English Grammar Guide

Adjective Forms

When students first come across adjectives when they make their way through Elementary English, they appear to be relatively simple parts of the English language. However, it doesn't take long before students find themselves looking at 'ing' and 'ed' adjectives, attributive adjectives and predicative adjectives. Here, we'll try to give a simple introduction to these forms.


Adjective Forms

An adjective is a word like 'clever', 'beautiful', 'green', 'hungry' or 'English', which is used to describe people, things, events etc.  Adjectives are used to describe nouns and pronouns. In English, adjectives do not change their forms to agree with nouns in number or gender. However, a some adjectives are normally only used to describe something which is either masculine or feminine.  For example; you can say that a woman is beautiful, but you would call a man handsome, not beautiful.

Adjectives which describe religion or nationality begin with a capital letter, whether they refer to people or objects:

  • She is an American student.

  • They go to a Catholic school.

  • I love Japanese food.

Adjective  '...ing' and '...ed' forms

Many adjectives have a form ending with '..ed'  and also one which ends with '..ing'.    For example;  'Bored'' and 'Boring'.

  • The '..ed' form of an adjective is usually describes how a person feels.

  • The ' ..ing' form of an adjective describes the effect that something has (usually on you).

If you are watching a bad film, you may be bored.  In your opinion, the film is boring.

  • I am interested in science. Science is interesting.

  • I'm tired because I worked hard today. Physical work is tiring.

Attributive adjective

Usually, an adjective is placed in front of the noun it modifies.  When two adjectives are used in front of a noun they can be connected by a comma or by "and."  If there are three or more adjectives, "and" is used before the final adjective. This type of adjective is called an 'Attributive adjective'.


  • I like short stories.

  • Paolo is an efficient worker.

  • My girlfriend likes writing long and romantic letters.

  • He works long, hard hours.

  • She had a dishonest, bad-tempered and stupid husband.

Adjectives - Predicative position

Adjectives can be placed after 'be', 'seem', 'look' and other 'copular verbs' (predicative position). In this case, the adjective is used to describe the subject of the sentence.


  • She is beautiful.

  • Our house is small.

  • She looked tired.

  • I am glad to meet you.

  • You don't look happy to see me.

  • The milk turned sour.

  • She felt bad.

  • This car is new, isn't it?

  • I was surprised to hear the news.

  • She seemed upset.

predicate adjectives

Adjectives used only in predicative position

Some adjectives beginning with the letter 'a-' are normally only used in the predicative position. This includes adjectives such as 'afraid', 'afloat', 'alight', 'alike', 'alive', 'alone', 'asleep' and 'awake'.  Before nouns we use other words.

  • The baby fell asleep.

  • I saw a sleeping man.      (NOT… 'an asleep man')

  • He is afraid.

  • He is a frightened man.   (NOT... 'an afraid man')

The adjectives 'ill' and 'well' are used in the predicative position. Before nouns, we use other words.

  • She is ill.

  • She is an unhealthy child.     (NOT… 'an ill child')

  • Who looks after the sick people?    (NOT… 'the ill people')

  • She speaks English well.

  • I can speak good English.    (NOT… 'well English')


Adjectives with 'Something', 'Everything', Anybody', etc

Adjectives are always placed after words like something, everything, anything, nothing, somebody, everybody, somewhere etc.


  • Lets go somewhere quiet.

  • She told me something funny today.

  • Nothing interesting ever happens there.

Attributive adjectives can also be put after nouns in certain fixed phrases.


  • Attorney General

  • Court martial

  • Poet laureate

  • Time immemorial

  • Heir apparent

Some adjectives ending in '-ible' and '-able' are also placed after the nouns they qualify.


  • We tried all means (noun) possible (adjective).    (Meaning:   We tried all the means that were possible)

  • Book all the tickets available.      (Meaning:   Book all the tickets which are available)

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