October 19, 2020

5 Simple Ways to Identify an Adjective

Reading Time: 2 minutes

With the below points in mind, never again will you find it difficult to identify an adjective in a sentence .

The first thing you need to know is that almost any word can perform the function of an adjective in the English sentence.

What this means is that it is not only words traditionally known to be adjectives that function as adjectives in sentences.

How to easily identify an adjective

It is most likely that any word with at least one of the following characteristics is an adjective.

1.      Words which qualify nouns within a noun phrase are generally adjectives e.g. native son, country music, indigenous people, awesome remarks, basic idea, cold weather, social media.

2.      Words built from other words with the following endings are usually (not always) adjectives

–         ic – metallic, pathetic, fantastic, futuristic, academic, oceanic

–         some – troublesome, unwholesome, irksome, worrisome

–         ous – generous, fabulous, enormous, dangerous, spacious

–         ate- unfortunate, compassionate,

–         ful – fanciful, joyful, dreadful, woeful, thankful, regretful,

–         ive – massive, corrosive, abusive, restive, imaginative, compulsive

–         ish – yellowish, foolish, childish, feverish

–         ble – unbelievable, valuable, unpalatable, contemptible

–         ar – lunar, cellular, popular, polar, rectangular

–         ed/en – individualized, forgotten, endangered, computerized

–         al – natural, artificial, conjugal, marital, facial, optional

–         ian/ean/an – Indian, herculean, European, African, Australian

3.       Adjectives usually answer the question: Which kind?  or Which?

To identify an adjective, therefore, you can help yourself by asking these questions.

Consider the example below.

  •  I live in a presidential palace.

Question: In which kind of palace do you live?

Answer: Presidential palace.

“Presidential” thus qualifies/specifies “palace” and is, therefore, an adjective.

4.      Some hyphenated compound words are adjectives

Another simple way to identify an adjective is to look out for hyphenated compound words within a noun phrase. You may go ahead to ask and answer the question which/which kind? just to be sure.

Here are some examples of compound words functioning as adjectives.

  • die-hard criminal,
  • state-of-the-art mansion,
  • up-and-coming musician

5.      An adjective can be replaced by another adjective.

In that case the grammatical correctness of the sentence as a whole does not change.

  • This is a family property.

“Family” in the above example can be said to be an adjective because other well-known adjectives like cheap, new, valuable and so on can replace it in the sentence.

The words in bold below are adjectives

(a)  Attempted murder

(b)  Clinical psychologist

(c)  Obvious insolence

(d)  Underlined words

So now you know.

Next time you need to identify an adjective in a sentence, use the above characteristics of adjectives to your advantage.

Thank you!

Ralph Nyadzi

Ralph has a passion for the teaching and learning of Language and Literature mainly because these two help him to understand and appreciate why people act the way they do. Over the past two decades, he has coached over 5000 students and adult learners to achieve their educational goals. Ralph is the founder and CEO of Cegast Academy.

View all posts by Ralph Nyadzi →

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