Adjectives: definition and use…

Adjectives: definition and use

An adjective is a kind of word, its job is to give us more information about a noun.

Adjectives describe nouns by giving information about its size, shape, age, colour, origin or material. In its simplest form an adjective can be found in a simple statement such as:


The soup is hot.
The glass was dirty

‘Soup’ and ‘glass’ are both nouns; ‘hot’ and ‘dirty’ are the adjectives which describe those nouns, increasing the information that we have about each of them. Within the context of a written passage an adjective will usually be found immediately before a noun.

In the sentence below  the nouns are ‘dog’ and ‘street’ The words that give us extra information about these nouns are ‘old and ‘dusty’ these words are adjectives.

The old dog walked down the dusty street.


We can, of course, use more than one adjective to describe a noun; when we do this, the adjectives are separated by commas. The commas go between the adjectives. Note there is no comma between the last adjective in the list and the following noun.

The old, brown dog walked down the dark, dusty street.

Why use adjectives?


Well, if you look at this cynically and clinically, using adjectives moves the standard of a pupil’s written work from Level 2 into the Level 3 camp. However, the use of adjectives also enables the writer to begin to affect the way the reader feels about the characters and events unfolding in the text.

The happy, smiling children watched as the warm sun rose over the green, rolling hills.

… can be  placed in apparent danger by simply substituting more evocative, ominous adjectives for the ones in the original sentence. This has the effect of creating tension – perhaps makes the reader wonder what might be about to happen…

The cold, shivering children watched as the feeble sun rose over the dark, ominous hills.

Pupils should be encouraged to use adjectives as the first step towards developing style…