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Level 5: Lesson 2


Level 5 is the fifth workbook in the elementary series. Lesson 2 teaches about adjectives. An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun. Most adjectives express degrees of comparison and have comparative or superlative forms.

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A Form-Function English Grammar

Level 5

Lesson 2

Adjectives

What is an adjective?

Notional grammars define the adjective as a word that describes a noun.

In The fluffy dog barked, the word fluffy is an adjective that describes the noun dog. In The painting is beautiful, the word beautiful is an adjective that describes the noun painting. Adjectives also describe pronouns. For example, in someone special, the word special is an adjective that describes the pronoun someone. In a special someone, the word special is again an adjective that describes the pronoun someone.

But remember that not all words that describe nouns are adjectives. Verbs and verb phrases, prepositional phrases, adjectives clauses, and even other nouns can describe nouns. See Lessons 6, 7, 20, 23, and 30.

In addition to describing nouns, adjectives are open class words, meaning new adjectives are added to the language readily and constantly. For example, good has been in the language since the Old English period. Bootylicious was first recorded as a new adjective in 1998. Cheugy was coined in 2013.

Adjectives are also lexical class words, meaning adjectives express discernable lexical meanings. In other words, most adjectives are easy to define. For example, the adjective ambitious means “having or showing a strong desire and determination to succeed.”

If more than adjectives can describe nouns, what makes an adjective an adjective? One test for finding adjectives is that adjectives express degrees of comparison. Prototypical adjectives have positive, comparative, and superlative forms.

Positive adjectives are unmarked. Markedness refers to the state in which one form is more distinctly identified (marked) in comparison to another (unmarked) form. The adjective that you find in the dictionary is the positive form.

To form the comparative and superlative of most one-syllable adjectives, put an -er or -est suffix on the end of the adjective. Calm, calmer, calmest. High, higher, highest. Smart, smarter, smartest. Tall, taller, tallest.

For most one-syllable adjectives spelled with a final replaceable <e>, replace the <e> with the ­-er or -est suffix. Brave, braver, bravest. Simple, simpler, simplest.

For most one-syllable adjectives that end with one vowel and one consonant other than <w>, <x>, or <y>, double the final consonant and add the ­-er or -est suffix. Flat, flatter, flattest. Red, redder, reddest. Note that the graphemes <w>, <x>, and <y> never double.

For most one- and two-syllable adjectives that end in the grapheme <y> (not a diagraph that contains <y>), the <y> toggles with <i> and then the –er or -est suffix affixes to the end of the adjective. Funny, funnier, funniest. Lazy, lazier, laziest. Lonely, lonelier, loneliest. Sneaky, sneakier, sneakiest.

Not all adjectives take the -er and -est suffixes to form the comparative and superlative. Anomalous adjectives have irregular comparative and superlative forms. Good, better, best. Bad, worse, worst. Far, farther or further, farthest or furthest.

Most other adjectives take more or most to form the comparative and superlative. The more or most is an adverb. The adverb modifies the adjective. The adverb and adjective together form a comparative or superlative adjective phrase. The adjective is the most important part of the adjective phrase.

Most, but not all, adjectives express degrees of comparison. Comparable adjectives are adjectives with comparative and superlative forms.

Absolute adjectives are adjectives that do not express degrees of comparison. An absolute adjective has only a positive form. Absolute adjectives describe absolute states or conditions. In other words, absolute adjectives describe non-variable qualities that are not subject to qualification or limitation.

For example, someone is either pregnant or not pregnant. Something is either dead or not dead. You can be awake or not awake.

So, what is an adjective?

An adjective is a word that describes a noun or pronoun. Most adjectives express degrees of comparison and have comparative or superlative forms. Most one- and two-syllable adjectives take the -er and -est suffixes to form the comparative and superlative. A few adjectives have anomalous, or irregular, comparative and superlative forms. Other adjectives take the adverbs more and most to form comparative and superlative adjective phrases. Absolute adjectives generally do not express degrees of comparison but still describe nouns and pronouns and are therefore adjectives.

Now practice your knowledge of adjectives by completing the exercises in Lesson 2 of A Form-Function English Grammar: Level 5, pages 10 through 15.

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