5 min read: this blog post will help you to:
- identify the forms and positions of adjectives
- explore the connotations and meanings of adjectives
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!
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
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 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 → taller → tallest
- mad → madder → maddest
- sunny → sunnier → sunniest
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 a 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
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:
Arrive 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.
The commentary below uses the four basic steps to language analysis outlined in this blog post.
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?