Vocabulary For Dummies
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If your English teacher wants you to make your writing more descriptive, you need to learn how to use adjectives. Adjectives add information about number, color, type, and other qualities about the nouns and pronouns in your sentences. Adjectives help your reader get a fuller picture of the things you are writing about.

Where do you find adjectives? In the adjective aisle of the supermarket. Okay, you don’t. Most of the time you find them in front of the word they’re describing. Keep in mind, however, that adjectives can also roam around a bit. Here’s an example:

George, sore and tired, pleaded with Lulu to release him from the headlock she had placed on him when he called her “fragile.”

Sore and tired tells you about George. Fragile tells you about her. (Well, fragile tells you what George thinks of her. Lulu actually works out with free weights every day and is anything but fragile.) As you can see, these descriptions come after the words they describe, not before.

Here are some different ways to use adjectives:

  • Adjectives describing nouns: The most common job for an adjective is describing a noun. Consider the adjectives venomous, angry, and rubber in these sentences. Then decide which sentence you would like to hear as you walk through the jungle.

    • There is a venomous snake on your shoulder.

    • There is an angry, venomous snake on your shoulder.

    • There is a rubber snake on your shoulder.

    The last one, right? In these three sentences, those little descriptive words certainly make a difference. Angry, venomous, and rubber all describe snake, and all of these descriptions give you information that you would really like to have. See how diverse and powerful adjectives can be?

  • Adjectives describing pronouns: Adjectives can also describe pronouns (words that substitute for nouns). When they're giving you information about pronouns, adjectives usually appear after the pronoun they're describing:

    • There’s something strange on your shoulder. (The adjective strange describes the pronoun something.)

    • Everyone conscious at the end of Ronald’s play made a quick exit. (The adjective conscious describes the pronoun everyone.)

    • Anyone free should report to the meeting room immediately! (The adjective free describes the pronoun anyone.)

  • Attaching adjectives to linking verbs: Adjectives may also follow linking verbs, in which case they describe the subject of the sentence. To find an adjective after a linking verb, ask the question what. Sometimes a linking verb joins an adjective (or a couple of adjectives) and a noun:

    • Lulu’s favorite dress is orange and purple. (The adjectives orange and purple describe the noun dress.)

    • The afternoon appears gray because of the nuclear fallout from Roger’s cigar. (The adjective gray describes the noun afternoon.)

    • George’s latest jazz composition sounds awful. (The adjective awful describes the noun composition.)

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