Traditionally, adjectives were called "describing words". Adjectives are words that modify nouns.
In English, the adjective normally goes in front of the noun.
|definite article +||adjective +||noun|
In some languages, the adjective comes after the noun.
Adjectives can allow us to compare things and to show degrees of comparison. In this construction, the adjective may follow the noun.
This is usually done by adding -er, -est.
If the adjective is fairly long, we use more and most.
Adjectives with one syllable usually take -er/-est; those with two syllables can usually have either. Adjectives with three syllables or more take more/most.
The technical names for these adjective forms are:
comparative adjective - shorter, older, more beautiful, more sensible;
superlative adjective - shortest, oldest, most beautiful, most sensible.
The comparative and superlative forms are useful tests for recognising adjectives, but they don't work for all adjectives. Another useful test is that an adjective can go in the gap below:
This test helps with some words that don't look like adjectives. Utter is an adjective in "the utter fool", and next is an adjective in "the next trick". This is the only test that works for strange adjectives like these. Utter and next don't seem to be describing words, and they don't have comparative and superlative forms.
It is common to hear young children use forms like *gooder, *baddest, *bestest, *worser. They have learned the regular way of making comparatives and superlatives and are using these with an irregular form. This is a sign of language development. The irregular forms will be learned with experience in the language.
As children develop their language, they usually produce superlatives before they can produce comparative forms.
Summary of Terms
|comparative form||superlative form|
Exploring Language is reproduced by permission of the publishers Learning Media Limited on behalf of Ministry of Education, P O Box 3293, Wellington, New Zealand, © Crown, 1996.
Published on: 25 Feb 2009