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Formation of Adjectives

§ 2.Many adjectives are formed from other parts of speech by
adding different suffixes the most common of which are:

-able:comfortable, preferable, reliable
-ible:sensible, visible, susceptible
-ant:elegant, predominant, arrogant
-ent:dependent, intelligent, innocent
-al: cultural, musical, medical
-ic: atomic, scientific, heroic
-ish:childish, foolish, brownish

-ive: attractive, expensive, talkative
-ful:careful, useful, skilful
-less:careless, helpless, useless
-ly: brotherly, deadly, friendly
-ous;dangerous, curious, anxious
-y: dirty, dusty, sleepy

In English there is also a large number of adjectives ending in
-ing and -erf.

e.g. His answer was (very) surprising.
The man felt (very) offended.

Such adjectives are former ing-forms which have become ad-

jectivized, i.e. they have, partly or completely, lost their verbal
force and acquired some or all of the features of adjectives (see
"Adjectives", § 1: "Verbs" §§ 172, 179).

e.g. Mike made an interesting report.
The film was (very) interesting.

I should say it was the mostinteresting film of the year.
He is a disappointedold man.

He felt (very) disappointedwhen nobody answered his call.
I found him more disappointedthan I had expected.

Sometimes it is the context that helps to understand whether
we are dealing with a verbal form or an adjective.

I don't like her. (adj.)

Cf. She is calculating.

Don t disturb her. (verb)

to find her at home, (adj.)

They were relieved by the officer on duty, (verb)

Sometimes the difference between the adjective and the verbal
form is not clear-cut and lies in the verbal force retained by the
latter. The verbal force is explicit for the ing-form when a direct
object is present.

e.g. His words were alarminghis parents.
You are frightening me.

Similarly, the verbal force is explicit for the participle when a
by-phrase is present.

e.g. The black man was offended by the policeman.
She was misunderstood by her friends.

(For more of this see "Verbs", §§ 227, 245).

Classification of Adjectives

§ 3. The actual application of adjectives is often, explicitly or
implicitly, connected with their semantic characteristics. So it ap-
pears reasonable to divide adjectives into semantic groups each of
which has its own possibilities or restrictions.

I. As has been said in § 1, most adjectives can be used both at-
tributively and predicatively. They are central to this part of
speech, as it were.

Besides, there are adjectives that can be used only attributively.

To this group belong:

1) intensifying adjectives:

a) emphasizers (giving a general heightening effect): a clear
failure, a definite loss, plain nonsense, a real hero, the simple
truth, a true scholar, a sure sign,

b) amplifiers (denoting a high or extreme degree): a complete
victory, total nonsense, the absolute truth, a great scholar, a strong
opponent, utter stupidity, the entire world,

c) downtoners (having a lowering effect): a slight misun-
derstanding, a feeble reason,


2) restrictive adjectives (which restrict the reference to the
noun exclusively, particularly or chiefly): the exact answer, the
main reason, his chief excuse, a particular occasion, the precise
information, the principal objection, the specific point,

3) adjectives related to adverbial expressions: a former friend
(—> formerly a friend), a possible opponent (—> possibly an oppo-
nent), the present leader (—> the leader at present), an occasional
(-> occasionally a visitor), an apparent defeat (—> apparently
a defeat), the late president (—> till lately the president).

4) adjectives formed from nouns: a criminal lawyer, an atomic
student, a woollen dress,

Adjectives that can be used only predicatively are fewer in
number. They tend to refer to a (possibly temporary) condition
rather than to characterize the noun. The most commonly used
predicative adjectives are: able, conscious, fond, glad, ill, subject,

{un)well; ablaze, afloat, afraid, aghast, alight, alike, alive, alone,
ashamed, asleep, averse, awake, aware.

II. Adjectives are generally stative (see also "Verbs", § 2).
Many of them, however, may be treated as dynamic. Stative and

dynamic adjectives differ in some ways, e.g. the link-verb to be in
combination with dynamic adjectives can have the continuous
form or be used in the imperative mood.

e.g. He is being careful. She is being vulgar.

Be careful! Don't be vulgar!

Stative adjectives do not admit of such forms (e.g. *He is be-
ing tall. *Be tall!).

To the group of dynamic adjectives belong: adorable, am-
bitious, awkward, brave, calm, careful, careless, cheerful, clever,
complacent, conceited, cruel, disagreeable, dull, enthusiastic, ex-
travagant, foolish, friendly, funny, generous, gentle, good, greedy,
hasty, helpful, irritating, jealous, kind, lenient, loyal, mischievous,
naughty, nice, noisy, (im)patient, reasonable, rude, sensible, seri-
ous, shy, slow, spiteful, stubborn, stupid, suspicious, tactful, talk-
ative, thoughtful, tidy, timid, troublesome, vain, vulgar, wicked,

e.g. I'm sure Nick will understand that it's only for his own good

that you're being so unkind.

In those days a woman did not contradict a man's opinion
when he was being serious.

III. Adjectives are also distinguished as gradable and non-
gradable. Most adjectives are gradable. That means that they can

be modified by adverbs of degree and themselves change for de-
grees of comparison.

e.g. Your niece is so (very, extremely, too) young.
Tom is stronger than Father. He is the strongest in the family.
All dynamic adjectives are gradable; most stative adjectives
are gradable, too.
Degrees of Comparison
§ 4. There are three degrees of comparison: positive, com-
parative and superlative.

The positive form Is the plain stem of an adjective (e.g.
heavy, slow, straight, extravagant, etc.)

There are two methods of forming the comparative and the su-
perlative degrees: 1) by adding the suffixes -er and -est, and 2) by
using more and most before the adjective.

The first method is used for:

a) monosyllabic adjectives,

e.g. new — newer — newest

bright — brighter — brightest

b) disyllabic adjectives ending in -er, ow, -y, or -le,

e.g. clever — cleverer — cleverest

narrow — narrower — narrowest
happy — happier — happiest
simple — simpler — simplest

c) disyllabic adjectives with the stress on the second syllable,

e.g. polite — politer — politest

complete — completer — completest

d) a few frequently used disyllabic adjectives,

e.g. common — commoner — commonest
pleasant — pleasanter — pleasantest
quiet — quieter — quietest

The following spelling rules should be observed in forming the
comparative and the superlative:

a) adjectives ending in -y preceded by a consonant, change the -y
into -ier and -iest,

e.g. heavy — heavier — heaviest

But adjectives ending in -y preceded by a vowel, remain un-
e.g. gay — gayer — gayest

b) monosyllabic adjectives with a short vowel double their fi-
nal consonants,

e.g. big ~ bigger — biggest

thin — thinner — thinnest

But monosyllabic adjectives ending in a double consonant, re-
main unchanged,

e.g. thick — thicker — thickest
fresh — fresher — freshest

c) adjectives with a mute -e at the end, add only -r and -st,
e.g. pale — paler — palest

The second method is used for:

a) most disyllabic adjectives,

e.g. careful — more careful — most careful
private — more private — most private

b) adjectives of more than two syllables,

e.g. personal — more personal — most personal
beautiful — more beautiful — most beautiful

c) adjectives formed from participles and ing-forms,

e.g. tired — more tired —- most tired

interesting — more interesting — most interesting

d) adjectives used only predicatively,

e.g. afraid — more afraid
aware — more aware

The superlative degree of predicative adjectives in (d) is hard-ly ever used in English.

Note. Care should be taken to remember that most when used before an adjec-
tive does not always form the superlative degree. It may have the meaning of
'very', 'extremely7. Then it is preceded by the indefinite article.

e.g. He was a most interesting man.

A few adjectives have irregular forms for the degrees of com-
parison. They are:

good — better — best
bad — worse — worst
far — farther — farthest
(for distance)

further — furthest (for time and distance)
near — nearer — nearest (for distance)
next (for order)

late — later — latest (for time)
last (for order)

old — older — oldest (for age)

elder — eldest (for seniority rather than age; used only attrib-

Non-gradable adjectives, on account of their meaning, do not
admit of comparison at all, e.g. daily, empty, full, perfect, round,
square, unique, upper, wooden
and some others.

The comparative degree is used when there are two objects,
actions or phenomena compared or contrasted,
e.g. She had the kind of heart trouble that comes to much older


He found the work easier than he had expected.
I was now a more experienced man and it was not easy to de-
ceive me.
His reading was more extensive than ever before.

The superlative degree is used when an object, an action or a
phenomenon is compared or contrasted with more than two ob-
jects, actions or phenomena,
e.g. At that time I worshipped Manet. His "Olympia" seemed to

me the greatest picture of modern times.
She was the most active of us.
Note the following sentence patterns in which comparison is


a) comparison of equality (as ... as),

e.g. The boy was as sly as a monkey.

When he had left Paris, it was as cold as in winter there.

b) comparison of inequality (not so ... as, not as ... as),
e.g. The sun is not so hot today as I thought it would be.

You are not as nice as people think.

c) comparison of superiority (...-er than, -est of/in/ever),

e.g. He looked younger than his years.

"You're much more interested in my dresses than my dress-
maker," she said.
My mother was the proudest of women.

To my mind the most interesting thing in art is the personal-
ity of the artist.
It's the biggest risk I've ever had to take.

d) comparison of inferiority (less ... than),
e.g. John is less musical than his sister.

e) comparison of parallel increase or decrease (the... the, ...-er as),

e.g. The longer I think of his proposal the less I like it.
The sooner this is done, the better.
He became more cautious as he grew.

§ 5. Note the following set phrases which contain the cora-
parative or the superlative degree of an adjective:

a) a change for the better (for the worse) — перемена к луч-
шему (к худшему), e.g. There seems to be a change for the better in your uncle. He
had a very hearty dinner yesterday.

b) so much the better (the worse) — тем лучше (хуже),

e.g. If he will help us, so much the better.

If he doesn't work, so much the worse for him.

c) to be the worse for — делать что-то еще хуже, еще больше,
e.g. He is rather the worse for drink.

d) none the worse for — хуже не станет (не стало) от ...,

e.g. You'll be non the worse for having her to help you.
You are none the worse for the experience.

e) if the worst comes to the worst — в худшем случае,

e.g. If the worst comes to the worst, I can always go back home

to my parents.

f) to go from bad to worse — становиться все хуже и хуже,
e.g. Things went from bad to worse in the family,
g) as best — в полную меру старания, как только можно,
e.g. He made a living as best he could.

h) at (the) best — в лучшем случае,

e.g. She cannot get away from her home for long. At (the) best
she can stay with us for two days.


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