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Overview of Adjectives

We use adjectives to describe nouns and pronouns. Here are some examples of adjectives.

bigsmallhappyinteresting
interestedredgreenhistorical
fascinatingunbelievabledirtyfast

We can use adjectives in a couple of different ways.

1. We can use an adjective at the end of a sentence to describe the subject.
  • The dog is fast.
  • The car is red.
  • Nick is funny.
  • She is beautiful.
Use "and" to connect two adjectives.
  • The shirt is black and green.
  • The lions were big and scary.
  • The house is nice and clean.
  • The ice cream was cool and delicious.
If there are more than 2 adjectives, then use commas (,) to separate them and use "and" in between the last two adjectives.
  • She is funny, nice, and interesting.
  • The dress was long, elegant, and expensive.
2. We can use adjectives before nouns.
  • The big dog is running.
  • The cute girl looked at me.
  • We could smell the delicious cookies.
  • I bought a new phone.
  • We went to a beautiful beach.
Note: Articles "a", "an", and "the" go before the adjective when adjectives are used before a noun.
  • She bought cute a dress.
  • She bought a cute dress.
3. We can use adjectives before a noun and after a "be verb" in the same sentence.
  • The big dog is cute.
  • The beautiful house is too expensive.
4. We make negative sentences by using the word "not".

Subject + be verb + not + adjective...
  • Bill is not nice.
  • The dogs are not big.
  • The building isn't old.
  • The books weren't interesting.
  • The sunset was not gorgeous.
5. Sometimes we can form the opposite adjective by using a prefix. Here are the most common prefixes for negative adjectives. They mean "not".
  • dis-
  • im-
  • in-
  • im-
  • ir-
So, we can make negative sentences with adjectives in two ways.
  • I am not happy. = I am unhappy.
Here are some examples.

PositiveNegative
acceptableunacceptable
considerateinconsiderate
politeimpolite
properimproper
possibleimpossible
respectfuldisrespectful
responsibleirresponsible
perfectimperfect
matureimmature
imaginableunimaginable
honestdishonest

Not all adjectives change like this. And there is no clear rule to remember which prefix to use, but there are patterns. For example, adjectives that begin with "r" almost always add the prefix "ir-".
  • regular / irregular
  • responsible / irresponsible
But there are always exceptions.
  • Respectful / disrespectful
If we do not know the prefix for a word, it is not a problem. We can always use the word "not" to make a negative sentence.
  • dishonest = not honest
  • irresponsible = not responsible
  • unimaginable = not imaginable
  • immature = not mature
  • impossible = not possible
Remember that some words can add a prefix and also have another word that means the opposite.
  • happy / unhappy = sad
  • mature / immature = childish
Some words do not.
  • big / small
6. If we use many adjectives together in a sentence, then we should follow this order. If one is not used in the sentence, then skip it and go to the next one.
  1. Size (small, big, tall, etc.)
  2. An opinion or quality (beautiful, good, strange, etc.)
  3. Age or temperature (new, hot, ancient, etc.)
  4. Shape (round, square, etc.)
  5. Color (green, black, red, etc.)
  6. Origin (German, Korean, Brazilian, etc.)
  7. Material (glass, cotton, silk, etc.)
Usually, we do not use many adjectives in a row, so this is not very important. However, if we do not follow this order, then our sentence will sound strange to native speakers.

We do not need commas in between the adjectives if they are from a different category such as size and origin.
  • I have a green beautiful glass old vase.
  • I have a beautiful old green glass vase.
We will talk about this more in another lesson.

7. Adjective clauses perform the same function as an adjective. They tell more about a noun. We use adjective clauses when we need to tell more than an adjective can explain.
  • I want to go to a place that has a beautiful beach.
"That has a beautiful beach" tells more about "place". So, it does the same job as an adjective.

We can always just use an adjective, but an adjective clause lets us be more specific.
  • I want to eat some spicy food.
  • I want to eat some food that is so spicy that I will sweat.
We will cover a lot more about adjectives in the following lessons. There are also many lessons to help you learn English grammar, speak fluent English, and learn everything else you want to about the English language.

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