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Rules for adjectives

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Rules for adjectives


What is an adjective?

An adjective describes a noun or a pronoun.

The yellow sunflower looked beautiful.(The word yellow describes the sunflower which is the noun)

Kinds of adjectives

1          Adjectives of Quality

These adjectives are used to describe the nature of a noun. They give an idea about the characteristics of the noun by answering the question ‘what kind’.

2          Adjectives of Quantity

These adjectives help to show the amount or the approximate amount of the noun or pronoun. These adjectives do not provide exact numbers; rather they tell us the amount of the noun in relative or whole terms.

All, Half, Many, Few, Little, No, Enough, Great etc.

3          Adjectives of Number

These adjectives are used to show the number of nouns and their place in an order.

4          Demonstrative Adjectives  

These adjectives are used to point out or indicate a particular noun or pronoun using the adjectives - This, That, These and Those.

5          Interrogative Adjectives

These adjectives are used to ask questions about nouns or in relation to nouns, they are - Where, What, Which and Whose.

How to order adjectives in English

Generally, the adjective order in English is:

1          Quantity or number

2          Quality or opinion

3          Size

4          Age

5          Shape

6          Color

7          Proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material)

8          Purpose or qualifier

For example:

  • I love that big,old , green, antique car that is parked at the end of the street.
  • My sister adopted a beautiful, big, white,bull dog.
  • The five, little, silver spoons are on the table.
  • An amazing, heart-shaped, red balloon was in the sky.

Degrees of Adjectives

There are three degrees of adjectives.

  1. Positive Adjective
  2. Comparative Adjective
  3. Superlative Adjective

[caption id="attachment_1852" align="aligncenter" width="187"]Rules for adjectives Rules for adjectives[/caption]

Some Examples:

  Positive    Comparative   Superlative
1 Big Bigger Biggest
2 Great Greater Greatest
3 Short Shorter Shortest
4 Old older oldest
5 Large larger largest
6 Happy happier happiest
7 Lucky luckier luckiest
8 Heavy heavier heaviest
9 Beautiful more beautiful most beautiful
10 Horrible more horrible most horrible
11 good better best
12 bad worse worst
13 Little less least
14 far farther farthest

  (Any simple grammar book can be referred to for knowing more about degrees of adjectives)

Rule 1

While  making comparisons between two things the comparative degree is used and not the superlative degree.

Example-She is not the richest of the two sisters.(Incorrect)

                She is the richer of the two sisters. (Correct)

Rule 2

In comparative degree- (adjective + er ) + than  is used. ‘Than’ is used in case of comparison between two persons or things and an adjective of comparative degree will be used with it.

Example-He is taller than his sister.

Rule 3

If a choice has to be made between two persons or things the comparative degree will be used.Article the will be used before the comparative degree and ( of the) will be used after the comparative degree.

The structure will be—

…….the + Comparative + of the…………

Example- Hisar is the better of the two cities.

                Sachin is the better of the two players.

Similarly is the choice is to be made between more than two things or persons the superlative degree will be used.

The structure will be—

…….the + Superlative degree + of the…………

Example-Hari is the best of all the batsmen in the Indian cricket team.

                English is the easiest of all the languages taught in the school.

Rule 4

If two qualities are to be compared of the same person or thing then we don’t use the comparative degree. Comparative degree is used for comparison between two different things or persons. Instead of using the comparative degree more and positive degree will be used.

Example- Rahul is luckier than hardworking. (Incorrect)

(Two qualities of the same person that is Rahul are being compared (his luck and his hard work).So     comparative degree can’t be used.)

Rahul is more lucky than hardworking. (Correct)

Rule 5

If an adjective is to be used between “as………as” and “so……….as” the adjective should be in positive degree.

As… is used to show that something is equally good or bad.

Example- Hisar is as hot as Ganganagar in May.

So…….as is used to show something is not as good or as bad.

Example- Bhopal is not so developed as Delhi.

This rule is also applicable in adverbs.

Example- Geeta danced as gracefully as Lata.

Rule 6

Article the is used before superlative degree as it becomes definite.

Example- Ludhiana is the most polluted city of Punjab.

Rule 7

Puneet is taller than any boy in the class. (Incorrect)

Puneet is taller than any other boy in the class. (Correct)

In both these sentences we are comparing Puneet to any boy in the class but one at a time. In such sentences where we wish to state that someone or something is better or worse than the rest but is to be taken one at a time any other will be used.

Some more examples-

Maths is more interesting than any other subject.

January is colder than any other month of the year.

Rule 8

In comparative degree than is used. But for adjectives ending in ‘ior’ than is not used, instead ‘to’ is used .

List of such adjectives-

Superior, inferior, junior ,senior, prior, anterior, posterior, exterior, interior etc.

Example- He was junior than I in college. (Incorrect)

                He was junior to me in college. (Correct)

Rule 9

Certain adjectives can’t be used in comparative and superlative degree.


  1. A) The presentation was perfect. (Correct)
  2. B) Your presentation was more perfect. (Incorrect)
  3. C) His presentation was the most perfect (Incorrect)

Both the sentences B and C are incorrect.Perfect means flawless. When we are already saying something is perfect it means it is flawless so more perfect and most perfect can’t be used.

List of such words that can’t be used in comparative and superlative degree are-

Supreme,impossible,absolute,ideal,everlasting,eternal,triangular, square, round, major, minor, complete, entire, chief, extreme, excellent, minor, ulterior, universal, unique ,last and final.

  1. a) Darjeeling tea is the most superior tea in India. (Incorrect)
  2. b) Darjeeling tea is superior to any other tea grown in India. (Correct)

Rule 10

If two adjectives are being used for the same noun or pronoun than the adjective should be in the same degree .

Example- India is the greatest and tolerant country. (Incorrect)

                India is a great and tolerant country.(Correct)

Rule 11

For directions and some other adjectives there is positive and superlative degree only. There is no comparative degree.

    POSITIVE  DEGREE                         SUPERLATIVE  DEGREE
1                             Top                                                    topmost
2             Centre                                             Centremost
3             Right                                                   rightmost
4             Bottom                                              bottommost
5             Northern                                               northernmost

Rule 12

The same word can be an adjective in a sentence and a noun in another sentence. For certain words that are mostly used as nouns if they are used as an adjective in a sentence they can’t be used in the plural form.

Example- The tables cloth was washed, ironed and spread on the table.

Table is a noun but here it is used as an adjective. So tables can’t be used but table will be used.

Rule 13           Special note: Prefer and preferable.

1          It is used in comparative degree only.

2          We use the preposition to with it and not than although it is in the comparative degree. We do not use more with prefer.

3          Prefer to can be replaced by rather than.

            I prefer walking to running.

            I prefer walking rather than running.

Rule 14

There are certain adjectives if we use the before them they will become plural common noun.

In such sentences the verb will be plural.

Example – The rich people feel the law can be turned and twisted.

In the given sentence people is the noun and rich is the adjective. But if we remove people from the sentence

we are left with:

The rich feel the law can be turned and twisted. (Now the noun people has been removed so rich can’t be

an adjective as adjective is associated to noun or pronoun. So now rich functions as a noun itself and the can

be used before it along with a plural verb. The adjective becomes a noun.

More examples-

a) The blind are demanding reservation in jobs.

b) The rich are getting richer day by day.

c) The injured were in the thousands.

d) Millions join the ranks of the unemployed worldwide every year.

  1. e) There are no plans to provide cheap housing for the homeless.

Rule 15

With certain adjectives if we add ‘ly’ it becomes an adverb.

Example  –

   Adjective      Adverb

    sweet               sweetly

   Bad                   badly

  Polite               politely

This does not mean that when ‘ly’ is added to all the adjectives they become adverbs. Students commit errors by making words which do not even exist such as fastly. She spoke fastly. This is incorrect. The correct usage will be she spoke fast. Certain words will be used as adjectives as well as adverbs. There won’t be any change in their usage.


  1. a) Rajiv is my fast friend. (Fast is an adjective)
  2. b) He drove very fast. (Fast is an adverb)

The following words may be used both as adjectives and adverbs


  • Modern man leads a fast life. (Here the adjective fast modifies the noun life.)
  • He drove the car fast. (Here the adverb fast modifies the verb drove.)


  • Each of them has half ownership in the property. (Here the adjective half modifies the noun ownership.)
  • She was half crying, half laughing. (Here the adverb half modifies the verbs crying and laughing.)
  • She is half Spanish, half French. (Here the adverb half modifies the adjectives Spanish and French.)


  • Don’t expect to get a straight answer from her. (Here the adjective straight modifies the noun answer.)
  • She went straight home. (Here the adverb straight modifies the verb went.)


  • The train just left. (Adverb)
  • He arrived just in time. (Adverb)
  • God is just. (Adjective)


  • The engagement ceremony is in the late evening. (Adjective)
  • He arrived late. (Adverb)
  • She worked late. (Adverb)


  • We are low on money supply. (Adjective)
  • Her voice was low. (Adjective)
  • She turned the gas down low. (Adverb)
  • The helicopter flew low over the trees. (Adverb)


  • This is the most expensive gadget I have bought. (Adverb)
  • Most people enjoy playing with kids. (Adjective)


  • He is very clean in his habits. (Adjective)
  • We want to play the game clean. (Adverb)

Adjectives ending in -ly

The following words can be used only as adjectives and not as adverbs:

beastly, costly, cowardly, deadly, friendly, likely, brotherly, kingly, leisurely, lovely, lively, womanly, princely, scholarly, silly, ugly and unlikely.

She offered some friendly advice. (Here the adjective friendly modifies the noun advice.)

There are no adverbs friendly/friendlily. Instead we use an adverb phrase.

a) She offered some advice in a friendly manner.

b) He behaved in a cowardly manner.

With verbs relating to our senses (sight, smell, taste, hear and feel) an adjective is used and not an adverb.


  • The food tastes badly.(Incorrect)
  •  The food tastes bad.(Correct)
  • The child behaved badly at the party.(Correct -Adverb will be used as behave is not related to senses)
  •   It feels coldly.(Incorrect- Feel is related to the senses)
  •   He replied coldly to my question.(correct)

With other verbs like seem, like, look, prove, make, keep, grow, get, turn, be and become the adjective is used instead of the adverb.

  1. He proved it right.
  2.  It is rightly said that hard work leads to success.
  3. It becomes hot after sunrise.
  4.  It is a hotly debated matter across the globe.

Rule 16

If there is the need to use two prepositions in a sentence with two adjectives then use it.

Rule 17

An ordinal number is an adjective that denotes what place an object has in a certain order.

Example - first , second, third, fourth …………….

Cardinal number tells us about the number of things.

Example- one ,two, three ,four, five……………………….

Ordinal adjective is used before a cardinal adjective.

  • The first two classes went smoothly.
  • The first five people were given a surprise gift by the store.

Rule 18           Confusing adjectives

Many – Much

Use much with collective nouns and singular nouns. Use many with plural nouns. Here’s an example.

  • Geeta doesn’t have much food.
  • Chitra doesn’t have many friends.

Few – A Few

A few represents a positive quantity, but it can only be used with countable nouns.

The word few represents a negative quantity or shortage.

  • Julie has a few friends although she is new in the city.
  • Julie has few friends although she has been in the city for two years.

Little – A little

Like few and a few, the little and a little represent negative and positive quantities.

Always use a little with non-countable nouns. The word little expresses a negative quantity.

  • There is a little sauce left for you to eat with the bread.
  • He has been studying this topic for the last three days but there is little improvement.
  • There is little hope of his survival as his head was nearly crushed in the accident

Farther – Further

Farther (root word far) is always used for distance, and further (think furthermore) means advancement.

  • How much farther is Rohtak from Hisar?
  • I am too tired to walk any farther.
  • Further topics will be covered next week.
  • Please wait for further instructions.

Last – Latter- Latest

Last is the opposite of first, the latter is the opposite of the former and the latest means the most recent.

  • Read the first and last paragraphs today.
  • Of the two choices, I prefer the latter.
  • The last question was out of the
  • The former teacher was better.
  • The latest innovations were mind blowing.
  • What is the latest news from the border?

Late / lately

Late can be an adjective or an adverb that means after the correct time.

  • I’m not hungry because I had a late lunch. (adjective)
  • I was late for the exam.
  • He slept late and missed his first class. (adverb)
  • Lately is an adverb that means the same as recently.
  • I haven’t studied a lot lately.

Hard / hardly

Hard can be an adjective or an adverb.

  • This book is too hard for me. I can’t read it. (hard is an adjective meaning difficult)
  • This mattress is too hard. I can’t sleep. (hard is an adjective meaning opposite of “soft”)
  • She’s working hard to finish the project by tomorrow. (hard is an adverb meaning working intensely)

Hardly has a completely different meaning. It means “almost not.”

  • We have a bad connection, I can hardly hear you. ( I almost can’t hear you)


Nearest is closest in distance. Next means the next in order.


  • The next six months will be the hardest to survive.
  • The next chapter is a very simple one.
  • Who's is next in the queue?
  • The week after next.