Adjective - An Overview

What is an Adjective?

Adjectives are words that describe, identify, or quantify Nouns and Pronouns. They are tools for answering questions such as "Which?" "How many?" and "What kind?". This part of speech is also distinctive among other word classes for its comparative (e.g. greater) and superlative (e.g. greatest) forms.  

What are the Types of Adjectives?

Based on their functions, Adjectives or Adjective phrases can be classified into three broad types:

1. Attributive Adjectives 

Adjectives are attributive when they premodify the head of a noun phrase. Intensifiers such as emphasizers, amplifiers, and downtoners are the best examples of this functional type of Adjectives.

  • Articles: the gladiator, the president, a dictator, an ugly duckling 
  • Intensifiers: a definite (emphasizer) loss, a complete (amplifier) moron, slight (downtoner) effort  

2. Predicative Adjectives

Adjectives are predicative when they function as subject or object complements. Many adjectives that function as attributive also act as predicative, with an exception of a few: 

  • Most adjectives that begin with letter a: The man was asleep/angry/apathetic/absurd/affable.
  • Adjectives that take complementation: fond of, subject to, tantamount to, afraid of, conscious of

3. Postpositive Adjectives

Adjectives are postpositive when they immediately follow the noun or pronoun they modify. 

  • With Indefinite Pronouns: Don't you have something bigger/smaller/nicer than this?
  • Institutionalized expressions: court martial, notary public, attorney general
  • the only player suitable, the greatest insult imaginable, the best assistant available

In the succeeding lessons, each functional type of adjectives will be discussed deeply. 


  • A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech, and Jan Svartvik (Longman Group Ltd., 1985) 
  • English Plain and Simple by Jose A. Carillo (The Manila Times Publishing Corp., 2008)
Designed by Neil Yamit