Grammar: Introduction Adjectives

Grammar in EAP

Adjectives & Adjectival Groups

Adjectives are words such as “beautiful”, “ugly”, “new” or “old”. They usually denote qualities or have a descriptive meaning. The most typical position for an adjective is between a determiner and a noun. Typical forms of adjective endings are: “-able/-ible”, “-ish/-like”, “-ful/-less”, “-ous” or “-y”. Adjectives may display inflection for degree: “-er” & “-est”. They have two main functions: as modifiers of nouns in nominal groups, and as head of an adjectival group.

An adjectival group is typically a group with an adjective as its Head. That adjective is likely to be modified either before the adjective (pre-modification) or after the adjective (post-modification or qualification) or both. Pre-modifier are always adverbs – “e.g. extremely, rather, too, very“. Post-modifiers are often adverbs, prepositional phrases or certain types of clause. For example, in the adjectival group “very difficult indeed”, “difficult” is an adjective in the head position. It is pre-modified by “very” and post-modified – or qualified by – “indeed”.

Adjectives and adjectival groups are commonly used in academic texts (Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, 1999, p. 506).


Try this exercise in identifying adjectives: Grammar: Adjectives Exercise

Adjectives or adjectival groups can be used either attributively (e.g. the big house) or predicatively/as complements (e.g. the house is big)

Adjectival groups are commonly used attributively as pre– or post-modifiers of nouns in nominal groups.

For example:

  • as pre-modifier  – the constitutional aspects
  • as post-modifier – varieties common in India, the festival proper, something different

See: Attributive adjectives: Grammar: Attributive Adjectives

Complex adjectival groups used as complements are common in academic writing.

See: Adjectival groups as complements: Grammar: Adjectival Groups as Complements


Exercise: Adjectival Group Exercise

Adverbs & Adverbial Groups


Typical adverbs are words such as “hopefully” or “recently”. However, other words, such as “now“, “then“, “always“, “often”  are also classified as adverbs. Many adverbs have the “-ly” ending.

There are three main positions for adverbs: before the subject of the sentence, between the subject and the predicator, at the end of theclause.

Traditionally adverbs are divided into 5 main categories: 1. circumstantial adverbs (of time, place, manner etc) (“tomorrow, then, sooner, later, …, here, there, outside, down, through, near, far, …, carefully, quietly, academically, ...”), 2. stance adverbs (“certainly, apparently, wisely, hopefully, thankfully, …“) , 3. degree adverbs (“most, least, …quietly, fairly, roughly, more or less, enough, too, …“, 4. focussing adverbs “just, hardly, only, even, …“), 5. connective adverbs (“first, furthermore, altogether, otherwise, or rather, …“.

Adverbs are relatively common in academic texts. According to Biber, Johansson, Leech, Conrad & Finegan, (1999, p. 65), approximately 10% of lexical words in academic texts are adverbs, 55% are nouns, 20% are adjectives, and 15% are verbs.

Adverbial Group

An adverbial group is typically a group with an adverb as its head. That adverb is likely to be modified either before the adverb (pre-modification) or after the adverb (post-modification or qualification) or both. For example, in the adjverbial group “more fluently than before“, “fluently” is an adverb in the head position. It is pre-modified by “more” and post-modified or qualified by “than before“.


Exercise: Identifying Adverbial Groups

Adjectives and adverbs are often confused: See Adjective/Adverbs: Grammar: Adjective/Adverb

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