Adjectives

Kinds and agreement

A. The main kinds of adjectives are:
1 of quality: square, good, golden, fat, heavy, dry, clever
2 demonstrative: this, that, these, those
3 distributive: each, every, either, neither
4 quantitative: some, any, no, few, many, much, one, twenty 
5 interrogative: which, what, whose
6 possessive: my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their

B  Agreement
adjectives in english have only one form, which is used with singular and plural, masculine and feminine nouns:
a good boy, good boys    
a  good girl, good girls 
The only exceptions are the demonstrative adjectives this and that, which change to these and that before plural nouns: 
this cat, these cats  
that man, those men

*  Position of adjectives and the use of and 
Adjectives in English usually come before their nouns:
a big town    
a blue car    
an interesting book
When there are two or more adjectives before a noun they are not usually separated by and except when the last two are adjectives of colour:
a big square box    
a tall young man    
six yellow roses but 
a black and white cap    
a red, white and blue flag
Adjectives of quality, however, can be placed after the verbs be, seem, appear, look (= seem, appear); and is then placed between the last two adjectives:
The house looked large and inconvenient.
The weather was cold, wet and windy.

Comparison
A There are three degrees of comparison:
1 Positive            dark               tall              useful
2 Comparative    darker            taller           more useful
3 Superlative       the darkest    the tallest    the most useful

B One-syllable adjectives form their comparative and superlative by adding er and est to the positive form:
bright    brighter    the brightest
new       newer       the newest

C Adjectives of three or more syllables form their comparative and superlative by putting more and the most before the positive:
interesting     more interesting     the most interesting
frightening    more frightening    the most frightening

D Adjectives of two syllables follow one or other of the above rules.
Those ending in ful or re take more and the most:
doubtful     more doubtful    the most doubtful
careful        more careful      the most careful
obscure      more obscure     the most obscure

Those ending in eror ly usually add erest:
pretty    prettier    the prettiest (note that the y becomes i)
holy      holier      the holiest
clever   cleverer   the cleverest

E Irregular comparisons:
good    better    the best
bad      worse    the worst
little     less       the least
many   more     the most
much   more     the most
far       farther   the farthest (of distance only)
            further  the furthest (of distance and time)
old      older      the oldest (of people and things)
           elder      the eldest (of people only)

elder and the eldest imply seniority rather than age. They are chiefly used for comparisons within a family:
his eldest boy/girl/nephew    
my elder brother/sister
but elder cannot be placed before than, so older must be used here:
He is older than I am (elder would not be possible).
Superlatives (preceded by the) can be used as pronouns:
Tom is the cleverest (boy in the class).
The eldest was only eight years old.
Comparatives can be used similarly;
I want a strong rope. Which is the stronger of these two?
But this use of the comparative is considered rather literary. In informal English a superlative is often used here instead:
Which is the strongest?

Constructions with comparisons

With the positive form of the adjective, e.g., good, tall, clever
we use as .... as in the affirmative and not as/not so .... as in the negative:
A boy of sixteen is often as tall as his father.
Manslaughter is not as/so bad as murder.
Your coffee is not so/as good as the coffee my mother makes.

With the comparative we  use than:
The new tower blocks are higher than the old buildings.
He makes fewer mistakes than you do.

Comparison with three or more people/things is expressed by the superlative with the ...in/of:
This is the oldest theatre in London.
In old folk tales the youngest of the family is always the most successful.
We can also use a relative clause. A perfect tense is especially useful:
It is the least attractive of all the houses I have seen.
This is the best beer that I have ever drunk.
This is the most exciting book that I have ever read.
That was the worst film I had ever seen.
He is the kindest man I have ever met.
It was the most worrying day he had ever spent.
Note that ever is used here, not never. We can however express the same idea with never and a comparative:
I had never drunk better beer.
I had never met a kinder man.
He had never spent a more worrying day.
Notice that You are most kind (without the) merely means You are very kind.

Parallel increase is expressed by the + comparative.......... the + comparative:
House Agent: Do you want a big house?
Wife: Yes, the bigger the better.
Husband: I don't agree. The smaller the house, the less it will cost us to heat.

Gradual increase or decrease is expressed by two comparatives joined by and:
The weather is getting colder and colder.
He became less and less interested.

Comparison of actions is made similarly:
Riding a horse is not as easy as riding a bicycle.
It is nicer to go with someone than to go alone.

Other examples of comparison:
You are as obstinate as a mule.
This is one is the better of the two.
Chinchilla is more expensive than mink.
Helen was the most beautiful woman in Greece.
This is less suitable than the last house you showed me.

than/as + pronoun + auxiliary
When the same verb is used before and after than/as we use an auxiliary for the second verb:
He knew more than I did.
I earn less than he does.
When than or as is followed by a first or second person pronoun it is usually possible to omit the verb:
I am not as old as you.
He has more time than I/we (have).
In very formal English we keep I/we, as the pronoun is still considered to be the subject of the verb, even though the verb is not expressed. In normal English, however, me/us is more usual:
He has more time than me.
They are richer than us.
This rule also applies to comparisons made with adverbs.

Adjectives of quality used as nouns
good/badpoor/richhealthy/sickyoung/oldliving/dead and certain other adjectives describing human character or condition can be preceded by the and used as nouns. These nouns represent a class of person:
the poor = poor person
the dead = dead people
The poor are often generous to each other.
After the battle they buried the dead.
These expressions have a plural meaning: they are followed by a plural verb and the pronoun is they. Note that these expressions refer to a group or class of persons considered in a general sense only. If we wish to refer to a particular group it is necessary to add a noun:
The young are usually intolerant is a general statement but
The young men are fishing refers to particular young people.

Use with the pronoun one/ones
Adjectives of quality can be used without their nouns if pronoun one (singular) or ones (plural)
is placed afterwards. This form is mainly used when there is some idea of selection or comparison:
I like those pencils: I'll take a blue one.
Small bananas are often better than big ones.
But one is often omitted after the + superlative and sometimes after the + comparative. It is also sometimes omitted after adjectives of colour:
I took the largest (one).
I bought the more expensive (one ) of the two.
Which do you like? I like the blue (one).
(For the other kinds of adjectives see the next chapter on adjectives and pronouns.)
 
Mr. Gibbs' English © 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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