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English Grammar Adjective Rules and Uses

What is an adjective?
Adjectives are the words that describe the qualities of a noun or pronoun in a given sentence.

Examples of Adjectives
Adjective Before the Noun (Attributive Adjectives): An adjective usually comes directly before the noun it describes.

Old man
Green coat
Cheerful one (here ‘one’ is a pronoun)
Adjective After the Noun (Predicative Adjectives): An adjective can come after the noun. In the following examples, the adjectives follow linking verbs (was, looks, and seems) to describe the noun or pronoun.

Jack was old.
It looks green.
He seems cheerful.
Consider the following and tell which sentence is correct?

Flowers are plucked freshly.
Flowers are plucked fresh.
Sentence 2 is correct as an adjective is correctly used with a verb when some quality of the subject rather than a verb is to be expressed.

Here, fresh describes the word Flowers (a noun) and not plucked (a verb).

Rules Regarding Demonstrative Adjective
‘This‘ and ‘that‘ are used with the singular nouns and ‘these‘ and ‘those‘ are used with plural nouns.
For example:

This mango is sour.
These mangoes are sour.
That boy is industrious
Those boys are industrious.
‘This‘ and ‘these‘ indicate something near to the speaker while ‘that‘ and ‘those‘ indicate something distant to the speaker.
For example:

This girl sings.
These girls sing.
That girl sings.
Those girls sing.
Rules regarding Distributive Adjectives
‘Each‘ is used when reference is made to the individuals forming any group. ‘Each‘ is also used when the number of the group is limited and definite.
For example:

Each child was reading a different book.
I was in Shimla for five days and it rained each day.
‘Every’ is used when reference is made to the total group or when the number is indefinite.
For example:

Every seat was taken.
I go to a movie every week.
Leap year falls in every fourth year.
Each, either, neither and every are always followed by the singular noun.
For example:

Each boy must take his turn.
Every word of it is false.
Neither accusation is true.
Rules Regarding Adjectives of Quantity
Uses of Some and Any
‘Some’ is used in affirmative sentences to express quantity or degree. (lesser number or quantity)
For example:

I shall buy some bananas.
Add some sugar to my coffee.
Some water was still there in the glass.
‘Some’ is also used to ask negative questions in which helping verb or the auxiliary verb is negative.
Can’t you get me some water?
Didn’t he give you some information?
‘Any’ is used in the negative or interrogative sentences to express quantity or degree. Any is used for describing the sense danger, after the words such as hardly, barely, scarcely.
For example:

I shall not buy any bananas.
Have you bought any bananas?
If you feel any danger just give me a call.
I have hardly any money with me.
But some is an exception to the above rule. Some is used in interrogative sentences, which are commands or requests.
For example:

Will you please lend me some money?
Uses of Little, A little and The little
‘Little‘ is used for non-countable objects. Little means not much. So use of the word little has a negative meaning.
For example:

You know little about the incident as you were not present there.
There is little hope of his recovery.
He has little appreciation of hard work.
A little means some though not much. It denotes very less quantity of something. So, use of ‘a little‘ has a positive meaning.
For example:

A little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.
There is a little hope of his recovery.
He has a little appreciation of hard work.
‘The little‘ means not much but all there is.
For example:

The little amount that he had with him was not enough for survival.
The little information he had was quite reliable.
The little knowledge of management he possessed was not sufficient to stand him in good stead.
Uses of Few, A Few and The Few
‘Few‘ is used for countable objects (few means less amount). ‘Few‘ mean not many. So use of the word ‘few‘ has a negative meaning.
(Few = Negative = Nothing)

For example:

Few blessings were showered upon him.
Few men are free from faults.
‘A few‘ means some. So use of ‘a few’ has a positive meaning.
(A few = Some)

For example:

A few men are free from faults.
She asked for a few sweets.
‘The few‘ mean not many, but all there are.
(The Few = Some but all)

For example:

The few remarks that he made were very good.
The few boys that were present in the class did not bring their books.
Only uncountable nouns follow much, little, some, enough, sufficient, and whole.
For example:

I ate some rice.
There are not enough spoons.
Uses of Much, Many and A lot of
‘Much‘ is used in the sense of enough but in case of uncountable nouns.
For example:

He did much drama for such a trifle.
How much petrol is in the car?
‘Many‘ is used for countable nouns.
For example:

How many people were at the meeting?
Not many of the students understood the lesson.
‘A lot of‘ and ‘Lots of‘ is used in the sense of a large amount with both countable and uncountable nouns. ‘A lot of’ is a little more formal sounding than ‘lots of’
For example:

A lot of people work here.
Lots of people work here.
Rules Regarding Interrogative Adjectives
‘What‘ is used in the general sense (when the options are unknown) and ‘which‘ is used in a selective sense (when the options are known).
For example:

What car will they give us? (the speaker does not know the choice of cars available)
Which car will they give us? (the speaker does know the choice of cars available.)
Which of you haven’t brought your book?
What manner of man is he?
Rules Regarding Degrees of Comparison of Adjectives
The comparative form ending in ‘er’ is used when we are comparing one quality in two persons.
For example:

Anjali is wiser than Rahul.
But if we wish to compare two qualities in the same person then the comparative form ending in ‘er’ is not used.
For example:

Anjali is wise than brave.
When two objects are compared with each other, the latter term of comparison must exclude the former.
For example:

Delhi is bigger than any other city in India. (correct)
Delhi is bigger than any city in India. (incorrect)
In sentence 2, we are saying Delhi is bigger than Delhi, as any city in India includes Delhi also. And this is obviously wrong.

In a comparison by means of a superlative, the latter term should include the former.
For example:

Delhi is the biggest of all cities in India.
Of all men he is the strongest.
Kindly note the difference between this and the previous rule.

Later and latest refer to time.
For example:

He came later than I expected.
This is the latest news.
Latter and last refer to position.
For example:

The last player could not bat as he was injured.
The latter chapters are very interesting.
‘Latter‘ is used when there are two only, ‘last‘ when there are more than two.
For example:

Of Manohar, Syam and Joshi, the latter is a driver. (Incorrect)
Of Manohor, Syam and Joshi, the last is a driver. (Correct)
‘Elder‘ and ‘eldest‘ are used only of persons (usually members of the same family).
For example:

My elder sister is doing MBA from IIM Ahemdabad
My eldest brother is getting married today.
‘Older‘ and ‘oldest‘ are used of both persons and things.
For example:

This is the oldest building in the city.
Anthony is the oldest boy in the class.
Further means more distant or advanced whereas farther is a variation of further and means at a distance – both the words can be used to indicate physical distance.
For example:

No one discussed the topic further.
Calcutta is farther from the equator than Colombo.
The comparative degree is generally followed by ‘than’, but comparative adjectives ending in ‘is, are, was or were‘ followed by the preposition ‘to’.
For example:

Akshay is inferior to Aamir in intelligence.
Aamir is superior to Akshay in intelligence.
He is junior to me.
Who was captain prior to Azhar?
Adjectives such as square, round, perfect, eternal, universal, unique do not admit of different degrees. So they cannot be compared.
Thus strictly speaking we cannot say that a thing is more square, more round or more perfect.

But sometimes we do make exceptions to this rule.

For example:

This is the most perfect specimen I have seen.
When the comparative form is used to express selection from two of the same kind or class, it is followed by ‘of’ and preceded by ‘the’.
For example:

Ramesh is stronger of the two boys.
When ‘than‘ or ‘as‘ is followed by the third person pronoun, the verb is to be repeated.
For example:

Ram is not as clever as his brother is.
When ‘than‘ or ‘as‘ is followed by first or second person pronoun, the verb can be omitted.
For example:

He is more intelligent than you.
In comparing two things or classes of things the comparative should be used.
For example:

Of two evils choose the lesser (not least).
Which is the better (not best) of the two?
A very common form of error is exemplified in the following sentence.
The population of London is greater than any town in India.
The population of London is greater than that of any town in India.
Sentence 2 is correct as the comparison is between the population of London and the population of any town in India.

Double comparatives and superlatives should be avoided.
For example:

Seldom had the little town seen a more costlier funeral. (Incorrect)
Seldom had the little town seen a costlier funeral. (Correct)
Seldom had the little town seen a more costly funeral. (Correct)
Preferable has the force of comparative and is followed by ‘to‘. Phrase ‘more preferable’ should not be used.
For example:

Coffee is more preferable to tea. (Incorrect)
Coffee is preferable to tea. (Correct)
‘Less‘ refers to quantity whereas ‘fewer‘ refers to number.
For example:

No fewer than fifty miners were killed in the explosion.
We do not sell less than ten kg of tea.
If there is a gradual increase it is generally expressed with two comparatives and not with positives.
For example:

It grew hot and hot. (Incorrect)
It grew hotter and hotter. (Correct)
Other Common Rules
‘Verbal’ means ‘of or pertaining to words’ whereas ‘oral’ means ‘delivered by word of mouth or not written’. Hence the opposite of written is oral, not verbal.
For example:

His written statement differs in several important respects from his oral (not verbal) statement
The boy was sent with an verbal message to the doctor.
‘Common’ means shared by all concerned. If a fact is common knowledge, it means the knowledge of the fact is shared by all.

Everyone knows about it. ‘Mutual’ means in relation to each other. If you and I are mutual admirers, it means I admire you and you admire me. We might also have a common admirer who admires both of us.
We started smoking on the advice of a mutual friend. (Incorrect)
We started smoking on the advice of a common friend (Correct)
It is apparent that there are two or more than two of us. Apart from us, there is a person (friend). Since he is a friend to all of us, this friend is being shared by all of us. So, he is a common friend.
Now, look at this sentence.

For example:

We started smoking on mutual advice.
It means I advised, you to smoke and you advised me to smoke.

Special uses of ‘One’
‘one‘ (adjective/pronoun) used with another/others.
For example:

One (boy) wanted to read, another /others wanted to watch TV.
One day he wanted his lunch early, another day he wanted it late.
‘one’ can be used before day/week/month/year/summer/winter etc. or before the name of the day or month to denote a particular time when something happened.
For example:

One night there was a terrible storm.
One winter the snow fell early.
One day a telegram arrived.
‘one day‘ can also be used to mean ‘at some future date’.
For example:

One day you’ll be sorry you treated him so badly. (‘Someday’ would also be possible.)
Some Common Errors
These Kind of questions is often asked in the examinations. (Incorrect)
This kind of question is often asked in the examinations. (Correct)
He is as good if not better than his brother. (Incorrect)
He is as good as if not better than his brother. (Correct)
The future do not hold much for you. (Incorrect)
The future does not hold much for you. (Correct)
NEXT: Conjunction Rules

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