English Language Guide: Adjective

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Adjectives describe properties, qualities, and states attributed to a noun or a pronoun. As was the case with nouns and verbs, the class of adjectives cannot be identified by the forms of its constituents. However, adjectives are commonly formed by adding the some suffixes to nouns. Examples: "-al" ("habitual," "multidimensional," "visceral"), "-ful" ("blissful," "pitiful," "woeful"), "-ic" ("atomic," "gigantic," "pedantic"), "-ish" ("impish," "peckish," "youngish"), "-ous" ("fabulous," "hazardous"). As with nouns and verbs, there are exceptions: "homosexual" can be a noun, "earful" is a noun, "anesthetic" can be a noun, "brandish" is a verb. Adjectives can also be formed from other adjectives through the addition of a suffix or more commonly a prefix:[65] weakish, implacable, disloyal, irredeemable, unforeseen. A number of adjectives are formed by adding "a" as a prefix to a verb: "adrift," "astride," "awry."
Gradability
Adjectives come in two varieties: gradable and non-gradable. In a gradable adjective, the properties or qualities associated with it, exist along a scale. In the case of the adjective "hot," for example, we can speak of: not at all hot, ever so slightly hot, only just hot, quite hot, very hot, extremely hot, dangerously hot, and so forth. Consequently, "hot" is a gradable adjective. Gradable adjectives usually have antonyms: hot/cold, hard/soft, smart/dumb, light/heavy. Some adjectives do not have room for qualification or modification. These are the non-gradable adjectives, such as: pregnant, married, incarcerated, condemned, adolescent (as adjective), dead, and so forth.
In figurative or literary language, a non-gradable adjective can sometimes be treated as gradable, especially in order to emphasize some aspect:
  • "When a man's verses cannot be understood, nor a man's good wit seconded with a forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room."
A non-gradable adjective might have another connotation in which it is gradable. For example, "dead" when applied to sounds can mean dull, or not vibrant. In this meaning, it has been used as a gradable adjective:
  • "... the bell seemed to sound more dead than it did when just before it sounded in open air."
Gradable adjectives can occur in comparative and superlative forms. For many common adjectives, these are formed by adding "-er" and "-est" to the base form: cold, colder, coldest; hot, hotter, hottest; dry, drier, driest, and so forth; however, for other adjectives, "more" and "most" are needed to provide the necessary qualification: more apparent, most apparent; more iconic, most iconic; more hazardous, most hazardous. Some gradable adjectives change forms atypically: good, better, best; bad, worse, worst; little, less, least; some/many, more, most.