Adjective Issues for ESL Writers Dr. Linda Bergmann, Professor of English, Purdue
Adjectives Adjectives describe nouns or noun phrases.They are almost always placed in this order:NumberEvaluationPhysical Description (size, shape, age, color)Classifying Adjectives
Adjective Rules Rule One: The adjectives are placed before the noun if sentence does not use a ‘to be’ verb to define the noun.The sixteen durable oblong rods undergird Number Evaluation Shape Subjectthe bridge section.The two experienced and certified Number Evaluation Class engineers accompany the undergrads.Subject
Adjective Rules Rule Two: The adjectives are placed after the noun if a ‘to be’ verb is used to define the noun. The road was long, flat, and two-lane. Shape ShapeClassThe mixture is toxic and hazardous. Evaluation Class “To be” verbs are conjugations of “to be”: am, is, are, was, were
Comma Rules for Adjectives Commas always separate coordinate adjectives. Coordinate adjectives have the same status in the sentence, as in the following examples: He was a difficult, stubborn child. The quick, efficient roadwork helped thecity a lot. The crew used meticulous, precisemeasurements to complete the work.
Comma Rules for Adjectives How will you know if the adjectives are coordinate?Ask these two questions:Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are written in a different order? Does the sentence make sense if and goes between the adjectives? If the answer to these questions is yes, the adjectives are coordinate and should be separated by a comma. Never put a comma between the last adjective and the noun.
Practice Examples Order the words in parenthesis to create a sentence with appropriate adjective order. Ask the ‘coordinate adjective’ questions to determine if you need a comma between adjectives.1)The saw cuts were (clean deep straight).2)The team of (Lebanese chemical well-renowned) engineers visited campus.
Practice Answers 1)The saw cuts were clean, deep, and Evaluation Shapestraight. Shape2)The team of well-renowned, Lebanese Evaluation Classchemical engineers visited campus. Class
Practice Examples Order the words in parenthesis to create a sentence with appropriate adjective order. Ask the ‘coordinate adjective’ questions to determine if you need a comma between adjectives.3)The (pavement control group unhardened) mixture was used for the final experiment.4)The (graduate industriousintelligent) student worked hard in the class.
Practice Answers 3) The unhardened pavement control group physical descript. Class Class mixture was used for the finalexperiment.4) The industrious, intelligent graduate Evaluation Evaluation Class student worked hard in the class.
Adapted by Joshua Prenosil and Linda Bergmann from The Thomson Handbook by David Blakesley and Jeffrey L. Hoogeveen
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