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An adjective (/æʤektɪv/) is a word used to describe nouns (including pronouns). For example, a tall girl; a red car; a long meeting.

Meaning[edit | edit source]

An adjective describes, i.e. changes the meaning of, a noun. The meaning of an adjective usually falls into one of several semantic categories which are opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, colour, origin, material, type and purpose.

Adjectives may or may not have gradability. Gradable adjectives, such as hungry, cold and fat,[1] contrast with absolute adjectives, such as dead and perfect.[2]

Many adjectives have antonyms.

The meaning of adjectives can be modified by adverbs.

Form[edit | edit source]

Class membership[edit | edit source]

Adjectives modify nouns and can be used in predicative position after be with no change in their meaning.

To distinguish adjectives from noun modifiers, we need to use the "predicative test". For example, green car means the same as the car is green, and so green is an adjective. However, in covid vaccine, covid is a noun modifier because it can’t be in predicative position; *the vaccine is covid. Some words can function as either adjectives or noun modifiers. The meaning of French teacher depends on context; if French is an adjective, then the teacher is French matches the context (i.e. the teacher is from France); however, if the meaning was a teacher who teaches French, then French is a noun modifier.

In traditional grammar, some words are included as adjectives that are not adjectives. So-called possessive adjectives (e.g. my, your) and demonstrative adjectives (this, that) are in fact pronouns employed as determiners.

Adjective position[edit | edit source]

Adjectives can go before a noun in attributive position, within the noun phrase; or they can go in predicative position, after a copular verb, constituting a subject complement; or more rarely, they can go in postnominal position, after a noun, also constituting a noun phrase.


  • the red car - The adjective "red" is in attributive position.
  • the car is red - The adjective "red" is in predicative position.
  • the monster unseen - The adjective "unseen" is in postnominal position.

Must follow adjective order.

English generally lacks adjective concord for either gender or number, unlike some other languages (particularly the romance languages).

Further reading[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]