Series index: English Parts of Speech Overview
Adjectives describe nouns. Simple as that. Know Your Adjectives has grammatical information about any adjective.
Adjectives are either attributive or predicative. Attributive adjectives appear before the noun (the red car), while predicative adjectives appear after the noun and a linking verb (the car is red). Almost every adjective can be attributive and predicative, with a few exceptions (main, only, etc.).
Only Gradable Adjectives can have comparative and superlative forms (faster, fastest, older, oldest); Non-gradable Adjectives (like male, female, unique, etc.) can only occur in their basic form, called the positive form (fast, old, male, female). See Comparison of Adjectives for a short review.
English has an unofficial rule regarding the order of ajdectives; for example, the wooden, red box doesn’t sound quite right, but the red, wooden box does. To understand these subtle rules, people have organized adjectives based on their meaning (size, color, material, etc.). See Adjective Order in English for a quick look and Order of Adjectives in English for a detailed table and analysis.
Types of Adjectives
- Adjectives of Relation - childlike, pillowy, bookish, etc. Adjectives of relation are formed by adding a suffix to a noun. Some adjectives of relation, called non-standard or irregular adjectives, come from a root word other than the common noun (bovine instead of cow-like, marine instead of sea-related). See the List of Irregular English Adjectives.
- Proper and Common Adjectives - Swedish chocolate vs. dark chocolate. See Capitalizing Proper Adjectives for a short review. Most proper adjectives denote nationality; see the list of Nouns and Adjectives Denoting Nationality and the List of Adjectival Forms of Place Names.
- Eponymous Adjectives - Shakespearean, Victorian, Boolean, etc. Eponymous adjectives are (usually) proper adjectives derived from a person’s name. See the List of Eponymous Adjectives in English.
- Participles - cascading waterfall, broken table, etc. Participles are verbs used as adjectives, formed from a verb's present participle (writing, wrecking) or past participle (written, wrecked).
- Attributive Nouns or Noun Adjuncts - business partner, strawberry lemonade, etc. Attributive nouns act like attributive adjectives, but not predicative ones; you can't say the lemonade is strawberry, for example. Don't confuse attributive nouns with compound nouns; the attributive noun is the noun acting as an adjective (strawberry), and the compound noun is the combination of the two nouns (strawberry lemonade).
- Compound Adjectives - pinkish-purple, mind-boggling, etc. Compound adjectives, just like compound nouns, can be formed from many combinations of other parts of speech. In fact, compound adjectives are often just compound nouns (strawberry lemonade) used as attributive nouns (strawberry-lemonade color).
Traditional grammar and many dictionaries consider determiners a type of adjective, but Wikipedia’s Determiner entry points out some key differences. Here are the five main types of determiners:
- Articles - the, a, an.
- Possessive Adjectives (or possessive determiners) - my, your, his, her, its, our, and their.
- Demonstrative Adjectives (or determinative demonstratives) - this, that, these, and those. Wikipedia explains the difference between demonstrative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives.
- Interrogative Adjectives (or interrogative determiners) - what, which, and whose. Unlike interrogative pronouns, these are used with a noun: What book is that? instead of What is that?
- Quantifiers - many, few, half, etc. Numbers (one, two, three) and ordinals (first, second, third) are also considered determiners.
Simply put, adverbs describe everything except nouns. They have many different uses and can appear virtually anywhere in a sentence; see this note on Adverbs As a “Catch All” Category. Also be sure to check out Know Your Adverbs, which offers grammatical information about any adverb.
Types of Adverbs
- Adverbs of Manner - slowly, happily, carefully, etc. These also include proper adverbs, like Islamically and Shakespeareanly.
- Adverbs of Degree - very, extremely, somewhat, etc.
- Adverbs of Time - now, today, etc.
- Adverbs of Frequency - often, daily, annually, etc.
- Adverbs of Place - here, there, etc.
- Interrogative Adverbs – where, when, how, and why. See Interrogative Word.
- Indefinite Adverbs - anywhere, sometime, somehow, etc.
- Relative Adverbs - where, when, and why. These introduce relative clauses. Note: some consider relative adverbs the same as interrogative adverbs.
- Adverbials - Adverbials include adverbs, adverbial phrases, and adverbial clauses -- any group of words functioning as an adverb within a sentence. The three types of adverbials are:
- Adjuncts - early this morning, once upon a time, every other Friday, etc.
- Conjuncts or Conjunctive Adverbs - therefore, however, thus, etc.
- Disjuncts or Sentence Adverbs - Seriously, I can't. Hopefully, we'll survive. These are also called sentence modifiers, adverbial disjuncts, and sometimes even disjunctive adverbs.
Note: every source I’ve found categorizes adverbs differently. After extensive reading, I’ve concluded that the adverb is undoubtedly the most disorganized (and annoying) part of speech in English. I’ll update this post when I have a better understanding of linguistics.
Like adjectives, not every adverb has a comparative and superlative form; most gradable adverbs are those describing manner. See this article on the Comparison of Adverbs.
Adverbs also have an unofficial rule regarding their order of use. Check out this interesting explanation of the Order of Adverbs.
Finally, here are some tips to avoid common adverb errors: