Breaking Down Adjectives With Examples

How do you describe your favorite animal? Is it big or small? Flurry, feathery, or scaly? Is it brown, yellow, green, or red?

All of these descriptive words are adjectives. And they all do the same thing: they modify nouns. “To modify” means changing, clarifying, or giving more information about something. So, adjectives are very useful when you want to give details; about a particular person or object, set a scene, or bring a story to life.

There are many different types of adjectives in the English language, which can be used in various situations. So, check out the amazing examples of adjectives below!

adjectives

Descriptive Adjectives

When you describe your favorite animal, you’re using descriptive adjectives. These are regular adjectives used to paint a picture about something – that’s why they’re called “descriptive.” They tell you about the quality (or qualities) of your subject.

There are also three degrees (or classes) of descriptive adjectives: positive, comparative, and superlative. Let’s take a look at them now.

Positive

A positive adjective, despite the name, isn’t necessarily a good thing; it just means that it’s a simple adjective that describes something. This is also the most basic form of an adjective.

For instance, words like “small” or “furry” that could describe your pet are examples of adjectives that are in the positive degree.

English speakers use positive adjectives all the time to describe the world around them. Here are some different categories of positive adjectives you might come across.

The Senses

You can describe many things by using adjectives that go along with each of the 5 senses! 

Sight

To describe what you can physically see, use descriptive adjectives! Here are some examples:

Color

When you use a color to describe something, it’s an adjective. For example:

  • Blue, azure, turquoise
  • Purple, lilac, aubergine
  • Green, lime, emerald

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • The scarlet flag waved in the breeze. 
  • Have you seen my orange cat? 
  • Albert eats yellow peppers every day. 

Size

Is your iguana “fat or thin? “Tiny or huge? These are adjectives describing the size of something. Can you think of more pairs of opposites that are descriptive adjectives of size?

Here are some examples:

  • Tall/short
  • Tiny/jumbo
  • Petite/large

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • Big books are heavy!
  • That’s a minuscule pencil you’re using. 
  • An average horse weighs over 600 pounds. 

Shape

Is the ball round? Is the box square? These descriptive adjectives describe the shape of something.

For example:

  • Curved, sharp, pointed, narrow

And here’s how to use them in a sentence

  • The steep cliff rose up from the wide beach. 
  • A square peg won’t fit in a round hole. 
  • The skinny tree would be too dangerous to climb. 

Sound

You can also use descriptive adjectives to express what you hear. As with other adjectives (such as for size), you will often find pairs of opposites.

For example:

  • Loud/soft
  • Noisy/silent
  • Harsh/gentle

And here’s how to use them in a sentence

  • In movies, evil witches have shrill voices. 
  • Can you turn the volume down? Your loud music is giving me a headache!
  • Do you hear that high-pitched ringing?
  • She has a scratchy voice because she’s sick. 

Taste

Describe your favorite (or least favorite!) foods with descriptive adjectives.

For example:

  • Spicy, mild
  • Hot, cold, warm
  • Sour, salty, sweet
  • Yummy, yucky, delicious

And here’s how to use them in a sentence

  • Do you like raw salmon? 
  • My grandmother uses rice to make a savory pudding called congee.
  • Most kids don’t like bitter greens, but Hannah adores spinach.

Smell

Just like with taste, you can describe smell with descriptive adjectives.

For example:

  • Sweet, smoky, sour

And here’s how to use them in a sentence

  • Spicy curry makes the kitchen smell amazing. 
  • Do you smell that buttery aroma? My Uncle is making popcorn! 
  • The yeasty scent from the bakery makes David hungry every time he passes by. 

Touch

As with all other senses, you can use descriptive adjectives for the things you touch and feel.

For example:

  • Hard, soft, scratchy
  • Hot, cold, burning
  • Smooth, rough, pitted

And here’s how to use them in a sentence

  • The road is very bumpy, so hold on tight! 
  • The prickly cactus hurt my hand.
  • Rafaella is afraid of spilling wine on her silky dress.

People & Personality

If you can describe the world around you with descriptive adjectives, you can also describe the people in it! 

To describe appearance, you can use words like these:

  • Blond, red-headed, dark-haired
  • Fat, thin, plump, skinny
  • Blue-eyed, brown-eyed, hazel-eyed
  • Stylish, frumpy
  • Tall, short, average
  • Puerto Rican, Scandinavian, Asian, Filipina (or any other nationality or geographic identifier!)

And here’s how to use them in a sentence

  • Look at that freckled child over there. I think he might get sunburned! 
  • Charlie is dating a brown-eyed guy now. 
  • My best friend Leticia’s parents are Mexican, but she has lived in Texas her whole life.

For personality characteristics, try one of these:

  • Courageous
  • Shy
  • Weird
  • Intelligent

 Here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • Harold’s introverted cousin doesn’t like to play games with us because we’re really loud. 
  • Marge is too talkative in class. I can’t hear what the teacher is saying.

And for emotions, here are some adjective examples:

  • Happy, elated, joyful
  • Sad, depressed
  • Anxious, nervous

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • Dalia’s envious brother tried to steal her bike, but their parents stopped him.
  • My dog is happy when I give her treats.

Time

Time feels like it’s moving quickly or slowly in different situations. And we can use descriptive adjectives to talk about that. We can also describe what the past was like or what the future could be.

For example:

  • Fleeting, lengthy
  • Old-fashioned, futuristic, New Age
  • Early, late, and mid-century
  • Modern, contemporary

Here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • Our grandmother wakes up in the early morning because she likes to hear the birds sing. 
  • Have you been to the museum of contemporary art? I don’t really understand the works.

Amount

How much water did you drink today? A lot or a little? And how much homework do you have? You can describe amounts or quantities with adjectives too!

For example:

  • Many, much
  • Little, few
  • Ample, plentiful, bountiful
  • Limited, measly

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • The university offers many courses in the sciences but only a few courses in the arts. 
  • Even though she didn’t eat turkey, she felt full from the plentiful side dishes at the Thanksgiving dinner.

Situations

Use adjectives to easily describe a situation or create a feeling/atmosphere in your writing.

For example:

  • Ghostly, spooky
  • Sunlit, sunny
  • Cheerful, depressing
  • Incredible, amazing, daunting

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • She looked around the crowded room but couldn’t find her dance partner because Lucy was waiting in a dark corner.
  • Being in Las Vegas was bizarre because everything was about gambling.
  • The atmosphere in the haunted house was chilling.

Proper Adjectives

Most of the descriptive adjectives above are written with lowercase letters because they’re common adjectives.

But if you want to describe something using a word that comes from a capitalized name, you need to capitalize the adjective, too - this would be a proper adjective.

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • I wish we still used Shakespearean insults in everyday speech.
  • Her Nepalese grandpa loves to cook dumplings called momos.
  • Jewish celebrations at Gilah’s house are always lots of fun.

These are just some examples of adjectives – there are lots more. So, experiment with describing the world around you and discover new ways to make your writing more exciting!

Other Degrees

Is today a sunny day? Is it sunnier than yesterday? Is it the sunniest day all year?

All three of these questions use a form of the adjective “sunny,” but to different degrees. For example, the first question is similar to all the examples above: these are positive adjectives, and you use them to describe something plainly.

But if you want to compare two things (like the weather today and yesterday), use a comparative adjective. And if you want to say something is the most it can possibly be, use a superlative adjective

Comparative

Comparative adjectives do just that: they compare two (or more) things!

Making the comparative form of an adjective depends on the base form, but there are generally two things that can happen. Either add an -er to the end of the base form or add “more” in front of the base form.

Here are some examples:

  • I’m older than my sister but younger than my brother. 
  • The smaller cat climbs the tree faster than the larger cat. 
  • Ms. Zhang thinks doing a crossword puzzle is more fun than washing dishes. I agree! 
  • Watching documentaries is more interesting than reading comics. 
  • This movie star is more handsome than that one. 

Superlative

A superlative adjective takes a comparative adjective to the extreme. They’re like superlatives in high school yearbooks: the funniest, most likely to succeed, and friendliest. Whatever characteristic you’re describing, nothing can surpass your subject.

For the superlative forms of an adjective, either add -est to the end of the simple adjective or add “most” before it.

Here are some examples:

  • I was upset because my birthday fell on the rainiest day of the year. 
  • Capybaras are the friendliest creatures in the animal kingdom. 
  • What is the most delicious item on the menu? 
  • I liked the chocolate cake. I think it’s the most decadent dessert here.

One other adjective that’s similar to a superlative adjective is an absolute adjective. This is a descriptive word that can’t be made comparative or superlative. That’s because its meaning is already superlative – you can’t make it more intense.

Here are some absolute adjectives:

  • Unique
  • Incomparable
  • Ultimate
  • Infinite
  • Final

And here’s how to use them in a sentence:

  • Eating a crisp apple on a fall day is the perfect afternoon activity. 
  • You’ll never complete that impossible task!

Other Types of Adjectives

Possessive Adjectives

That’s my pen!

In this sentence, you’re saying that you own the pen. It belongs to you. The word “my” is a possessive adjective that expresses this.

Possessive adjectives tell you who owns something.

These are the possessive adjectives in English:

  • My, your, her, his, its, our, and their

For example:

  • Our cat had to go to the vet, but she’s okay now. 
  • What happened to his hand? I saw a big bandage.

Demonstrative Adjectives

That book is so funny, but I like this one better.

The demonstrative pronouns “that” and “this” clarify which books you’re talking about.

The four demonstrative adjectives are:

  •  This, that, these, and those.

For example:

  • Let’s watch this movie tonight. 
  • That pizza was the most delicious one Divya had ever eaten.
  • What are these mushrooms? I’ve never seen them before. 
  • Those dogs scare Liz’s aunt.

Compound Adjectives

Most of the adjectives above are just one word each. (Except for some comparatives and superlatives.) But sometimes, you’ll see adjectives of two or more words connected with hyphens. These are called compound adjectives.

You won’t see these as often as single-word adjectives, but they’re helpful to know.

Here are some examples:

  • That red-haired boy looks a lot like my cousin. 
  • She keeps getting into fights because she’s so hard-headed.
  • The two-year-old baby screamed for the whole flight.

Adjective Phrases

If you want to make more complex sentences, you can describe something with an adjective phrase!

An adjective phrase (sometimes called an adjectival phrase) is a group of words that work together to modify a single noun.

For example: 

  • My aunt from Massachusetts rarely comes to visit. 
  • I really liked reading Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, and Very Bad Day in class.
  • That was a truly terrible movie.

Attributive, Predicate, and Postpositive Adjectives

If you’ve been paying close attention, you will have noticed that most adjectives go before the word they modify. These are called attributive adjectives and always go right before the noun.

For example:

  • We had a hard exam yesterday. 
  • The sick man needs help.

But in a few cases, the adjective appears elsewhere in the sentence. If it follows a linking verb, it’s called a predicate adjective.

For example:

  • That exam was hard
  • He seems sick and weak. Could you give him a hand?
  • You are hungry.

There’s another instance where you may see an adjective somewhere other than before a noun. And that’s when it’s a postpositive adjective. These are adjectives that come directly after the noun they modify.

This happens with many indefinite pronouns, some specific names, and when a writer wants to play with syntax (the order of words in a sentence).

For example:

  • Anybody new needs to sign in at the office. 
  • That issue is going to the attorney general
  • Animals, big and small, roamed the prairies. 

Interrogative Adjectives

Interrogative adjectives are adjectives you use to make questions.

And luckily, there are only 3 to learn: which, what, and whose.

Here’s how you use these adjectives in sentences:

  • Which flavor do you like better, vanilla or chocolate?
  • What classes do you have today? 
  • Whose dog is that?

Describe Your World

Wow, we’ve covered a lot of adjectives!

In general, adjectives are a great way to spice up your writing, give important details, or create an atmosphere. And there are lots of different types of adjectives, so play around with ways to modify nouns in your work.

Plus, dive deeper into each type of adjective by visiting its specific page. There’s so much to learn!

Adjective Topics:

Parts of Speech Articles: