Analysing Adjectives

5 min read: this blog post will help you to:

  • identify the forms and positions of adjectives
  • explore the connotations and meanings of adjectives

Know It!


Rio 2016 Olympics – anyone fancy a dip?

Adjectives are traditionally known as ‘describing words’ because they modify (or change) the meanings of nouns. For example, the noun phrase ‘water’ is pretty dull, however if you add in some adjectives: green + smelly + water the writer is deliberately focusing the reader’s attention on particular qualities of the water; in this case it looks disgusting and presumably tastes as bad as it smells!

Test It!

To check if a word is an adjective:

  • Place it in front of a noun e.g. the shiny, red bus
  • Put an intensifier in front of it e.g. the very cold snow    really awful     so soft
  • Add the inflection –ly to it e.g. significantly minimally angrily

Apply It!

When analysing adjectives, you need to think about the position, the form and their connotations. Adjectives are known as modifiers because they modify the meaning of a noun. The table below gives details about the different forms of adjectives you might encounter in texts:

Adjectives Table A

DCrystal SuperlativeComps

Superlative and Comparative adjective phrases used in adverts (D.Crystal, CUP, 2014)

Adjectives can be graded so that nouns can be compared:

→ A big house → a bigger house → the biggest house

Comparative adjectives are formed by using the inflection – er whilst Superlative adjectives are formed by adding –est


  • tall → tallertallest
  • mad → maddermaddest
  • sunny → sunniersunniest

Some comparatives are formed by using ‘more’ before the adjective and some superlatives are formed by using most before the adjective:

  • More luck →  most lucky
  • more awful → most awful

Some gradable adjectives don’t follow the patterns demonstrated above and are ‘irregular’ as a result:

  • Bad →  worse  →  worst
  • good →  better  →  best

Positioning Adjectives: Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

  • Adjectives can be placed before a noun in the attributive position and are known as attributive adjectives

the warm bath       the ill girl      cloudless sky

  • Adjectives can be placed after the verb ‘to be’ in the predicative position and are known as predicative adjectives

the bath is warm      the girl became ill      the sky is cloudless

Analyse It!

The adjective choices a writer makes, reflects the tone of the voice of the text, mood, atmosphere and representation of its subject. When you analyse a writer’s use of adjectives, you should always select groups of adjectives that either share characteristics or demonstrate contrasts.

Identify the adjective forms, positions, connotations and meanings in this extract:

cala-galdana-beach-menorca-E413GEArrive on the sun-bleached shores of Menorca after a spell on Mallorca or Ibiza and notice the drop in volume – here it’s more birdsong than Pete Tong. The easternmost Balearic island moves to its own mellow beat. Its twinset of sea-splashed cities, Anglo-Spanish Maó and medina-like Ciutadella, are delightfully low-key, and the white-sand bays that stud its 216km coastline are among the loveliest in the Med. Inland, criss-crossing its fields and rolling hills are an estimated 70,000km of dry-stone walls.


Adjectives Table B

The commentary below uses the four basic steps to language analysis outlined in this blog post.

Adjectives Table C

Practise It!

Use your knowledge of nouns and the four basic steps to language analysis method to write a paragraph that answers this question:

How are adjectives used in the extract to create effects and meanings?

Kylie Cosmetics Adjectives Copy

Adjectives Table D