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Adjectives: Basic rules you need to know

Adjectives: Basic rules you need to know

Adjectives, those little words that add flavor to our writing and daily conversations, can sometimes cause quite a stir of confusion.

Is ‘fast’ an adjective or an adverb? Why does the sound of ‘an old small house’ brings an unpleasant creak to the ears?

In this article, we’re going to take a look at the basic rules of Adjectives and how you can weave them into your writing seamlessly.

What Are Adjectives

Adjectives are words that modify or describe a noun.

They can be used to describe the quantities (huge, funny, hardworking) or quantity (many, few, hundreds) of a given noun - either independently or in comparison to another.

How Are Adjectives Used In Sentences

Adjectives can be used in two primary ways: attributively and predicatively.

When used attributively, adjectives come just before the noun they modify, such as 'blue sky' or 'warm tea.' These adjectives enhance the noun's qualities. When used predicatively, adjectives come after linking verbs and describe the subject, like 'The sky is blue' or 'The tea is warm.' Here, the adjectives provide essential information about the subject's state.

Both forms of adjectives work in harmony to convey nuances and vivid imagery in sentences. So be sure to learn how to weave them into your writing. However, not all adjectives can occur in both the attributive and predicative position.

For example:

Attributive: 'The former president attended the event.'
Predicative: 'She was afraid of the dark.'

In the examples above, the adjective 'former' is exclusively used attributively to specify a past role, and the adjective 'afraid' is used solely predicatively to describe a state of fear.

What Are Coordinate Adjectives

Coordinate adjectives are two or more adjectives that modify a given noun in a sentence to the same degree. They are often separated by a comma or the word ‘and’. You can switch the order of these words without changing the meaning.

For example, you can say 'a beautiful, serene garden' or 'a serene, beautiful garden' – both mean the same thing. Here are three more examples: 'a tall, sturdy tree,' 'an old, dusty bookshelf,' and "a bright, colorful painting.' These describing words team up to give a clear picture of the things they're talking about.

Adjectives vs Adverbs

Adjectives and adverbs are both parts of speech that add extra details to sentences, but they do so in different ways.

Adjectives modify nouns, making them more specific or giving them characteristics. For instance, in the phrase ‘blue sky,’ ‘blue’ is the adjective describing the sky's color.

Adverbs, on the other hand, modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, providing information about how, when, or where an action occurs. In the sentence ‘She ran quickly,’ ‘quickly’ is the adverb describing how she ran.

Here are three examples to illustrate the difference:

‘He drives a fast car’ (adjective describing the car)
‘She sings beautifully’ (adverb describing how she sings)
‘They arrived late’ (adverb describing when they arrived)

Together, adjectives and adverbs enhance our writing or dinner conversations by giving more insight into the things we talk about and the actions we describe.

So, Is 'Fast' An Adjective?

Some words can be used either as adjectives or adverbs without being changed (eg. fast, hard, early).

Let’s take ‘fast’ for example:

‘She runs fast’ - ‘fast’ is an adverb describing how she runs. 
‘She is a fast runner’ - ‘fast’ is used as an adjective describing her running ability.

Let’s take ‘hard’ for example:

‘He works hard’ - ‘hard’ is an adverb that showcases his level of effort.
‘He has a hard job’ - ‘hard’ is used as an adjective to describe the job's difficulty. 

If you’re still unsure whether a word is being used as an adverb or adjective, simply look at the word it’s modifying. If it’s modifying a verb, adjective, or adverb, it’s an adverb. If it’s modifying a noun or pronoun, it’s an adjective. Easy.

Order Of Adjectives

Ever wondered why a ‘big red dog’ sound pleasing to the ears, while a ‘red big dog’ feels awkward and unnatural?

The truth is, while we don’t often pause to consider the order in which we place adjectives, there's a system to it!

When using multiple adjectives, using them in a certain order helps your reader to understand things more clearly. Think of the order of adjectives like arranging toppings on a pizza. Following the right order makes sure your description makes sense, just like putting cheese before the pepperoni on a pizza.

Option #1: ‘I saw a small, old, round, wooden table.’
Option #2: ‘I saw a wooden old small round table.’

Wooden old small round table - Option #2 sounds a bit like a word salad, doesn’t it?

Following the order as shown in Option #1 is key to writing clear sentences that flow seamlessly. At the end of the day, it's all about serving up sentences that people can easily munch on!

For more information on the Order of Adjectives, check out this article.

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