Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English


English definition of “adjective”


noun [C]     /ˈædʒ.ek.tɪv/
A2 a word that describes a noun or pronoun : " Big ", " boring ", " purple ", and " obvious " are all adjectives.Parts of speech Grammar:AdjectivesAdjectives are one of the four major word classes, along with nouns, verbs and adverbs. Examples of adjectives are: big, small, blue, old, rich and nice. They give us more information about people, animals or things represented by nouns and pronouns:Grammar:Meanings of adjectivesAdjectives give us more information. They modify or describe features and qualities of people, animals and things.Grammar:OppositenessMost common adjectives are members of a pair of opposites (antonyms):Grammar:Gradable and ungradableMany pairs of opposites are gradable, i.e. they have different degrees of the same feature:Grammar:Adjectives: formsUnlike in many other languages, adjectives in English do not change (agree) with the noun that they modify:Grammar:Identifying adjectivesThere is no general rule for making adjectives. We know they are adjectives usually by what they do (their function) in a sentence. However, some word endings (suffixes) are typical of adjectives.Grammar:Forming adjectives from other wordsGrammar:Adjectives: comparative and superlativeMany one-syllable adjectives have endings to show the comparative and superlative.Grammar:Adjectives: with -ing and -ed (interesting, interested)We use the -ing and -ed forms of regular and irregular verbs as adjectives:Grammar:Adjectives: orderGrammar:Order of adjectivesWhen more than one adjective comes before a noun, the adjectives are normally in a particular order. Adjectives which describe opinions or attitudes (e.g. amazing) usually come first, before more neutral, factual ones (e.g. red):Grammar:Adjective phrasesAn adjective phrase always has an adjective acting as the head. The adjective phrase may also contain words or phrases before or after the head (modifiers and complements):Grammar:Adjective phrases: functionsGrammar:Adjective phrases with nounsOne of the main functions of adjective phrases is that they go with nouns and change or add to their meaning.Grammar:Adjective phrases with verbs (Brenda is happy)The second main function of an adjective phrase is to be a complement to a verb. It completes the meaning of verbs that describe what the subject is, does or experiences. These verbs include be, seem, become, feel, smell, taste (linking verbs). When adjective phrases complement verbs, this is called their predicative function.Grammar:Object complementsWe also use adjective phrases to give more information about an object (underlined) so as to complete its meaning (object complement):Grammar:Adjective phrases: positionWhen an adjective is used with a noun, the usual order in English is adjective + noun:Grammar:Adjectives with nouns and verbsAdjectives can go before the noun (attributive) or after linking verbs such as be, become, seem (predicative):Grammar:Words and phrases that go before and after adjectivesThe most typical words and phrases that go before adjectives (premodifiers) are adverb phrases expressing degree:Grammar:Gradable adjectives and words and phrases that go before themMost common adjectives can express different degrees of qualities, properties, states, conditions, relations, etc. These are called gradable adjectives:Grammar:Gradable opposites (antonyms)Grammar:Different meanings of adjectives before the noun and after the verbWe can use some adjectives before the noun or after the verb but the meaning differs.Grammar:Adjectives before nouns that modify other nounsA noun (n) is sometimes used before another noun to give more information about it. This is called a noun modifier. Adjectives (adj) come before noun modifiers:Grammar:Order of adjectives in noun phrases with articles and degree modifiersWhen adjectives are used before the noun (attributive function), there are also sometimes degree adverbs. Different degree adverbs require different positions for the adjective phrase.Grammar:Adjectives and adjective phrases: typical errors adjectival     /ˌædʒ.ekˈtaɪ.vəl/ adjective an adjectival phraseParts of speech adjectivally     /ˌædʒ.ekˈtaɪ.vəl.i/ adverb In " kitchen table ", the noun " kitchen " is used adjectivally.Parts of speech
(Definition of adjective noun from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)
Focus on the pronunciation of adjective

Definitions of “adjective” in other dictionaries

Word of the Day


to pour liquid slowly over something, especially in a thin line or in small drops

Word of the Day


Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More