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ADJECTIVES :POSITION IN A SENTENCE

ADJECTIVES :POSITION IN A SENTENCE

Date: Jan 12 2008

Topic: Grammar

Author: dignified

Lesson

Words which are used to modify nouns or pronouns are usually referred to as adjectives. For instance, the adjectives in the following sentences are underlined.
e.g. Large trees could be seen.
      They are happy.
In the preceding examples, the adjective large modifies the noun trees, and the adjective happy modifies the pronoun they.

It should be noted that adjectives can be formed from two or more words combined by the use of hyphens.
e.g. the three-month-old baby
      a ninety-dollar jacket
      a two-hour trip
As illustrated in these examples, the nouns in such hyphenated expressions are generally in the singular. Thus, the singular forms of the nouns month, dollar and hour are used.

Most English adjectives have the same form for the singular as for the plural. The only exceptions are the demonstrative adjectives this and that.


 

1. Proper adjectives
Proper adjectives are adjectives derived from proper nouns. In English, proper adjectives must begin with a capital letter. The proper adjectives in the following sentences are underlined.
e.g. The French town has an interesting history.
      Many of my friends are American.
      This house is a fine example of Victorian architecture.

The derivation of proper adjectives from proper nouns is somewhat irregular. For instance, the spelling of the following proper nouns and proper adjectives can be compared.

Proper NounProper Adjective
  America  American
  Canada  Canadian
  Germany  German
  Mexico  Mexican
  George  Georgian
  Victoria  Victorian

Many proper adjectives end with an or ian. However, other endings are also used, as indicated below.

Proper NounProper Adjective
  England  English
  France  French
  China  Chinese


 

2. Attributive adjectives
Adjectives which precede the noun they modify are usually referred to as attributive adjectives. For instance, in the following examples, the attributive adjectives are underlined.
e.g. Heavy rain is expected.
      We saw white swans on the river.

In these examples, heavy is an attributive adjective modifying the noun rain, and white is an attributive adjective modifying the noun swans.

a. Order of attributive adjectives
It is possible for a noun to be preceded by many different types of attributive adjective. In the following example, the attributive adjectives are underlined.
e.g. Two large red cardboard milk cartons stood on the steps.

In this example, two is a cardinal number, large is an adjective indicating size, red is an adjective indicating color, cardboard is an adjective indicating a type of material, and milk is a defining adjective indicating purpose.

When a noun is preceded by more than one type of attributive adjective, the different types of adjective are usually arranged in a particular order. For instance, the following example contains eleven different types of attributive adjective.
e.g. a small, heavy, snug, warm, 100-year-old, round-bellied black iron Norwegian wood stove

In this example, a is an article, small is an adjective indicating size, heavy is an adjective indicating weight, snug is a general descriptive adjective, warm is an adjective indicating temperature, 100-year-old is an adjective indicating age, round-bellied is an adjective indicating shape, black is an adjective indicating color, iron is an adjective indicating a type of material, Norwegian is a proper adjective, and wood is a defining adjective indicating a method of operation.

The different types of attributive adjective are usually arranged In the order shown in the following table.

Usual Order of Attributive Adjectives

1) certain determiners such as all, both and half
2) determiners including the articles a, and and the;
      possessive adjectives e.g. my, his, her, our and their;
      demonstrative adjectives e.g. that, these, this, and those; and
      certain other determiners such as another, any, each, either,
      enough, every, neither, no, some, what and which
3) cardinal numbers e.g. one, two, three; and
      certain other determiners such as few, many and several
4) determiners such as fewer, fewest, least, less, more and most
5) general descriptive adjectives, often in the following order:
   a) adjectives indicating size e.g. large, long, narrow
   b) adjectives indicating weight e.g. heavy, light
   c) participles and other adjectives e.g. clever, excited, interesting
   d) adjectives indicating temperature e.g. cold, hot, warm
   e) adjectives indicating humidity e.g. dry, damp, wet
   f) adjectives indicating age e.g. new, six-month-old, young
   g) adjectives indicating shape e.g. barrel-shaped, round, square
6) adjectives indicating color e.g. blue, grey, white
7) adjectives indicating materials e.g. cloth, leather, metal
8) proper adjectives e.g. American, Victorian
9) defining adjectives, usually indicating purpose, method of operation, location,
      time or categories of people

i. Determiners
The usual order of different types of determiner is indicated in the first four categories of the table above.

1) The determiners in the first category, all, both and half, usually precede other attributive adjectives.
e.g. all three tables
      both the students
      half the red roses

Alternatively, before the article the, the words all, both and half may be used as pronouns, followed by the word of.
e.g. all of the tables
      both of the students
      half of the red roses

2) The determiners in the second category of the table above include articles, possessive adjectives, demonstrative adjectives, and the determiners another, any, each, either, enough, every, neither, no, some, what and which. A noun can usually be modified by only one of the attributive adjectives in this category.

If it is desired to convey the idea expressed by a possessive adjective combined with another adjective in this category, the possessive adjective must be changed to the corresponding possessive pronoun preceded by of, and must follow the noun.

For instance, the ideas expressed by the phrase this black horse, combined with the possessive adjective my; and the phrase a book combined with the possessive adjective your may be conveyed as follows:
e.g. this black horse of mine
      a book of yours

In a somewhat similar way, the determiners another, any, each, either, enough, neither, some and which may be combined with other members of the second category of adjective by being used as pronouns followed by of.

For instance, the ideas expressed by the phrase my dresses, combined with the determiner any; and the phrase these white flowers, combined with the determiner either may be conveyed as follows:
e.g. any of my dresses
      either of these white flowers

Since the determiners every and no cannot be used as pronouns, the expressions every one and none must be used. For instance, the ideas expressed in the phrase these children, combined with the determiner every; and the phrase their opinions, combined with the determiner no may be conveyed as follows:
e.g. every one of these children
      none of their opinions



3) The determiners in the third category of the table above include the cardinal numbers, and the determiners few, many and several. As illustrated in the following examples, the determiners in this category usually follow determiners in the previous two categories, and precede other attributive adjectives.
e.g. all twelve red roses
      their many exciting adventures

It should be noted that other usually precedes a cardinal number when an article or possessive adjective is present, but usually follows a cardinal number when no article or possessive adjective is present.
e.g. the other three chairs
      my other two cousins

      three other chairs
      two other cousins

In the first two examples, the article the and the possessive article my are present, and other precedes the cardinal numbers three and two. In the second two examples, no article or possessive adjective is present, and other follows the cardinal numbers three and two.

4) The determiners fewer, fewest, least, less, more and most usually follow other determiners.
e.g. the fewest mistakes
      two more children
In the first example, fewest follows the determiner the. In the second example, more follows the determiner two.



ii. General descriptive adjectives
As indicated in the preceding table, general descriptive adjectives usually follow determiners and precede other types of attributive adjective. As shown in the table, there are several types of general descriptive adjective, which often occur in a certain order. However, the order of different types of general descriptive adjective is more flexible than the order of other types of attributive adjective.

a) Attributive adjectives indicating size usually follow any determiners, but precede other types of attributive adjective. In the following phrases, the adjectives indicating size are underlined.
e.g. three large, level platforms
      her two tiny brown lap dogs
      that enormous English dictionary

Below are pairs of adjectives with opposite meanings, indicating size:

  deep  shallow
  enormous  tiny
  large  small
  long  short
  wide  narrow
  thick  thin


b) Adjectives indicating weight usually follow adjectives indicating size, but precede other types of attributive adjective. In the following phrases, the adjectives indicating weight are underlined.
e.g. a small, heavy parcel
      two light nylon knapsacks

The following are examples of adjectives indicating weight:

      heavy
      light
      5-kilogram
      2-ton



c) Participles and other general descriptive adjectives which do not fall into any of the other categories usually follow adjectives indicating size and weight, and precede other types of attributive adjective. In the following examples, the adjective alert, and the participles twittering and excited are underlined.
e.g. two large, alert black cats
      eleven tiny, twittering birds
      many excited children

d) to g) The order of adjectives indicating temperature, humidity, age and shape is not as predictable as the order of other attributive adjectives. For instance, adjectives indicating temperature occur sometimes before and sometimes after general descriptive adjectives such as clear and hard.
e.g. clear, cold water
      cold, hard ice

It should be noted that the position of attributive adjectives indicating age may be altered to change the emphasis.
e.g. a new, efficient method
      an efficient, new method
In the first example, the adjective new is emphasized. In the second example, the adjective efficient is emphasized.

However, the most usual order of adjectives indicating temperature, humidity, age and shape is that indicated in the table. For instance, adjectives indicating temperature usually precede adjectives indicating humidity.
e.g. a hot, dry wind
      a cold, wet dog
In these examples, the adjectives hot and cold, indicating temperature, precede the adjectives dry and wet, indicating humidity.

As can be seen in the preceding examples, general descriptive adjectives are usually separated from one another by commas. This is illustrated In the following examples, in which the general descriptive adjectives are underlined.
e.g. a small, triangular wooden boat
      those five thick, strong, two-hundred-year-old oak trees

Below are examples of adjectives which indicate temperature, humidity, age and shape.

TemperatureHumidityAgeShape
  hot  wet  new  square
  cold  dry  old  round
  warm  damp  young  triangular
  cool  humid  six-week-old  octagonal
    moist  two-year-old  spherical




iii. Adjectives indicating color
Adjectives indicating color usually precede adjectives indicating materials, proper adjectives, and defining adjectives, but follow other types of attributive adjective.

In the following examples, the adjectives indicating color are underlined.
e.g. threatening black clouds
      her new red leather jacket
      a square brown mahogany table

Below are examples of adjectives which indicate color:

  red  black  pink
  orange  white  magenta
  yellow  brown  scarlet
  green  beige  crimson
  blue  silver  fox-red
  violet  golden  olive-green
  purple  turquoise  sky-blue, etc.


iv. Adjectives indicating materials
Attributive adjectives indicating the materials from which objects are made usually follow any adjectives indicating color and precede any proper or defining adjectives. In the following examples, adjectives indicating materials are underlined.
e.g. a beautiful grey silk scarf
      ten black plastic coat hangers
      the clean wooden floor

In modern English, most adjectives indicating the materials from which objects are made have the same form as the corresponding nouns. For Instance, the words silk and plastic can be used either as nouns or as adjectives. One of the few exceptions is the adjective wooden, which corresponds to the noun wood.

Below are examples of adjectives which indicate materials:

  wooden  cotton  metal
  paper  wool  iron
  cardboard  silk  steel
  plastic  satin  brass
  rock  corduroy  gold
  stone  velvet  silver
  brick  flannel  copper
  concrete  denim  lead
  glass  nylon  tin
  leather  polyester  aluminum


v. The position of proper adjectives
Proper adjectives usually follow all other types of attributive adjective except defining adjectives.

Proper adjectives are usually derived from proper nouns referring to places or persons. In the following examples, the proper adjectives are underlined.
e.g. sparkling French wine
      three red brick Georgian manor houses

In the first example, the proper adjective French is derived from the place name France, and indicates the place of origin of the wine. In the second example, the proper adjective Georgian is derived from George, the name of an English king, and indicates that the houses are built in a style developed during the reign of that king.

It should be noted that proper adjectives may sometimes precede adjectives indicating materials, as in the following examples. This occurs when the adjective indicating a material is used as a type of defining adjective, to help identify what type of object is being described.
e.g. Mexican straw hats
      an American pearl necklace



vi. Defining adjectives
When a word preceding a noun does not merely describe the object being referred to, but helps to define or identify the type of object meant, the word preceding the noun can be called a defining adjective. The defining adjectives in the following examples are underlined.
e.g. an enjoyable birthday party
      a fine young man
      the new telephone directory

Defining adjectives are combined with nouns to form fixed expressions, in order to refer to certain types of things. In the above examples, birthday party, young man and telephone directory are fixed expressions which are commonly used to refer to certain types of things.

In many such expressions, the defining adjectives are words which are usually used as nouns. For instance, in the above examples, birthday, and telephone are words which are usually used as nouns. In such cases, the fixed expressions are sometimes thought of as compound nouns.

Many words which are used as gerunds can also be used as defining adjectives, as illustrated in the following examples.
e.g. black hiking boots
      our drinking water

In this type of fixed expression, it is also possible for two words to be used together as defining adjectives. In the following examples, the words used as defining adjectives are underlined.
e.g. a roller skating rink
      a hot water bottle

Defining adjectives usually immediately precede the nouns they modify. Many defining adjectives indicate the purpose for which the object being referred to is used. In the following examples, the defining adjectives are underlined.
e.g. an egg carton
      a coat hanger
      a dish cloth
An egg carton is a carton used for storing eggs, a coat hanger is an object used for hanging up coats, and a dish cloth is a cloth used for washing dishes.

As can be seen in these examples, when a word usually used as a countable noun is used as a defining adjective, it is normally the singular form of the word which is used. Thus, in the preceding examples, the singular forms egg, coat and dish are used.



Defining adjectives can also indicate the method of operation of an object. This is the case in the following examples.
e.g. a steam iron
      a ten-speed bicycle
      an electric light

Defining adjectives sometimes help to define the object being referred to by indicating time or location.
e.g. the morning star
      the winter term
      the front door
      the kitchen window
In these examples the adjectives morning and winter indicate time, and the adjectives front and kitchen indicate location.

Defining adjectives are also used in fixed expressions which refer to certain categories of people.
e.g. a little girl
      a baby boy
      an old woman



vii. Ordinal adjectives
Attributive adjectives such as next, last, first, second, third and so on, are sometimes referred to as ordinal adjectives, since they indicate the order in which things occur.

When they are not followed by commas, ordinal adjectives have the property of modifying any following attributive adjectives together with the accompanying noun. For this reason, the position of an ordinal adjective relative to other attributive adjectives can affect the meaning of a phrase.
e.g. the first reluctant witness
      the reluctant first witness

The two preceding examples have different meanings. In the phrase the first reluctant witness, the adjective first modifies the following adjective reluctant together with the noun witness. This means that although there may have been previous witnesses, the phrase refers to the first witness who was reluctant.

However, in the phrase the reluctant first witness, the adjective first modifies only the noun witness. This means that there were no previous witnesses. The phrase refers to the first witness, indicating that this witness was reluctant.

Below is a similar example, giving two phrases with different meanings.
e.g. the second unpredictable year
      the unpredictable second year

In the phrase the second unpredictable year, the adjective second modifies the following adjective unpredictable together with the noun year. This means that although there may have been more than one previous year, the phrase refers to the second year which was unpredictable.

However, in the phrase the unpredictable second year, the adjective second modifies only the noun year. This means that there was only one previous year. The phrase refers to the second year, indicating that this year was unpredictable.

As illustrated in the preceding examples, the position of ordinal attributive adjectives varies depending upon what meaning is to be conveyed.



b. Punctuation used with attributive adjectives
As already indicated, general descriptive adjectives, including adjectives indicating size, weight, temperature, humidity, age and shape are usually separated from one another by commas.
e.g. the long, winding road
      a heavy, awkward box
      a cold, wet mist
      a small, square room

In contrast, determiners, possessive adjectives, adjectives representing cardinal numbers, and ordinal adjectives are usually not followed by commas. In the following examples, adjectives of these types are underlined.
e.g. those large chairs
      my new shirts
      two narrow paths
      the first tall building

In addition, defining adjectives, proper adjectives, and adjectives indicating color and materials are usually not preceded by commas. In the following examples, adjectives of these types are underlined.
e.g. a large egg carton
      a beautiful Chinese vase
      elegant black boots
      a dilapidated stone building

However, it should be noted that in some cases, proper adjectives and adjectives indicating shape, color and materials may or may not be preceded by commas. In the following examples, adjectives of these types are underlined.
e.g. a beautiful Japanese necklace or a beautiful, Japanese necklace
      a small square tower or a small, square tower
      a thin grey cat or a thin, grey cat
      a black leather briefcase or a black, leather briefcase

When such adjectives are not preceded by commas, there is an implication that the adjectives are used to help identify the object being described. However, when such adjectives are preceded by commas, there is an implication that the adjectives are provided only for purposes of description, and are not being used to help identify the object being described.

For example, in the phrase a small square tower, there is the implication that the shape of the tower helps to identify which tower is meant. However, in the phrase a small, square tower there is the implication that the adjective square is provided only for purposes of description, and is not being used to help identify which tower is meant.



There is also a distinction in meaning associated with the presence or absence of commas following ordinal adjectives. When followed by commas, ordinal adjectives function similarly to general descriptive adjectives, and modify only the accompanying noun.
e.g. the last, lonely outpost
      the first, faint morning light
In the first example, the adjective last modifies the noun outpost. In the second example, the adjective first modifies the noun light.

However, as explained in the section on ordinal adjectives, when they are not followed by commas, ordinal adjectives have the property of modifying any following attributive adjectives together with the accompanying noun.

c. Stress used with attributive adjectives
In speaking, nouns are usually pronounced with more stress than the preceding attributive adjectives. In the following examples, the words which are pronounced with the heaviest stress are underlined.
e.g. a small, green cucumber
      an old, rectangular courtyard
In these examples, the nouns cucumber and courtyard are pronounced with slightly more emphasis than the preceding adjectives.

i. Adjectives indicating materials
However, there are several exceptions to the rule that the noun has the most emphasis. For instance, when a noun is immediately preceded by an adjective naming a material, the adjective is usually pronounced with the same degree of emphasis as the noun.
e.g. a leather belt
      a silver spoon
In these examples, the adjectives leather and silver are pronounced with the same degree of emphasis as the nouns belt and spoon.

ii. Defining adjectives indicating location or time
Also, when a noun is preceded by a defining adjective indicating location or time, the adjective is usually pronounced with the same degree of emphasis as the noun.
e.g. the front door
      the fall term
In these examples, the defining adjectives front, indicating location, and fall, indicating time, are pronounced with the same degree of emphasis as the nouns door and term.

iii. Defining adjectives indicating purpose
However, when a defining adjective indicates the purpose of the object being described, the defining adjective usually has a strong emphasis, while the noun which follows it has a weak emphasis.
e.g. brown hiking boots
      a red milk carton
In these examples, the defining adjectives hiking and milk receive a stronger emphasis than either the succeeding nouns boots and carton, or the preceding attributive adjectives.


 

3. Predicate adjectives
a. Attributive adjectives which can be used as predicate adjectives
An adjective which is separated from the noun or pronoun it modifies by a verb is often referred to as a predicate adjective. The predicate adjectives in the following examples are underlined.
e.g. The horse is black.
      The streets are long and narrow.
      It is large, heavy and awkward.

In these examples, the adjective black modifies the noun horse. the adjectives long and narrow modify the noun streets, and the adjectives large, heavy and awkward modify the pronoun it.

Most general descriptive adjectives, as well as adjectives indicating color, can be used as predicate adjectives. In the following examples, the predicate adjectives are underlined.
e.g. The answer is puzzling.
      These envelopes are small.
      The bucket was heavy.
      The weather will be cool and dry.
      That child is young.
      The cake is round.
      The leaves are red, yellow and orange.

However, there are a few general descriptive adjectives which cannot be used as predicate adjectives. For example, the adjectives listed below are normally used only as attributive adjectives.

    Adjectives used only Attributively
      chief
      main
      principal
      sheer
      utter

It should be noted that although they cannot be used with attributive adjectives, pronouns can be used with predicate adjectives.
e.g. He is happy.
      She is proud.
      We are careful.
      They are successful.

Proper adjectives are sometimes used as predicate adjectives.
e.g. That car is American.
      This one is Japanese.

It should be noted that hyphenated adjectives containing nouns often cannot be used as predicate adjectives. When such an expression follows the verb, the hyphens are omitted and the noun assumes a plural form, if required. In the following examples, the nouns contained in the hyphenated adjectives are underlined.
e.g. the two-year-old child
      the one-hour program
      forty-dollar shoes

When placed after the verb, the hyphenated adjectives must be changed as follows:
e.g. The child is two years old.
      The length of the program is one hour.
      The price of the shoes is forty dollars.

However, hyphenated adjectives which do not contain nouns can often be used as predicate adjectives. For instance, in the following examples, the hyphenated adjectives are underlined.
e.g. the long-winded orator
      the wide-spread belief

These adjectives contain past participles. Hyphenated adjectives containing past participles are frequently used as predicate adjectives.
e.g. The orator was long-winded.
      The belief is wide-spread.

i. Order
The order of predicate adjectives relative to one another is generally the same as the order of attributive adjectives relative to one another. The following examples illustrate the order of predicate adjectives.
e.g. The package is small and light.
      The weather is clear, cold and dry.
      The footstool is round and black.

In the first example, the adjective small, indicating size, precedes the adjective light, indicating weight. In the second example, the general descriptive adjective clear precedes the adjective cold, indicating temperature, which precedes the adjective dry, indicating humidity. In the third example, the adjective round, indicating shape, precedes the adjective black, indicating color.

ii. Punctuation
As can be seen in these examples, the last two adjectives in a list of predicate adjectives are usually separated from each another by the word and, and any preceding adjectives are usually separated from one another by commas.
e.g. The clothes were clean and dry.
      The dancers were tall, slender and graceful.

In a list of three or more predicate adjectives, an additional comma is sometimes placed before the word and.
e.g. The dancers were tall, slender, and graceful.
However, this additional comma is usually considered unnecessary.



b. Adjectives which can be used only as predicate adjectives
The following are examples of adjectives with the prefix a which can be used only as predicate adjectives, not as attributive adjectives. The prefix a was formerly a preposition meaning on.

    Adjectives used only Predicatively
      afloat
      afraid
      aglow
      alive
      alone
      asleep

In some cases, related words can be used as attributive adjectives. In the following examples, words used only as predicate adjectives and related words used as attributive adjectives are underlined.

Predicate AdjectivesAttributive Adjectives
  The boat is afloat.  the floating boat
  The child is afraid.  the frightened child
  The sky is aglow.  the glowing sky
  The animal is alive.  the live animal
  The boy is asleep.  the sleeping boy

As illustrated below, the words here, there and ready can be used as predicate adjectives.
e.g. The children are here.
      The records were there.
      I am ready.

The words here and there are often used as adverbs, and cannot be used as attributive adjectives. The word ready is used as an attributive adjective only in certain expressions such as ready money and a ready answer.

As illustrated in the following examples, a few adjectives differ in meaning, depending upon whether they are used as predicate adjectives or attributive adjectives.
e.g. The treasurer was present.
      the present treasurer

      Robin Harris was late.
      the late Robin Harris

      My friend is poor.
      my poor friend

In the sentence the treasurer was present, the predicate adjective present indicates that the treasurer was not absent. However, in the phrase the present treasurer, the attributive adjective present indicates that the person referred to holds the position of treasurer at the present time.

In the sentence Robin Harris was late, the predicate adjective late indicates that Robin Harris did not arrive on time. However, in the phrase the late Robin Harris, the attributive adjective late indicates that Robin Harris is no longer alive.

In the sentence my friend is poor, the predicate adjective poor indicates that my friend has little money. However, in the phrase my poor friend, the attributive adjective poor indicates that my friend is in an unfortunate situation.



c. Linking verbs
In addition to the verb to be, certain other verbs can be followed by predicate adjectives. Such verbs are sometimes referred to as linking verbs, since they can link nouns or pronouns to modifying adjectives. For instance, the following verbs can be used as linking verbs.

Linking VerbLinking Verb used with Predicate Adjective
  to become  The wind became stronger.
  to feel  The blanket feels soft, warm and comfortable.
  to grow  The weather is growing cold.
  to look  The sky looked grey and overcast.
  to seem  His reasoning seems logical.
  to smell  The soup smelled good.
  to sound  The story sounds interesting.
  to taste  The carrots tasted sweet.
  to turn  The leaves turned scarlet.

In the above examples, the linking verbs link noun subjects with predicate adjectives.

When a verb is used as a linking verb, it is intransitive, since it does not take an object. It should be noted that many of the verbs listed above can also be used transitively.
e.g. The child felt the blankets.
      We smelled the soup.
In these examples, the verbs to feel and to smell are used transitively, taking the objects blankets and soup respectively.


 

4. Interpolated adjectives
As well as being used as attributive or predicate adjectives, general descriptive adjectives and adjectives indicating color can also be placed elsewhere in a sentence. When used in this way, adjectives can be said to be interpolated into a sentence. In the following sentences, the interpolated adjectives are underlined.
e.g. The child, happy and excited, ran along the beach.
      Startled, the small yellow bird stopped singing.
      Tense, expectant and alert, we waited to see what would happen.

Since the use of interpolated adjectives is somewhat uncommon, the use of interpolation can serve to emphasize the adjectives. Interpolated adjectives are most often placed immediately after a noun, as shown in the first example; or before a noun or pronoun at the beginning of a sentence, as shown in the second and third examples.

As illustrated above, a noun can be modified simultaneously by both interpolated and attributive adjectives. For instance, in the second example, the noun bird is modified by both the interpolated adjective startled and the attributive adjectives the small yellow.

Care must be taken in the positioning of interpolated adjectives, since the reader or listener will usually assume that the adjectives modify the nearest noun or pronoun.

As can be seen from the examples, the punctuation of interpolated adjectives is similar to that of predicate adjectives. When more than one adjective is used, the last two adjectives are separated from one another by the word and, and previous adjectives are separated from one another by commas.

However, unlike predicate adjectives, interpolated adjectives must also be separated from the rest of the sentence by commas. For instance, in the first example above, the interpolated adjectives happy and excited are separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma before the word happy, and a comma following the word excited. Likewise, in the second example, the interpolated adjective startled is separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma; and in the third example, the interpolated adjectives tense, expectant and alert are separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma following the word alert.

Interpolated adjectives are used more often in written English than in spoken English.


 

5. Adjectival phrases and clauses
Nouns and pronouns can be modified not only by adjectives, but also by adjectival phrases and clauses. In the following examples, the adjectival phrases and clauses are underlined.
e.g. The table near the door is made of oak.
      The one on the desk is mine.
      The chair, which was placed in front of the window, was an heirloom.
      Those who decide to come will not be disappointed.

In the first example, the noun table is modified by the adjectival phrase near the door. In the second example, the pronoun one is modified by the adjectival phrase on the desk. In the third example, the noun chair is modified by the adjectival clause which was placed in front of the window. In the fourth example, the pronoun those is modified by the adjectival clause who decide to come.

It should be noted that phrases do not contain verbs, whereas clauses do contain verbs. Phrases and clauses will be discussed further in the chapters dealing with prepositions and conjunctions. As illustrated in the preceding examples, an adjectival phrase or clause usually immediately follows the noun or pronoun being modified.


 

6. Participles used as adjectives
As has already been mentioned, present and past participles of verbs can be used as adjectives.

a. Present participles
Present participles used as adjectives refer to actions being performed by the things being described. In the following examples the present participles used as adjectives are underlined.
e.g. the falling star
      the barking dog
The first example indicates that the star is performing the action of falling. The second example indicates that the dog is performing the action of barking.

b. Past participles
Past participles used as adjectives refer to actions which have been performed on the things being described. In the following examples, the past participles used as adjectives are underlined.
e.g. the scattered leaves
      the broken drum
The first example indicates that something has scattered the leaves. The second example indicates that something has broken the drum.



c. Dangling participles
As well as being used as attributive and predicate adjectives, past and present participles can also be used at the beginning of adjectival phrases interpolated into a sentence. In the following sentences, the interpolated adjectival phrases are underlined. As illustrated by the examples, an interpolated phrase must be separated from the rest of the sentence by a comma.
e.g. Feeling hungry, the child ate an apple.
      Disconcerted by the news, we headed for the nearest farmhouse.

In the first example, the present participle feeling begins the adjectival phrase feeling hungry, which modifies the noun child. In the second example, the past participle disconcerted begins the adjectival phrase disconcerted by the news, which modifies the pronoun we.

Since the listener or reader tends to assume that an interpolated adjectival phrase is meant to modify the nearest noun or pronoun, care must be taken to make sure that such a phrase is positioned close to the noun or pronoun to be modified. A participle that begins an interpolated phrase that is not sufficiently close to the noun or pronoun to be modified is usually referred to as a dangling participle. Dangling participles can result in ambiguity, or in sentences which do not make sense.

In the following sentences, the phrases beginning with dangling participles are underlined.
e.g. The photographer focused the camera, holding his breath.
      Running across the road, his hat blew off.

In the first example, the noun to be modified is photographer. However, the phrase holding his breath is separated from the noun to be modified by the noun camera. Thus, the phrase holding his breath seems to modify the noun camera. In the second example, the noun or pronoun to be modified is missing from the sentence, and the phrase running across the road seems to modify the noun hat.

These example illustrate two basic types of dangling participle. In one type, the participle begins an adjectival phrase which is separated from the noun or pronoun to be modified by another noun or pronoun. In the other type, the participle begins an adjectival phrase that is meant to modify a noun or pronoun which in fact is not present in the sentence.

When an adjectival phrase is separated from the noun or pronoun to be modified by another noun or pronoun, the sentence can be corrected by positioning the adjectival phrase next to the noun or pronoun to be modified. This can often be accomplished by moving the phrase from one end of the sentence to the other.

For instance, in the sentences below, the nouns to be modified and the phrases containing dangling participles are underlined.
e.g. The photographer focused the camera, holding his breath.
      Working as quickly as possible, our car was repaired by a mechanic.
      Lost for over thirty years, she was overjoyed to find the diaries.
In these examples, holding his breath seems to modify the noun camera, working as quickly as possible seems to modify the noun car, and lost for over thirty years seems to modify the pronoun she.

These sentences can be corrected as follows.
e.g. Holding his breath, the photographer focused the camera.
      Our car was repaired by a mechanic, working as quickly as possible.
      She was overjoyed to find the diaries, lost for over thirty years.
In the corrected sentences, the adjectival phrases are correctly positioned near the nouns to be modified.



When an adjectival phrase is meant to modify a noun or pronoun which in fact is not present in the sentence, the sentence can be corrected by rewriting either the adjectival phrase or the rest of the sentence, so that the missing noun or pronoun is supplied. For instance, in the sentences below, the phrases containing dangling participles are underlined.
e.g. Running across the road, his hat blew off.
      Sitting lost in thought, the book slipped from her hand.
      Determined not to be late, our watches were set ten minutes fast.

These sentences can be corrected as follows. In the corrected sentences, the noun or pronoun which was missing from the original sentence is underlined. Two corrected versions are given for each of the preceding sentences.
e.g. As he ran across the road, his hat blew off.
      Running across the road, he lost his hat.

      As she sat lost in thought, the book slipped from her hand.
      Sitting lost in thought, she let the book slip from her hand.

      Because we were determined not to be late, our watches were set ten minutes fast.
      Determined not to be late, we set our watches ten minutes fast.

In the first corrected version of each of the preceding sentences, the adjectival phrase has been changed to an adjectival clause containing the pronoun which was missing from the original sentence. Thus, the interpolated phrase running across the road has been changed to the subordinate clause as he ran across the road, the interpolated phrase sitting lost in thought has been changed to the subordinate clause as she sat lost in thought, and the interpolated phrase determined not to be late has been changed to the subordinate clause because we were determined not to be late.

In the second corrected version of each of the sentences, the main clause of the sentence has been rewritten so that the pronoun which was missing from the original sentence is positioned next to the adjectival phrase which is meant to modify the pronoun. Thus, whereas in the incorrect sentences, the underlined adjectival phrases seem to modify the adjacent nouns hat, book and watches; in the corrected sentences, the adjectival phrases correctly modify the pronouns he, she and we.

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