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What Is a Descriptive Adjective? - Definition & Examples

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Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

Descriptive adjectives provide information about nouns and pronouns. Explore the definition and examples of descriptive adjectives to understand their function. Also, learn that while descriptive adjectives provide important information, they can be overused. Updated: 12/28/2021

The Function of Adjectives

You're probably familiar with the eight parts of speech that make up the English language. Nouns and pronouns are crucial to forming sentences and adjectives modify nouns and pronouns, making it possible to create engaging mental images of what the speaker or writer is talking about by providing more detail.

A complete sentence with only a noun and verb can sound fairly dull. Here's one of these two word sentences:

  • Ducks float.

We have a noun and a verb, but the sentence isn't very memorable. Let's add some other words, including adjectives:

  • Three fluffy, yellow ducks float on Mr. Smith's peaceful pond.

Here's another example:

  • I went to the park and ate lunch with Jan.

Adding adjectives certainly adds to the image:

  • I went to a quiet park yesterday and ate a delicious picnic lunch with Jan.

Adjectives are words that describe and modify nouns, like picnic.
Adjectives are words that describe and modify nouns, like picnic

Adjectives serve important functions in spoken and written sentences. This lesson is about the use of descriptive adjectives.

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  • 0:04 The Function of Adjectives
  • 1:05 Descriptive Adjectives
  • 2:07 Words to Describe Someone
  • 3:24 Overuse of Descriptive…
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Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are the most commonly used type of adjective and they add meaning to a noun or pronoun by describing its qualities. There are thousands of descriptive adjectives that exist in the English language, so it's not difficult to come up with one. They can tell what size something is, how something tastes, what something smells like, and so much more. Some adjectives that describe size are:

  • Immense
  • Miniature
  • Petite
  • Pudgy

Adjectives that describe texture include:

  • Rough
  • Scaly
  • Bumpy
  • Smooth

Some adjectives to use when describing odor are:

  • Putrid
  • Fragrant
  • Acrid
  • Sweet

When describing sound, you can use the adjectives:

  • Thundering
  • Faint
  • Muffled
  • Shrill

Adjectives that describe appearance include:

  • Stunning
  • Muscular
  • Attractive
  • Hideous

And, finally, some adjectives that describe character are:

  • Funny
  • Dependable
  • Courageous
  • Dishonest

Words to Describe Someone

One common use of adjectives is to describe people or animals, further identifying them for the reader or listener. These adjectives might describe size, personality, or general appearance. Here are a few examples:

  • A huge dog
  • A tall woman
  • Courageous firefighters
  • An annoying classmate
  • An intelligent speaker
  • A playful kitten

Now let's create a sentence or two using these adjectives:

  • I have an annoying classmate sitting next to me this semester.
  • Kendra has a playful kitten at home that she adopted from the shelter.

The adjective playful can be used to describe a kitten.
The adjective playful can be used to describe a kitten

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