English Grammar Adjective Rules

 Adjectives are the words that describe the qualities of a noun or pronoun in a given sentence. Consider the following:

Tell which sentence is correct

  • a) Flowers are plucked freshly.
  • b) Flowers are plucked fresh.

Sentence b) is correct as, adjective is correctly used with a verb when some quality of the subject rather than verb is to be expressed. Here, fresh describes the word Flowers (a noun) and not plucked (a verb).

Rules Regarding Demonstrative Adjective

This and that are used with the singular nouns and these and those are used with plural nouns

For example:

  • a) This mango is sour.
  • b) These mangoes are sour.
  • c) That boy is industrious
  • d) Those boys are industrious.

This and these indicate something near to the speaker while that and those indicate something distant to the speaker.

For example:

  • a) This girl sings.
  • b) These girls sing.
  • c) That girl sings.
  • d) Those girls sing.

Rules regarding Distributive Adjectives

Each is used when reference is made to the individuals forming any group. Each is also used when the number of the group is limited and definite.

For example:

  • a) I was in Shimla for five days and it rained each day.

Every is used when reference is made to total group or when the number is indefinite.

For example:

  • a) Every seat was taken.
  • b) I go for a movie every week.
  • c) Leap year falls in every fourth year.

Each, either, neither and every are always followed by the singular noun.

For example:

  • a) Each boy must take his turn.
  • b) Every word of it is false.
  • c) Neither accusation is true.

Rules Regarding Adjectives of Quantity

Some is used in affirmative sentences to express quantity or degree.

For example:

  • I shall buy some bananas.

Any is used in the negative or interrogative sentences to express quantity or degree.

For example:

  • a) I shall not buy any bananas.
  • b) Have you bought any bananas?

But some is an exception to the above rule. Some is used in interrogative sentences, which are commands or requests.

For example:

  • Will you please lend me some money?

Few is used for countable objects and little is used for non-countable objects. Little means not much. So use of the word little has a negative meaning.

For example:

  • a) There is little hope of his recovery.
  • b) He has little appreciation of hard work.

A little means some though not much. So, use of a little has a positive meaning.

For example:

  • a) There is a little hope of his recovery.
  • b) He has a little appreciation of hard work.

The little means not much but all there is.

For example:

  • a) The little information he had was quite reliable.
  • b) The little knowledge of management he possessed was not sufficient to stand him in good stead.

Few mean not many. So use of the word few has a negative meaning.

For example:

  • Few men are free from faults.

A few means some. So use of ‘a few’ has a positive meaning.

For example:

  • A few men are free from faults.

The few mean not many, but all there are.

For example:

  • The few remarks that he made were very good.

Only uncountable nouns follow much, little, some, enough, sufficient and whole.

For example:

  • a) I ate some rice.
  • b) There are not enough spoons.

Rules Regarding Interrogative Adjectives

What is used in the general sense and which is used in a selective sense.

For example:

  • a) Which of you haven’t brought your book?
  • b) What manner of man is he?

Rules Regarding Degrees of Comparison of Adjectives

The comparative form ending in ‘er’ is used when we are comparing one quality in two persons.

For example:

  • Anjali is wiser than Rahul.

But if we wish to compare two qualities in the same person then the comparative form ending in ‘er’ is not used.

For example:

  • Anjali is wise than brave.

When two objects are compared with each other, the latter term of comparison must exclude the former.

For example:

  • a) Delhi is bigger than any other city in India. If we say
  • b) Delhi is bigger than any city in India. Then we are saying Delhi is bigger than Delhi, as any city in India includes Delhi also. And this is obviously wrong.

In a comparison by means of a superlative the latter term should include the former.

For example:

  • a) Delhi is the biggest of all cities in India.
  • b) Of all men he is the strongest.

Kindly note the difference in this and previous rule.

Later and latest refer to rime.

For example:

  • a) He came later than I expected.
  • b) This is the latest news.

Latter and last refer to position.

For example:

  • a) The last player could not bat as he was injured.
  • b) The latter chapters are very interesting.

Latter is used when there are two only, last when there are more than two.

For example:

  • a) Of Manohar, Syam and Joshi, the latter is a driver. (Incorrect)
  • b) Of Manohor, Syam and Joshi, the last is a driver. (Correct)

Elder and eldest are used only of persons (usually members of the same family).

For example:

  • a) My elder sister is doing MBA from IIM Ahemdabad
  • b) My eldest brother is getting married today.

Older and oldest are used of both persons and things.

For example:

  • a) This is the oldest building in the city.
  • b) Anthony is the oldest boy in the class.

Further means more distant or advanced whereas farther is a variation of further and means at a distance – both the words can be used to indicate physical distance.

For example:

  • a) No one discussed the topic further.
  • b) Calcutta is farther from the equator than Colombo.

The comparative degree is generally followed by ‘than’, but comparative adjectives ending in is or are followed by the preposition ‘to’.

For example:

  • a) Akshay is inferior to Aamir in intelligence.
  • b) Aamir is superior to Akshay in intelligence.
  • c) He is junior to me.
  • d) Who was captain prior to Azhar ?

Adjectives such as square, round, perfect, eternal, universal, unique do not admit of different degrees. So they cannot be compared. Thus strictly speaking we cannot say that a thing is more square more round or more perfect. But sometimes we do make exceptions to this rule.

For example:

  • This is the most perfect specimen I have seen.

When the comparative form is used to express selection from two of the same kind or class, it is followed by ‘of’ and preceded by ‘the’.

For example:

  • Ramesh is stronger of the two boys.

When than or as is followed by the third person pronoun, the verb is to be repeated.

For example:

  • Ram is not as clever as his brother is.

When than or as is followed by first or second person pronoun, the verb can be omitted.

For example:

  • He is more intelligent than you.

In comparing two things or classes of things the comparative should be used.

For example:

  • a) Of two evils choose the lesser (not least).
  • b) Which is the better (not best) of the two?

A very common form of error is exemplified in the following sentence.

  • a) The population of London is greater than any town in India.
  • b) The population of London is greater than that of any town in India.

Sentence b is correct as the comparison is between the population of London and the population of any town in India.

Double comparatives and superlatives should be avoided.

For example:

  • a) Seldom had the little town seen a more costlier funeral. (Wrong)
  • b) Seldom had the little town seen a costlier funeral. (Right)
  • c) Seldom had the little town seen a more costly funeral. (Right)

Preferable has the force of comparative and is followed by to. Phrase ‘more preferable’ should not be used.

For example:

  • a) Coffee is more preferable to tea. (Wrong)
  • b) Coffee is preferable to tea. (Right)

Less refers to quantity whereas fewer refers to number.

For example:

  • a) No fewer than fifty miners were killed in the explosion.
  • b) We do not sell less than ten kg of tea.

Certain adjectives do not really admit of comparison because their meaning is already superlative. Such words are unique, Ideal, perfect, complete, universal, entire, extreme, chief, full, square, round. Therefore phrases like most unique, more round, fullest, chiefest etc. are wrong.

If there is a gradual increase it is generally expressed with two comparatives and not with positives.

For example:

  • a) It grew hot and hot. (Incorrect)
  • b) It grew hotter and hotter. (Correct)

Other Common Rules

‘Verbal’ means ‘of or pertaining to words’ whereas ‘oral’ means ‘delivered by word of mouth or not written’. Hence the opposite of written is oral, not verbal.

For example:

  • a) His written statement differs in several important respects from his oral (not verbal) statement
  • b) The boy was sent with an verbal message to the doctor.

‘Common’ means shared by all concerned. If a fact is a common Knowledge, it means the knowledge of the fact is shared by all. Everyone knows about it. ‘Mutual’ means in relation to each other. If you and I are mutual admirers, it means 1 admire you and you admire me. We might also have a common admirer who admires both of us.

  • a) We started smoking on the advice of a mutual friend. (Incorrect)
  • b) We started smoking on the advice of a common friend (Correct)

It is apparent that there are two or more than two of us. Apart from us, there is a person (friend). Since he is a friend to all of us, this friend is being shared by all of us. So, he is a common friend. Now, look at this sentence.

For example:

  • We started smoking on mutual advice.

It means I advised, you to smoke and you advised me to smoke.