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Parts of Speech – the Modifier

Adjectives and adverbs

When used well, they can add excitement and clarity to your writing.

Introduction to modifiers: Articles, Adjectives, and Adverbs

Introduction to Adjectives

Adjectives change and describe things (nouns), in other words, they allow for a detailed description.

For example, an apple could be described as ‘a green old apple’.  The apple has been modified to green and old.

Introduction to Articles

Definite articles

If you need to specifically identify a thing (noun), then you would use ‘the’.  By specifically identifying a noun, you are also stating it’s importance. This is also called the ‘definite’ because it defines what we talk about.

‘The’ can be singular or plural.  You could say ‘get me the apples’ (plural) or ‘get me the apple’ (singular).

Indefinite articles

If you do not need to specifically identify which thing, then you would use ‘a’ or ‘an’.  These are called indefinite articles.

‘A’ and ‘An’ is singular and refers to one thing.

The indefinite article changes for vowel sounds from ‘A’ to ‘An’.

For example,

  • ‘can I have an apple’ (the word apple starts with a vowel).
  • ‘can I have a pear’ (the word pear starts with a consonant).

The exception is the ‘u’ sound as in ‘union’.  It is correct to say, ‘a union’ not ‘an union’.

Example

If you have a bag of apples and you wanted someone to select an apple, you could say.

‘Get me an apple’ – this is not specific, and any apple would do.

‘Get me the biggest apple’ – this is specific, and only a big apple would do.

Introduction to Adverbs

Adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify everything that is not a noun, usually verbs. Adverbs are added to verbs, adjectives or other adverbs to make them more descriptive.  For example ‘Sam ran slowly’.  ‘Slowly’ is an adverb modifying the verb ‘ran’.

Adverbs are generally adjectives ending in ‘ly’. For example, the adjective ‘slight becomes ‘slightly’ or absolute becomes ‘absolutely’.

Relative adverbs

Where, when and why.  These words are usually questioning words, but they can also be relative adverbs.

Where

For example, ‘That is the house where I was raised’.  ‘Where is connecting the clause ‘I was raised’ with the noun ‘house’.

When

When is used to ask questions about time, also as a relative adverb to make a statement about time.

For example, ‘I learned to play the piano when I was nine years old. ‘When’ is not used as a question but as a statement about time.  The word ‘when’ connects two ideas or phrases, ‘I learned to play the play the piano’ and ‘I was nine years old’.

Why

We use the word ‘why’ to figure out reasons for doing stuff, as a relative adverb, it is used to state a reason.

For example ‘I don’t know why the sky is blue’.  The word ‘why’ connects the sky with what you know.

Adjective order

There is a specific order for adjectives.  The order is,

  • Determiner – words like ‘the’, ‘a’ or ‘an’
  • Opinion – words like ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’
  • Size – words like ‘big’ or ‘small’
  • Age – words like ‘old’ or ‘new’
  • Shape – words like ‘circular’ or ‘square’
  • Color – words like ‘blue’ or ‘orange’
  • Origin – where it is from, for example, ‘Australian’
  • Material – ‘lead’ or ‘marble’
  • Purpose – what it is used for, words like – ‘dining’
  • Noun – the thing that is being described

To put all of this together would be ‘ The beautiful small old square blue Australian marble dining table’.  Typically, no more than three adjectives are used to describe a thing.  When you use two adjectives from the same category, you separate them with a comma.  For example ‘the enchanting, attractive young lady.  Enchanting and attractive are opinions and therefore separated with a comma.

These books provide both study and reference material for English Grammar

Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar understandingEnglishGrammar
Grammarly. Correct your grammar as you type. Grammarly logo
English Grammar in Use by Raymond Murphy English Grammar in Use
The Blue book of Grammar and punctuation – An easy to use guide with clear rules, real-world examples, and reproducible quizzes. thebluebookofgrammar

 

Aaron Skudder

10 Comments

  1. Hello, Thanks for writing on Parts of speech. As we know If we need to specifically identify a thing (noun), then we would use ‘the’.  By specifically identifying a noun, we are also stating it’s importance. This is also called the ‘definite’ because it defines what we talk about. Adjectives modify nouns and adverbs modify everything that is not a noun. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hello Aaron, Thanks for this detailed explanation but I have a question, this is something I was just thinking about. Adjectives in a lot of languages can also take modifiers of their own: very big, more intelligent and lots more like that, But is there an actual word for the part of speech such words comprise? I’ve mostly seen them thrown under ‘adverbs’, even though some can’t be used adverbially, aka to modify a verb. Thanks in anticipation 

    • In Spanish the modifier goes after the noun.  ‘Very big house’ would be ‘Casa muy grande’. Spanish uses the Latin word order as found in John Milton’s poetry.

  3. English is my first language but if someone asked me to explain what the difference was between an adjective and an adverb was I’d be lost! Your article really explained them well and made it easy to understand. I’m also going to check out your articles on grammatical errors because I know I need to improve in that area as well.

  4. Thank you so much Aaron for sharing this beautiful article with us. Your post was very informative and helpful to me.

    I am very confused with grammar. Your post was very trendy. I got a clear idea about Parts of Speech from your post. Introduction to Articles, Introduction to Adverbs. I hope that will help me a lot.

    Lastly, I would say that whoever reads this post will get interested. Because your post was so different and clear. I think those who don’t know the obvious use of Parts of Speech. They will benefit.

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  6. Your guide is awesome for me. I am very confused with grammar. Your post was very trendy. I got a clear idea about Parts of Speech from your post. Introduction to Articles, Introduction to Adverbs. I hope that will help me a lot. Because your post was so different and clear. I think those who don’t know the obvious use of Parts of Speech. They will benefit.

  7. Dear A. Skudder,

    This is a nice grammar lesson! I’ve found out that adverbs and adjectives are all modifiers but the former modifiers verbs while the latter modifies nouns.
    When learning English, it is very common to struggle with definite and indefinite articles (“a”, ”an”, and ”the”). However, this is now very clear.
    What I’d like more practice about is how to properly order adjectives. It’s so easy to say, “A new small bag”, whereas your order indicates “a small new bag” is the correct thing to say. Please add some exercises for us!
    Boniface- from GrowsBiz

    • The main focus is on modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) that change a noun.  Articles help to identify the noun.

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