Adjective

DEFINITION

In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to qualify a noun or noun phrase, giving more information about the object signified, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjective).

An adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun by describing, identifying, or quantifying it. It tells us more about the noun/pronoun it modifies. It answers the questions about the noun like: what kind, how many, and which one. An adjective actually can be a single word, a phrase, or a clause.

Form

An adjective can generally be categorized into one of four forms as the following:

A. Attributive Adjective

An attributive adjective is located before the noun/pronoun it describes or modifies. Since an attributive adjective doesn’t appear after a copula verb then it becomes the part of the noun phrase it modifies. In other words it is headed by the noun it modifies.

Examples:

  1. She has just bought a smart phone.
  2. They are equipped with advanced equipments.
  3. A happy family lives happily.

Smart, advanced and happy are all attributive adjectives. They modify the words phone, equipments and family and therefore are the parts of the noun phrases a smart phone, advanced equipments and a happy family.


B. Predicative Adjective

A predicative adjective appears after the noun it modifies. A predicative adjective doesn’t occur directly after the noun. It is linked to the noun or pronoun it modifies via a copula or other linking system. Since a predicative adjective functions as the predicate in a sentence then it modifies or describes the state of the subject.

Examples:

  • She is smart.
  • You look good.
  • Her idea sounds strange.

Smart, good and strange serve as the predicative adjectives which describe the subjects of the sentences above.
Note: Most adjectives actually can serve both as attributive and predicative, however a small number of them only function one or the other. Adjectives like main (the main function), entire (the entire students), and outright (outright nonsense) are exclusively function in attributive position. Meanwhile afraid (I’m afraid.), aghast (He’s aghast.) and alive (My grandma is still alive.) can only serve in predicative position.

Actually there’s a sentence frame which can be used easily to determine either an adjective serve as an attributive or predicative.

The … (attributive) girl is very…(predicative).

C. Absolute Adjective

There are some adjectives which can not be intensified or compared because of their meanings. We call such adjectives as absolute adjectives. And you can only modify absolute adjectives with adverbs like nearly or almost.

Examples:

  1. The most common example of absolute adjective is unique, which means not the same as anything or anyone else. You can not say that someone or something is more unique or most unique.
  2. The next is dead; somebody or something cannot be deader than somebody else.
  3. The other example is absolute (true or right in all situations), something absolute is surely can not be compared or intensified.
  4. Then perfect (as good, correct, or accurate as it is possible to be), perfect is also absolute. You can say that one’s score is almost perfect, yet his perfect score can not be more perfect than anyone else.
  5. We also have the word square as absolute adjective. You can say that something is square or not square. Or if you draw of a box without a ruler then the result may be nearly square.
  6. The other examples are essential (completely necessary), universal (present everywhere, applicable to all cases), immortal (living forever; never dying or decaying), supreme (most important, or most powerful, highest in rank or authority), infinite (very great, and seeming to have no limit), single (only one), double (consisting of two things or parts of the same type), round (shaped like a circle or cylinder), etc.

You can see that all adjectives above have absolute meanings, not relative. Therefore comparative degrees are worthless.

D. Nominal Adjective

A Nominal adjective is an adjective which functions as a noun. It can happen only if a noun is omitted and an attributive adjective is left behind.

Examples:

I gave him hot tea but he prefers the cool tea. In order to use the nominal adjective you must omit the noun tea in the cool tea. Then the sentence becomes I gave him hot tea but he prefers the cool. Actually the cool is short for the cool one (tea). Then we call cool as a nominal adjective.

Or it can happen to certain adjectives which are used to represent a class by describing one of the attributes of the class. For example the poor represents a class of people who are in similar financial condition. The other examples are the old, the sick, the wealthy, the blind, the innocent, etc. However other nominal adjectives do not refer fully to classes of people; they definitely do not represent classes at all such as the good, the contrary, the opposite, etc.

There are also some nominal adjectives which refer to major sub-class of nationalities such as the Japanese, the British, the French, etc. Yet not all nationalities correspond to nominal adjectives. Many of them are represented by plural, proper nouns such as the Russians, the Poles, the Germans, the Americans, etc.

After all comparative and superlative adjectives can also be used as nominal adjectives such as The best is what we want. You are the greatest of all.

Note: Actually nominal adjectives have both qualities of a noun and an adjective such as:

• they can be preceded by a determiner, typically the definite article the;
• they can be modified by adjective such as the poor old;
• they are gradable, the extremely poor, the very wealthy;
• many can have comparative and superlative forms, the richer, the richest.

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