples

An adjective can go directly after the noun or pronoun. These are called postpositive adjectives.

postpositive adjectives definition and examples

An adjective can go after the noun or pronoun. These are called predicative adjectives. They use a linking verb to tell us what the subject is.

predicative adjectives definition and examples

Function of adjectives

The purpose of an adjective is to make the sentence clearer and more understandable to the listener.

For example, I am in a queue and I say, “Look at that man.”

function of adjectives - to make the sentence clearer

Which man? There are lots of men in this picture, I need more information to help me decide.

“The man in the checked t-shirt.”

function of adjectives - to make the sentence clearer

Now we’re getting somewhere, but there are a few men wearing checked
t-shirts. Can we describe him a bit more?

“The man in the red and white checked t-shirt.” Can you spot him?

function of adjectives - to make the sentence clearer

Order of adjectives in a sentence

As I’ve just shown you above, to make it easier for the listener to understand, you can use more than one adjective to describe an object. If you do, there is an order that we tend to follow. Natives speakers have this order ingrained in their brains, but some aren’t even aware there is an order.

The good news is that It doesn’t really matter that much (only if you want perfect English). The listener will still be able to understand.

Here is the order with some example adjectives.

order of adjectives table

Adjectives practice

Now it’s your turn to practice. Have a go at describing these objects using more than one adjective. Remember to follow the correct order and be as creative as you like.

adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture
adjectives practice - describe the picture

Types of adjectives – compound adjectives

A compound adjective is when two or more adjectives join together to describe the same noun. We add a hyphen (-) between the two adjectives.

Let’s take a look.

compound adjectives - fat-free snack
compound adjectives - good-looking lady
compound adjectives - green-eyed girl
compound adjectives - high-school students
compound adjectives -last-minute flight
compound adjectives - man-eating lion
compound adjectives - old-fashioned clothes
compound adjectives - six-month-old calf
compound adjectives - smoke-free club

Compound adjectives with numbers​

Numbers are classed as adjectives as they describe an amount. For example: I have two big dogs.

Compound adjectives can include numbers. For example: I have a four-year-old son.

Here is an important tip for you to know if you want to fine tune those speaking skills:

We don’t use an ‘s’ at the end of compound adjectives with numbers. Even if the number is plural, we still drop the ‘s’.

compound adjectives with numbers

Here are a few more examples of compound adjectives with numbers. Have a look and practice saying them without the ‘s’.

Can you think of any others?

compound adjectives with numbers - 400-page report
compound adjectives with numbers - four-hour journey
compound adjectives with numbers - ten-minute break
compound adjectives with numbers - ten-year-old chair
compound adjectives with numbers - three-storey house
compound adjectives with numbers - two-horse race
compound adjectives with numbers - two-week holiday

Do you want to learn more about adjectives?

This page has given you a quick overview about adjectives. You should now be able to spot them easily in a sentence.

As they are very common in the English language, there are more ways to use them and some hints and tricks to help you. Click the links below to learn more about adjectives.