Descriptive adjective in English

If I asked you to describe your best friend or the job you are doing currently, the words you’d use to describe them would be descriptive adjectives. Knowingly or unknowingly, we describe people, things, or places. This post helps us master what a descriptive adjective is, and how to use it in a sentence correctly.

What are adjectives?

Adjectives are words that give information about a noun/pronoun. Most adjectives in English are descriptive adjectives.

What is a descriptive adjective?

Descriptive adjective definition: it is a word that gives information about a noun; it describes or talks about a quality or a feature of the noun it modifies. It either comes just before a noun in a noun phrase or after a linking verb.

Let’s take some examples and understand how exactly descriptive adjectives, also known as qualitative adjectives, work.

  1. He is a smart teacher.

In the sentence, ‘smart’ is a descriptive adjective as it’s describing the noun ‘person’. The indefinite article ‘a’ coming before the adjective ‘smart’ is also working as an adjective, but it is a determiner that gives information about a noun; it is not a descriptive adjective.

  • Riya is beautiful.

Noun = Riya
Descriptive adjective = beautiful (describing the physical quality of the person)

  • They live in a huge house.

Noun = house
Descriptive adjective = huge (describing the size of the house)

  • Some people say that the earth is flat, not round.

Noun = earth
Descriptive adjective = flat, round (describing the shape of the noun ‘earth’)

  • I have participated in many singing competitions.

(Here, the word ‘singing’ is modifying the noun ‘competitions’.)

  • We have some office work to do.

(Here, the word ‘office’, which often works as a noun, is describing the noun ‘work’.)

More examples:

  • They got an amazing gift last year.
  • Your sister is cute.
  • Max bought a small brown chair last night.
  • He is a renowned American writer.
  • Look at the old man playing with those small kids.
  • We have dediced to stay at a cheap Indian hotel nearby our place.
  • A skilled muscular guy can beat that scary fighter.
  • It is a school bag.

In the above examples, the adjectives are in bold and the nouns they are describing are underlined.

Note that descriptive adjectives describe a noun in different ways; they can talk about the physical quality, shape, size, color, or many other things of a noun. so, it’s important to know the categories of descriptive adjectives and the order in which we use them.

Order of a descriptive adjective

A descriptive adjective can modify a noun in different ways. It’s important to understand all its heads and the right order in which we use them.

Order Descriptive adjectives categoriesAdjectivesExamples (sentences)
1Quality or opiniongood, bad, smart, dumb, intelligent,
brave, coward, nice, expensive, petty, cheap, tiny, lovely, cute, helpful, arrogant, hardworking, sober, shrewd, logical, easy, difficult
1. It is a good price.

2. You don’t look sober.

3. Give me a logical reason for this.

4. We need a strong man in our group.
2Size (physical description)small, big, huge, tiny, gigantic, short, mammoth, long
1. That’s a small house.

2. It is a long journey.

3. This guy is huge in Dubai.
3Agenew, old, young, modern, old-school, aged
1. We need young people in our team.

2. He is an old man.

3. They have used modern technology in their production.
4Shaperound, circular, oval, flat, square, triangular
1. Some people don’t believe Earth is round.

2. It is an oval ground.

3. The pitch is not flat yet.
5Colorblack, white, blue, pink
1. It is a white coat.
2. He has a blue car.
6Origin or NationalityIndian, Chinese, American, Chinese, Italian
1. We are proud of the Indian army.

2. Let’s order some Chinese food.

3. Chinese products are banned in India.
7Materialsilver, cotton, gold, leather, silk, plastic, iron
1. I love cotton candies.

2. She bought me a gold chain.

3. Silk sarees are in vogue these days.
8Purpose (noun-adjective)office, school, government, singing, teaching
1. In India, most people are running after a government job.

2. It is a school bag.

3. It is a teaching job.

Important points to note

1. If two or more adjectives are taken from the same category to modify a noun, use commas to seperate them. And use the conjunction ‘and’ before the last adjective.

  • She is a smart and intelligent girl.
  • His house is blue, red, and yellow.

2. If two or more adjectives are taken from different categories to modify a noun, don’t use commas.

  • That’s a nice pink Indian saree.
  • We have an outstanding modern gold jewellery.
  • Jon is teaching some talented young brown students.
  • She is my cute small American office friend.

Order of adjectives in a noun phrase

Order of adjectivesAdjectives listExamples
1. DeterminersDeterminers include the following:

Articles = a, an, the
Possessive adjective = my, our, his, her, your, its, their
Demonstrative adjective = this, that, these, those
Distributive adjective = each, every, all. either, neither…
Quantifiers = some, many, a few, several…

1. Do you have a watch?
2. I loved the party.
3. That building is very old.
4. I loved every performance today.
5. I show you my office in the evening.
6. Some people are waiting for you outside.
2. Numbersone, two, three, first, second, third…
1. We have two dogs.
2. She is my first girlfriend.
3. Descriptive adjectives good, bad, smart, dumb, small, big, old, young, round, flat, black, white, Indian, Chinese, cotton, gold, office, school
1. Did you see the four American girls?
2. It is an expensive red and white table.
3. This is our first international project.
4. It was our second big mistake of the match.

Types of descriptive adjectives

Descriptive, based on their positions in a sentence, are divided into categories:

  1. Attributive adjective
  2. Predicate adjective

Attributive adjectives

Adjectives that are placed before a noun are called attributive adjectives.

Examples:

  • She is a talented person.
  • I am looking for a cheap place to live in.
  • It was an amazing movie.
  • We have many cheap Chinese mobiles.

Predicate adjectives

These are adjectives or adjective phrases that come after a linking verb. A predicate adjective is also called subject complement.

Examples:

  • This house is vacant.
  • Unlike yours, my job is challenging.
  • She is adorable.
  • The table is round.

Hyphenated descriptive adjectives

A hyphenated adjective is formed using two or more words, generally two. Let’s look at all the possible combinations of hyphenated adjectives in English.

1. Number + noun

  • 3-hour jouney
  • Thirty-member committee
  • Ten-minute break
  • Three-month anniversary
  • Ten-storey building
  • Six-month suspension
  • Third-party insurance

Examples:

  • Let’s take a 10-minute break.
  • We are celebrating our three-month anniversary.
  • They gave him a six-month supension for failing the drug test.

Note: Make sure the noun you use in the hyphenated adjective is singular. Making it plural is a common mistake.

  • Let’s take a 10-minutes break. ❌
  • We are celebrating our three-months anniversary. ❌

2. Adjective + past participle

  • Narrow-minded people
  • Old-fashioned hotel
  • High-spirited
  • Absent-minded people
  • Kind-hearted
  • High-spirited performace

Examples:

  • She is a narrow-minded girl.
  • Everone loves being around high-spirited people.
  • What a kind-hearted man he is.

3. Adverb + past participle

  • Well-organised party
  • Well-behaved person
  • Highly-respected man
  • Widely-recognised singer
  • Commonly-consumed drug
  • Densely-populated area
  • Highly-recommended product
  • Poorly-planned event

Examples:

  • It was a well-organized party.
  • He lives in a densely-populated area.
  • His brother is a widely-recognised investor.

4. Adjective + present participle

  • Good-looking man
  • Long-lasting performace
  • Easy-going person

Examples:

  • What a good-looking guy he is.
  • He is not an easy-going person.

5. Adverb + present participle

  • Never-ending process
  • Slow-moving car
  • Foward-thinking man

Ex – Learning a language is a never-ending process.

6. Noun + past participle

  • Man-made houses
  • hand-made sleepers
  • Coal-powered trains

Examples:

  • These are not hand-made cookies.
  • Coal-powered trains were stopped years back.

7. Noun + present participlele

  • Thought-provoking idea
  • English-speaking course
  • Mouth-watering food
  • Eye-catching painting
  • Record-breaking event
  • Mind-blowing performance

Examples:

  • It was a mind-blowing performance.
  • She makes mouth-watering food.

8. Noun + adjective

  • Brand-new car
  • World-famous singer
  • Glutten-free meal

Examples:

  • They got me a brand-new car.
  • You should try glutten-free meal.

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