Premodifiers in English

This post helps us understand what premodifiers are, different types of premodifiers, and how to use them correctly in a sentence.

What are Premodifiers?

Premodifiers are words that come before a noun head of a noun phrase. A modifier is a word or words that give information about another word in the sentence. Adjectives and adverbs function as modifiers in English.

Only adjective function as premodifiers.

Types of premodifiers

There are three types of premodifiers:

  1. Determiners
  2. Numbers
  3. Adjectives
Premodifiers infographics
Premodifiers infographics

1) Determiners

Determiners are words that determine the quantity of a noun or indicate which noun the speaker is referring to. Determiners include the following: 

  • Articles = a, an, the
  • Possessive adjectives = my your, his, her, their, our, its
  • Demonstrative adjectives = this, that, these, those
  • Distributive adjectives = each, Every, either, neither, any, both, etc
  • Quantifiers = Some, any, enough, plenty of, much, many, a few, the few, a lot of, several, etc
PremodifiersMeaningExamples
Articlesa, an = refers to an unspecified singular countable noun

the = refers to a specified singular
countable noun
This is a book.
I don’t have an apple.
The movie was great.
Possessive adjectivesrefers to the possession of a nounMy dog is not as big as yours.
I love your house.
You can’t question his loyalty.
Demonstrative adjectivesrefers to a noun that is close or far away from the speakerDon’t touch this box.
They are planning to cut that tree.
These candies are delicious.
Do you know those people?
Distributive adjectivesrefers to members of a group separatelyYou can take either box.
Neither team deserved to win the match.
Every team played well.
Quantifiersto talk about the number of the nounBring some books to read.
I have a few friends to meet.
Many people are waiting to see me fall.
There is a lot of money in this.

2) Numbers

Numbers include both cardinal and ordinal numbers. They also give information about a noun; they talk about the exact quantity (number) of the noun they modify.

one, two, three first, second, third…

Examples:

  • Simran has two houses.
  • I bought 5 chairs last month.
  • This is my first trip to Auli.
  • She was his second love.

Note: Numbers are considered a part of quantifiers only. But we keep them separate as they refer to specific quantifies. There is in problem in making numbers are a part of quantifiers either.

3) Adjectives

Adjectives are words that describe a noun. Here are some common adjectives in English: good, bad, smart, beautiful, foolish, rich, poor, intelligent, dumb, wise, ugly, tall, huge, talented, kind, cruel, short, fat, slim, expensive, cheap, etc.

Examples:

  • It is a big hotel. We all can stay here.
  • It is an expensive hotel; we can’t afford it.
  • He is tall man.
  • We need some talented people to run our business.
  • You are an old fighter.
  • Jerry doesn’t want cheap things.

The phrases (bold) are noun phrases; the adjectives used are coming right before the noun in the noun phrases.

Other types of adjectives

  1. Present participle adjective
  2. Past participle adjective
  3. Noun adjective

A) Present participle adjective

Present participle adjectives are verbs ending with ‘ing’ that function as an adjective; they come right before a noun and modify it.

Examples:

  • It is an exciting movie to watch.

Noun phrase = an exciting movie
Noun = movie
Premodifiers = an, exciting

Exciting‘ (a present participle) is working as an adjective, modifying the noun ‘movie’.

  • We are working on an interesting project.

Noun phrase = an interesting project
Noun = project
Premodifiers = an, interesting

‘Interesting’ is a present participle that’s working as an adjective, modifying the noun ‘project’.

More examples:

  • India is one of the developing countries in the world.
  • Look at the shinning car. It must be very expensive.
  • That was an inspiring speech. We all loved it.
  • You have put me in this confusing situation.

B) Past participle adjective

A past participle adjective is a past participle (V3) that functions as an adjective.

  • He fought with shattered nose.

Noun phrase = a shattered nose
Noun = nose
Premodifiers = a, shattered

The word ‘shattered’ is a past participle (V3) that’s working as an adjective, modifying the noun ‘nose’. It’s telling us the state of the nose.

  • motivated man can do anything.

Noun phrase = a motivated man
Noun = man
Premodifiers = a, motivated

The word ‘motivated’ is a past participle (V3) that’s working as an adjective, modifying the noun ‘man’.

More examples:

  • Don’t buy that. It is disputed property.
  • Can I have a glass of boiled water?
  • My cousin Totu loves having frozen yogurt.
  • Don’t mess with him; he is a trained fighter.

C) Noun adjective

These are regular nouns that don’t function as nouns; they function as adjectives.

  • It is my school bag.

Noun phrase = my school bag
Noun = school
Premodifiers = my, school

‘Bag’ is the head noun in this noun phrase, and ‘my’ and ‘school’ are premodifiers. The word ‘school’ generally works as a noun, but here it is not working as a noun, it is working as an adjective, modifying the noun ‘bag and telling us the purpose of the bag.

  • It is a leather jacket.

Noun phrase = a leather jacket
Noun = bag
Premodifiers = a, leather

The word ‘leather’ generally works as a noun, but here, it is working as an adjective and modifying the noun ‘jacket’. It is describing how the jacket physically is.

More examples:

  • I have some office work.
  • I want to buy cotton shirts.
  • He is going for a government job.
  • Alex has a food company.

Position of premodifiers

Use two or more pre-modifiers in the following structure: Determiners + Numbers + Adjectives + Noun

Examples:

  • Look at those three huge trees in his backyard.
  • We can’t eat these many dark chocolates.
  • Look at the four tall girls.

NOTE: We can’t use two or more types of determiners in a noun phrase.

  • A this man
  • My this car

But we do use the following structure: quantifiers + OF + possessive adjective + noun

  • Some of my friends
  • None of your projects
  • One of his students

Examples:

  • Some of my friends will stay here.
  • They didn’t like none of your proects.
  • We are talking about one of his students.

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