Word Classes: Identifying Adjectives

Fill in all the gaps in these phrases with any word that makes sense. Then press "Check" to check your answers. If what you wrote is what we might expect, that word will be an adjective. There are many other adjectives that would fit, of course, far too many to be anticipated in making the answer key, so limit yourself to the boring old norm, please.

What Are Adjectives?

     Adjectives are words that modify nouns, and the most common of them change form to signal differences in DEGREE: short, shortER, shortEST; loud, loudER, loudEST. The "-er" form is called the "comparative degree" of an adjective, and the "-est" is the "superlative degree." Modern taste no longer tolerates adding these endings to long adjectives, but in the days of Queen Elizabeth I, "admirablest" was still acceptable. Today, long adjectives are modified by "more" or "most" rather than taking the "-er" and "-est" endings. There are also "less" and "least" comparisons on the other side.
     There are other adjectives ("absolute terms") that have no comparative or superlative degrees. For example, there are no degrees of deadness, so "This is the DEADEST corpse I've ever seen" is nonsense, as would be "Their anniversary was MORE THIRTIETH than ours." Still, adjectives expressing these absolute ideas occupy the kind of position in a sentence that normal adjectives occupy, so they count as adjectives.
     The nouns modified by adjectives normally follow them in English—"a dismal [adj.] night [noun]," "their finest [adj.] hour [noun]"—or else an adjective may be linked to the subject of a clause by a linking verb, as in "The soup [noun] is too salty [adj.]."

The American students were studying a language.