What Are Proper Adjectives? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Are Proper Adjectives?
  • 0:32 Forming Proper Adjectives
  • 1:55 Capitalization
  • 2:29 Why Use Proper Adjectives?
  • 2:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Margaret Stone

Margaret has taught both college and high school English and has a master's degree in English.

This lesson focuses on proper adjectives, which are formed from proper nouns. Proper adjectives offer a concise way to describe a noun, and they are always capitalized.

What Are Proper Adjectives?

Adjectives describe nouns, which are people, places, and things. Proper adjectives are typically formed from proper nouns. Proper nouns name a specific person, place, or thing (such as Jefferson or America). Ordinarily, adjectives are not capitalized unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence. However, proper adjectives are a bit different, because they are always capitalized regardless of where they appear in a sentence.

Forming Proper Adjectives

Typically, a proper adjective is formed by changing the suffix, or word ending, of the proper noun to one of the following: -ian, -an, -esque, -like, or -istic. For example, the proper noun 'Jamaica' would be changed to the proper adjective 'Jamaican' to describe a person from Jamaica. In the same way, a person from Australia is an Australian, and a person from Canada is a Canadian.

Let's look at the difference in the way a proper noun and a proper adjective are used in a sentence. If we were writing a sentence about William Shakespeare, the playwright, we would use the proper noun, which would be his name.

  • 'Shakespeare wrote many plays about kings and queens.'

If we want to describe another noun (in this case, 'actor') we would use the proper adjective form of the proper noun Shakespeare.

  • 'Laurence Olivier was a celebrated Shakespearean actor.'

As is often the case with the English language, there are exceptions to the rule of changing the suffix to form a proper adjective. Sometimes, the proper adjective is a complete change from the original noun. For example, a person from Switzerland is considered Swiss.

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