Whether you take note of them or not, you make use of various parts of speech ever day – it's not as if you consciously think about the grammar that you are using, but it is there. But what happens if you would like to know more about grammar – or perhaps you are planning to teach English to foreigners and have to know. Suddenly you may not feel so at home with your home language as what you thought – but no need to worry, there is no need to be a walking textbook. This simple guide will give you a reminder of the deeper workings of the language that you use every day. Whether you need to know yourself or need to explain it to someone else, the simple guide to adjectives is all you need.

What is an adjective?

An adjective describes a noun – it states how something is, seems to be, is going to be, looks, feels, tastes and smells. An adjective is a describing word.


Adjectives are often used in groups (he is tall, dark and handsome; the beautiful, young, Hispanic lady).

The position of the noun in the sentence affects whether AND is used or not. If the noun is before the group of adjectives, AND is placed before the last adjective in the list (the shirt is tatty, old and yellow). If the noun is after the group of adjectives, AND is not used (it is a tatty, old, yellow shirt).

The way that a group of adjectives is ordered can create some confusion, as there are no definite rules as to what is right and wrong – the following guideline can be used:

1. Opinion: Adjectives that can be disputed depending on who is viewing the noun (tatty, disgusting, amazing, beautiful)

2. Age: Adjectives referring to age (old, young, ancient, new)

3. Appearance: Adjectives referring to definite shades and texture (dark, rough, smooth)

4. Colour: Adjectives referring to colour (red, lilac, yellow, blue)

5. Material: Adjectives referring to what the noun is made of (cotton, plastic, steel)

6. Purpose: Adjectives referring to what the noun is used for – this often creates a compound noun (swimming costume, coffee table, dinner jacket, walking stick).

Six adjectives will not be used to describe a noun, but those that are used will generally remain in this order:


More on adjectives

Once you have a firm grasp on adjectives, you may want to take it further and know how to turn them into comparatives and superlatives - this is explained in The Simple Guide to Comparatives and Superlatives. Remember, the best way to learn English is to keep it simple.