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Adjectives in French
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What is an adjective?An adjective is a word that defines, qualifies or modifies the meaning of a noun, or more rarely of a pronoun. It expresses the qualities or attributes of the word it qualifies. There are two main categories of adjectives: a) determining adjectives, and b) descriptive adjectives .
1. Determining adjectives :Also called limiting adjectives, these are words that are more often referred to as determiners, and are dealt with elsewhere. There is a limited number of these words. They are notably possessive adjectives (such as my, their), quantifiers (such as one, two, three, every, many), demonstrative adjectives (such as this or that), interrogative adjectives (such as which). To learn about the use of these determining adjectives, please consult the appropriate pages.
2. Descriptive adjectivesDescriptive adjectives (such as big, English, wonderful) describe the permanant or perceived qualities of a noun; their number is unlimited. New descriptive adjectives enter the language every day, often in the fertile world of slang.
There are two categories of descriptive adjectives;
Classifying adjectives cannot be graded: a person is either married, or not; he or she cannot be "very married", nor "more married" than another person, at least not under normal circumstances.
That being said, many adjectives can be used either as qualifying adjectives, or as classifying adjectives, depending on the context. Take the example of the adjective old.
In the first example above, old is a perceived quality, and therefore gradable, in the second old has an absolute value, with the meaning of former or previous.
See gradation and comparison of adjectives below.
attributive or they can be predicative.
Attributive adjectives :This is the most common use of adjectives, standing next to a noun in a noun phrase. In English, simple and complex adjectives almost always come before the noun .
There are only a very small number of exceptions, notably concerned involved, present and responsible, which have a particular meaning when they come after a noun. There are also some cases in which old and tall follow the noun
The other important case when an adjective will follow a noun is when the adjective is postmodified by a prepositional phrase.
For details on the ordering of adjectives within a noun group, see adjective order.
Predicative adjectivesAdjectives are said to be predicative when they are used as the complement of the verb to be, or other similar verbs such as get, become, grow, etc.
In English, adjectives never take a plural inflexion (s), not even on the rare occasions when they are used as nouns, such as in The poor. We cannot say the poors.
good, bad, ugly.
Other adjectives are inflected forms of other words, derived notably from verbs. For example charming, lost. Other adjectives can be formed from nouns, for example beautiful (from beauty) or motionless (from motion), or even from other adjectives (for example yellowish).
One of the beauties of the English language is the simplicity with which words can be formed from other words: all that is needed is to add the appropriate ending, and a new word is made. Here are some examples.
comparative or a superlative form. In most cases, the comparative form of an adjective is made with the word more, and the superlative form with the word most.
But with most common short monosyllabic adjectives, and some two-syllable adjectives, the comparative is made by adding the ending -er, and the superlative with the ending -est There are two common adjectives with irregular comparative and superlative forms: good, better, best, and bad, worse, worst.
adverbs of intensity or of degree, and by some other adverbs. The most common adverbs of intensity are:
quite, rather, fairly, very, extremely, highly
These adverbs come before the adjective. But note the following points:
Some kinds of adjectives, notably participles, can be modified by a wide range of adverbs (examples 9 and 10).
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