What Are Coordinate Adjectives? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Two or More Adjectives
  • 0:22 Using Coordinate Adjectives
  • 1:06 Coordinate vs. Cumulative
  • 1:31 More than 2 Adjectives
  • 1:54 Mixtures
  • 2:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we examine the use of coordinate adjectives to describe a noun. Coordinate adjectives are contrasted with cumulative adjectives. The proper comma use for both coordinate and cumulative adjectives is also discussed.

Two or More Adjectives

What is a writer to do when one adjective just isn't enough? When two or more adjectives are used to describe the same noun, the writer must determine if they are coordinate adjectives or cumulative adjectives in order to decide how commas should be used. Let's learn more about the proper usage of coordinate and cumulative adjectives.

Using Coordinate Adjectives

Coordinate adjectives are two or more adjectives that describe the same noun. Coordinate adjectives are equally important and are separated by a comma.

For example:

  • Smart, funny Jaimie quickly advanced as a class leader.

A great way to decide whether or not you need a comma between coordinate adjectives is by asking yourself if the sentence would still make sense if the order of the adjectives were reversed and if the word 'and' would work in the sentence.

For example:

  • Funny and smart, Jaimie quickly advanced as a class leader.

Since this sentence makes sense after the adjectives are reversed and 'and' is put between them, you will use a comma to separate the adjectives when writing the original sentence:

  • Smart, funny Jaimie quickly advanced as a class leader.

Coordinate vs. Cumulative

Adjectives that can neither be reversed nor separated by the word 'and' are called cumulative adjectives.

For example:

  • The purple muscle car out-performed all of the other cars in the race.

'Purple' and 'muscle' are cumulative, not coordinate adjectives because it's awkward and incorrect to say:

  • The muscle and purple car out-performed all of the other cars in the race.

Cumulative adjectives are not separated by commas.

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