Category Archives: Parts of Speech – Adjectives

Commonly confused words: practice and practise (and licence and license and even more)

English spelling is tricky: that is something most people agree on. There are a couple of pairs of words that a particularly troublesome for a lot of people: practice and practise, and licence and license. Prophecy and prophesy follow the same rules, but as prophesy in particular isn’t commonly used (prophesise seems to have taken

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Clydesdale horses

Proper adjectives: the forgotten relative of proper nouns

We know that there are proper nouns, and we know that we use capital letters for proper nouns. But there is another group of words in English that we capitalise, and they are called proper adjectives. Never heard of them? Don’t worry: most people haven’t. Proper adjectives are like the long-lost cousin of proper nouns,

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Adjective or pronoun: that tricky distinction

The English language is constantly changing. New words are created and old words fall into disuse. Australians start to speak and write differently from Canadians; New Zealanders use the language differently from Singaporeans. And to cope with these changes, grammar rules themselves change. For speakers of some other languages, the fact that the ‘rules’ of

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Adjectives, nouns and adjectival nouns (part 2): to use apostrophes or not to use apostrophes?

I have looked at this question in my blog on Possessive apostrophes: when do you need them? but it is worth looking at in more detail, as it is one of the trickier areas of grammar. It is also one where the answer is sometimes not clear, but can either be illogical or even open

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Good, better, best: comparing adjectives and the problem of modified absolutes

Adjectives have an interesting feature: we can compare many of them, and then use these comparisons to compare nouns. Trinidad and Tobago had a fast team in the men’s relay. The USA had a faster team. Jamaica, with Usain Bolt, had the fastest team of all. The different forms of the adjective fast (faster, fastest)

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Great green dragons: the order and types of adjectives

J.R.R. Tolkien, the professor of languages more famous for being the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of Rings, was fascinated by the idea of dragons from an early age. When he was about seven he began to compose his own story about a dragon. ‘I remember almost nothing about it except a philological

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Yellow, red, orange and blue shipping containers stacked on top and beside each other

Adjectives: an introduction

Adjectives have a simple use: they describe nouns, and also pronouns and other adjectives. A simple definition is that adjectives are ‘describing words’. If we think of nouns as containers of meaning, adjectives help to give extra definition to our meaning. We can talk about a container, for example, or a yellow container or a

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How do I know where to put hyphens?

The simple answer (for words that are always hyphenated) is to check in a dictionary: if a word is always hyphenated, it will be listed.  If the word you are looking for isn’t there (for instance, game-plan), the odds are in favour of it in fact being two separate words (game plan). There is another

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