Hello lovely students! If being creative with language is your strength, the chances are you would like to know more about adjectives in the English language and how to use them. Adjectives, along with nouns, verbs and adverbs, are one of the four main parts of speech in the English language.

Adjectives do more than modify nouns. In traditional grammar, they describe nouns and pronouns in more depth, allowing English speakers to further detail their qualities.

However, were you aware that there are not one, not two, but 15 types of adjectives to describe nouns? You weren’t?!

In that case, then, let’s begin to look at these 15.

Close up of old English dictionary page with word adjective

1) Descriptive adjectives and their order

Before we do any of that though, I think it’s important for you to know exactly how an adjective phrase should be formed if you have a list of adjectives that you want to use to describe nouns.

As mentioned above, adjectives, particularly descriptive adjectives, give us more information about places, animals or people under nouns or pronouns. If we want to use multiple adjectives, however, there is an order to them that cannot be changed.

This adjective order is opinion, size, age, shape, colour, origin, material and purpose. Even if you are a native English speaker, you may not be aware of this order or use it unknowingly.

Look at this table for some descriptive adjectives that fit into those categories.

opinionlovely, awful, spectacular
sizebig, small, tiny
ageyoung, old, ancient
shaperound, square, star-shaped
colourblue, red, yellow
originJapanese, British, French
materialplastic, glass, wooden
purposecooking, cleaning, washing

Normally we use a maximum of three adjectives in any one adjective clause, so I wouldn’t try and use all of these types at once if I were you.

Now that I have cleared up how to use adjectives in order and in sentences, let’s take a look at the other 14.

How would you describe this table?

2) Comparative adjectives

Comparative adjectives describe two nouns. They are usually formed by using ‘er‘ at the end of the base adjective or ‘ier‘ if the base adjective ends in ‘y’. 

If the adjective has two or more syllables we use more or less to differentiate between the two nouns without changing the base adjective.

Paris is bigger than Cannes.

Foxes are more intelligent than frogs.

Fatima’s hair is longer than mine.

Cairo is more ancient than Dubai.

Cairo is extremely ancient

3) Superlative adjectives

Superlative adjectives describe nouns by suggesting which is the most supreme of those nouns. If the adjective is one syllable, the suffix est is added to the base form. However, those adjectives with two or more syllables tend to have most or least in front of the unchanged base adjective.

We add the definite article the to the superlative adjective.

This is the biggest supermarket I have been to.

He really is the nicest person.

The beaches in Greece are the most beautiful in Europe, in my opinion.

Humans are the most dangerous animal on the planet.

Greek beaches are famous worldwide

Comparative and superlative forms

Both comparative and superlative forms have three common adjectives which are irregular.


4) Absolute adjectives

An absolute adjective is an adjective that cannot be compared and therefore is not commonly used in comparative and superlative forms. Examples of these adjectives include: dead, main, unique, whole, entire, fatal and universal.

It would be odd to use these comparatively.

I am the main character in this show.

He ate the entire cake for breakfast.

Plate with slice of tasty homemade chocolate cake on table

5) Coordinate adjectives

Coordinate adjectives link two or more adjectives used to describe the same noun. They are either separated by a comma or the word and so the listener understands they are separate.

A bright, sunny bedroom.

It has been a productive and busy day.

A very bright bedroom

6) Appositive adjectives

An appositive adjective is a clause of two adjectives linked by the word and that comes after the noun. Usually, the appositive adjective clause fits itself between the noun clause and the second half of the sentence. The appositive adjective clause is separated by commas.

The city, big and vibrant, never sleeps.

Her dress, pink and floral, was the most disgusting dress I had ever seen.

Pink, floral dresses are not for everyone

7) Compound adjectives

A compound adjective is an adjective formed by two words that are then joined by a hyphen.

This weather is record-breaking.

I hate to be arrogant, but I am a well-educated woman.

A well-educated person writing

8) Participial adjectives

The participial adjective uses the same structure as the past participle (verb + ed) or the present participle (verb + ing).

When using verb + ing, it means that the noun we are describing caused emotion to happen. It is external.

That show was very interesting.

You are a very boring person.

When using verb + ed, it means we talk about how something or someone feels. It is internal.

I am very interested in this show.

I am bored because you are talking to me.

An extremely bored man

9) Proper adjectives

Proper adjectives are used to describe nouns from a particular time or place and are always capitalised. A proper adjective phrase includes Italian or French for places or Victorian or Neanderthal for time.

This Victorian manor is beautiful.

I love Italian marble.

Italian marble highly sought after

10) Denominal adjectives

Denominal adjectives are adjectives ending in these suffixes: -al, -ic, -ous, -esque, -ful, -less, -ly, -ish, -en, -ed, -y, -some. Common adjectives include malicious, friendly and spiteful.

I would consider Igor a friendly person.

He didn’t think any of his friends were as spiteful to choose a game like that.

Being friendly is good if you’re a nurse

11) Substantive adjectives

A substantive adjective is when an adjective is used in place of a noun. This is also known as a nominal adjective. Here, adjectives have the definite article the in front of them. Old and new are used a lot in this case, especially for the phrase out with the old and in with the new. Here are some more examples.

There is a bigger wealth gap between the rich and the poor now.

Separating the good from the bad is never easy.

We must take care of the young and the elderly.

Concept of rich and poor in a person

12) Demonstrative adjectives

A demonstrative adjective is used to know exactly where something or someone is in space or in time. Don’t worry this is not something from the future!

We tend to use demonstrative adjectives a lot. They are this, that, these and those.

Those shoes over there are mine.

This hat is my favourite.

Young fashionable woman in felt hat on city street

13) Possessive adjectives

Again, much like demonstrative adjectives, possessive adjectives are used every day by English speakers and function as possessive pronouns. A few possessive adjectives are its, whose and their.

Their huge house…

Its red tail…

The noun usually comes last when using possessive adjectives and a descriptive adjective is in the middle.

A huge house

14) Predicative adjectives

Predicative adjectives, or predicate adjectives as they are sometimes known, come after the noun as demonstrated in the following sentences.

The cat is massive.

The day has been busy.

The lion is a massive cat

15) Attributive adjectives

Attributive adjectives are adjectives that come before the noun.

The sunny day.

This is a big table.

A green meadow on a sunny day

Is that everything?

Absolutely not! Find out more about adjectives by clicking on the video below to my channel English with Lucy.