Adjective, it’s types and categories

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1. Definition of the term adjectives

2. How do adjectives make speech more expressive?

3. Grammatical overview of english adjectives

4. Degrees of comparison of adjectives




The theme of my course paper sounds as following: «Adjective, its types
and categories». Before beginning of investigation in our theme, I would
like to say some words dealt with the theme of my course paper.

Without referring to the traditional definition of adjectives you can
find in any dictionary, Let’s make our way into talking about the
standard role of adjectives in language. In English the adjective is
multifunctional. It is used essentially to describe an object but, in
general, it is meant to enrich and clarify ideas and lead the
interlocutors to communicate eloquently.

Standing on such ground, I would like to point out tasks and aims of my

1. The first task of my work is to give definition to term «adjective».

2. The second task is to describe the role of adjectives in our speech.

3. The last task of my work is to characterize adjectives from
grammatical point of view.

In our opinion the practical significance of our work is hard to be
overvalued. This work reflects modern trends in linguistics and we hope
it would serve as a good manual for those who wants to master modern
English language. Also this work can be used by teachers of English
language for teaching English grammar.

The present work might find a good way of implying in the following

1. In High Schools and scientific circles of linguistic kind it can be
successfully used by teachers and philologists as modern material for
writing research works dealing with English adjectives.

2. It can be used by teachers of schools, lyceums and colleges by
teachers of English as a practical manual for teaching English grammar.

3. It can be useful for everyone who wants to enlarge his/her knowledge
in English.

After having proved the actuality of our work, I would like to describe
the composition of it:

My work consists of four parts: introduction, the main part, conclusion
and bibliography. Within the introduction part we gave the brief
description of our course paper. The main part of the work includes
several items. There we discussed such problems as main features of
English adjectives, described their role in English language, and gave
grammatical characteristics of them. In the conclusion to our work we
tried to draw some results from the scientific investigations made
within the present course paper. In bibliography part we mentioned some
sources which were used while compiling the present work. It includes
linguistic books and articles dealing with the theme, a number of used
dictionaries and encyclopedias and also some internet sources.

1. Definition of the Term Adjectives

An adjective is a word which acts to modify a noun in a sentence. While
adjectives play a large role in many languages – such as English – many
other languages have no adjectives at all. In English the set of
adjectives is fairly well understood, though some people include other
parts of speech – such as articles like the – in the class of

There are two main roles an adjective may take in a sentence, and with a
few exceptions each adjective is able to take either role just as
easily. The first role is to act as a predicative adjective, in which
the adjective modifies a preceding noun as a predicate, linked by a
verb. An example of a predicative adjective can be found in the
sentence: A zebra is striped. in which the adjective striped is linked
the subject of the sentence, zebra, by use of the copula verb to be in
the is form.

The second role an adjective may take is as an attributive adjective, in
which it modifies a noun by being linked directly to the noun as part of
the noun phrase. An example of an attributive adjective may be seen in
the sentence: ‘The striped zebra pranced.’ in which the adjective
striped is directly connected to the subject of the sentence, zebra. In
English, most attributive adjectives precede the noun they are going to
modify, while in many Romance languages the adjective comes after the
noun. So while in English we might say ‘The beautiful woman.’ in French
we would say ‘Le femme jolie.’ which may be literally translated as ‘The
woman beautiful.’

While most adjectives in English are able to be used just as easily
either in an attributive or a predicative sense, there are some which
are restricted to one role or the other. For example, the adjective sole
can be used grammatically only as an attributive adjective, as can be
seen in the sentence: This is the sole survivor. On the other hand,
trying to use the adjective sole in the predicative role would result in
the ungrammatical sentence: This survivor is sole. Other English
adjectives, such as alone, may be used only as a predicative adjective,
while attempts to use them attributively result in ungrammatical

Adjectives may be modified by adverbs or adverbial clauses, but not by
other adjectives. Many adjectives, however, can easily translate into
corresponding adverbs simply by adding the ending to them. This can be
seen in pairs such as quick/quickly and happy/happily.

In English and many other languages, adjectives also have a correct and
incorrect order, depending on the type of adjectives used. Most native
speakers learn this order instinctively, and related mistakes are one of
the most obvious signs of a non-native speaker. For example, using the
adjectives red, little, and two with the noun books, most native English
speakers would intuitively order the adjectives to form the sentence
‘The two little red books.’ To non-native speakers, however, it might
seem just as intuitive to say ‘The two red little books.’ or even ‘The
red two little books.’ both of which are immediately obvious as
incorrect to a native English speaker.

As mentioned earlier, not all languages use adjectives; some use other
parts of speech instead to fill this role. Many Native American
languages, for example, use verbs to fill the role that adjectives play
in English, so that rather than ‘The woman is short.’ we are faced with
something like ‘The woman is shorting.’ Languages that use nouns as
adjectives are often more comprehensible to speakers of English, since
our sentence formations can easily allow for metaphoric description
using only nouns, with a verb perhaps to flavor it, such as ‘The sun was
a blazing inferno.’ instead of ‘The sun was hot.’ English also uses
abstract nouns, for example to turn ‘An important statement.’ into ‘A
statement of import.’

2. How Do Adjectives Make Speech More Expressive?

A message void of adjectives is the least expressive one. Therefore
adjectives are somehow the backbone of any expression we want to make
accurate and clear in encoding the message. Adjectives help us respect
real and straight communication rules. So, do you «adjective» your
messages so well that people can understand you well?The material is
taken from: http://madrasati2010.bravehost.com/adj.htm

Without the use of adjectives, actually, we lose a lot; and we may be
short in expressing our emotions, opinions, and the impressions we have
about a given subject. We are going to see to what extent the use of
adjectives (esp. adjectives of quality) is helpful in our interactive
contact with the others?! See this example: Yesterday, I bought a car.

This sentence seems stiff and dull. It may make you respond to it
indifferently because the speaker is giving a vague idea about the car
he had bought. His sentence doesn’t really carry a complete well-spoken
idea. What the speaker needs to make his sentence expressive, attractive
and provoking, is by relying on adjectives to colour it and present it
in a beautiful structure. Now compare the first sentence with the
following: Yesterday, I bought a red car.

The image is getting a little clearer with the adjective «red». Now we
know something new about the car. It is not yellow or black, it is
rather red. However, actually, it is not yet fully clear enough for us
to form a complete image about the car so as to estimate or
underestimate it. Therefore, one sentence can bear as many adjectives as
you like, provided that they don’t raise misunderstanding or confuse the
listener. Yet, the speaker should normally respect the appropriate
organization of adjectives in a sentence.

Is this order of adjectives in sentence compulsory? Is it based on
rules? Let’s tackle and illustrate this issue through investigating the
impact of the use of adjectives on our «stiff» sentence. What is the
most appropriate word-order we should respect to reach a complete
multi-adjectival statement? Suppose the speaker wants to tell us about
the size of the car; and he chooses to depict his car as «small». Where
shall he place the new word in the sentence? Before or after the
previous adjective, namely: «red»? Look at it this way: Yesterday, I
bought a small red car.

The sentence in its new structure gives more information about the car.
We, lucky as we are, have the opportunity to know that the car in
question is not a big one. Thanks to this adjective we become able to
make our image of the car a little bit clearer though some more details
are still in need. These details cannot be provided, so to speak, unless
other adjectives come to complete the image in our minds. The structural
issue, on the other hand, is to justify the placement of the adjective
«small» before the adjective «red». Why couldn’t we say instead:
[Yesterday, I bought a red small car]? This form is inaccurate. The word
ordering, in a sentence, is not moody at all. The accuracy of the
sentence here is controlled by the respect of this order, notably:
«shape = small» then «colour = red» but not vice versa. Now suppose the
speaker intends to praise his car and decides that the adjective
‘beautiful’ is the most suitable to give his opinion about it, what
shall he do? Where shall he place it among the previously stated
adjectives? Look at how the sentence should be structured: Yesterday, I
bought a beautiful, small, red car.

All these details are boring but unavoidable to make the structure more
formal and accurate. The ‘beautiful’ adjective, on the other hand, is
quite interesting in the making of the image. It is not a piece of
evidence but it is simply an opinion that could differ from any one
else’s. The rule says that the opinion is always initial when a range of
adjectives are used that’s why the speaker places his ‘beautiful’
opinion adjective first. The adjective describes it as beautiful and
this opinion is essentially contributing in depicting an almost complete
picture. And that’s not all. Our sentence is able to bear as more
adjectives as we wish but under the very specific conditions we are
trying to clarify here. Now let’s go on imagining this famous car as
being made in Japan. How can the speaker introduce this new important

Yesterday, I bought a beautiful, small, red, Japanese car.

The beautiful small car is made in Japan, which we didn’t know before
the use of the adjective «Japanese». It improves the picture of the car
in our minds and also in the way we conceive the object. The car hasn’t
got an American or European origin. It is simply Japanese. The newly
introduced adjective has to be placed at the end of the list of
adjectives already stated. However, it is not the last in the order.
Another adjective, notably the one which gives us information about the
material with which the car was constructed, is the last ring of the
chain. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Let’s go on with it and see the way we
are placing the new adjective, Yesterday, I bought a beautiful, small,
red, Japanese, plastic car.

We’ve finally reached a quite complete image of this famous car. In
English it is not, normally, allowed to go beyond these five adjectives
in a sentence. Their variety is supposed to be enough to make any
described object lavishly clear. Therefore, any more adjectives of
quality in one single sentence generally lead to ambiguity or distortion
of the image. That’s greatly enough like this. The construction of a
syntactically correct structure of a sentence, in which the adjectives
are the basis of transmitting a complete clear message, implies the use
of the specific number of adjectives; each of which has to refer you to
a piece of information complete in itself but a brick completing the
others. It means that no adjectives of the same category should be used
more than once. Once these rules are respected, not only will adjectives
make your sentences correct and clear, but they also will decorate them
and make them look formal and adept. With this order in mind, you can
make as many sentences as you wish. You will successfully express
yourself formally if you follow the correct order of the adjectives in
the sentence. This classification system is not negotiable, however. You
cannot break it unless you speak or write to someone who doesn’t know
exactly what a FORMAL sentence looks like.


*/ There is a lovely, large, multicolour, Moroccan, woollen carpet in my

*/ She was wearing an attractive, long, auburn, Indian, silky dress.

As you can see in these sentences, as well as in the former ones, each
pair of adjectives is separated by a comma (,). When there are more than
one adjective before the noun in a sentence, we usually use commas
except for adjectives of colour which we separate by «and» instead.

A black and white Djellaba

A blue, white and red flag.

Adjectives are used to carry the specific meaning we intend to convey in
many different ways. I mean that the same adjective can have more than
one meaning depending on the context. It is not the same in all
situations. The adjectives of quality have the ability as to
«metamorphose» in their implications once their context has been
changed. I mean that they can go from the proper meaning to the
figurative one and the same adjective can mean two different things in
two different contexts. For example the adjective «pretty» means
«attractive» but in another context, it means «fine or good». The
adjective «rich», also, has got this quality. It can be used for more
than one meaning. Here is a usual example:

1. That’s a rich man. (He is wealthy; he’s got a lot of money).

2. That’s a rich book. (There are a lot of interesting ideas and
insights in it).

Sometimes the adjectives turn to be rigid and one adjective is used only
for specific purpose and cannot be used for others though they share the
same quality. Look at this example:

-/ My uncle is the tall man in the middle.

A man is «tall»; but what about a building or a mountain? Can we
attribute the adjective «tall» to them, too? No, another adjective is
quite more suitable because it is more expressive and accurate in this
situation, it is «high»:

-/ A high building / mountain.

3. Grammatical overview of English Adjectives

There is not much to be said about the English adjective from the
grammatical point of view. As is well know, it has neither number, nor
case, nor gender distinctions. Some adjectives have, however, degrees of
соmparisоn, which make part of the morphological system of a language.
Thus, the English adjective differs materially not only from such highly
inflected languages as Russian. Latin, and German, where the adjectives
have a rather complicated sуstem оf fоrms, but even fгоm Modern French,
which h as preserved number and gender distinсtiоns to the present day
(сf. masculine singular grand, masculine plural grands, feminine
singular grande, feminine plural grandes ‘large’).

By what signs do we then, recognize an adjective as such in Modern
Eng1ish? In most cases this сan be dоne оn1у bу taking into account
semantic and sуntасtiсal phenomena. But in some cases, that is for
certain adjeсtives, derivative suffixes are significant, too. Among
these are the suffix – less (as in useless), the suffix – like (as in
ghostlike), and a few others. Occasionally, however, though a suffix
often appears in adjectives, it cannot be taken as a certain proof of
the word being an adjective, because the suffix may also make part of a
word belonging to another part of speech. Thus, the suffix – full would
seem to be typically adjectival, as is its antonym – less. In faсt we
find the suffix – full in adjectives often enough, as in beautiful,
useful, purposeful, meaningful, etc. But alongside of these we also find
spoonful. mouthful, handfu1, etc., which are nouns.

Оn the whole, the numbeг оf adjectives which сan be recognized, as such
by their suffix seems to be insignificant as compared with the mass of
English adjectives. B. Ilyish, The Structure of Modern English, p.58 All
the adjectives are traditionally divided into two large subclasses:
qualitative and relative.

Relative adjectives express such properties of a substance as are
determined by the direct relation of the substance to some other

E.g.: wood – a wooden hut; mathematics – mathematical precision; history
– a historical event;

table – tabular presentation; colors – colored postcards;

surgery – surgical treatment; the Middle Ages – mediaeval rites.

The nature of this «relationship» in adjectives is best revealed by
definitional correlations. Cf.: a wooden hut – a hut made of wood; a
historical event – an event referring to a certain period of history;
surgical treatment – treatment consisting in the implementation of
surgery; etc.

Qualitative adjectives, as different from relative ones, denote various
qualities of substances which admit of a quantitative estimation, i.e.
of establishing their correlative quantitative measure. The measure of a
quality can be estimated as high or low, adequate or inadequate,
sufficient or insufficient, optimal or excessive. Cf.: an awkward
situation – a very awkward situation; a difficult task – too difficult a
task; an enthusiastic reception – rather an enthusiastic reception; a
hearty welcome – not a very hearty welcome; etc.

In this connection, the ability of an adjective to form degrees of
comparison is usually taken as a formal sign of its qualitative
character, in opposition to a relative adjective which is understood as
incapable of forming degrees of comparison by definition. Cf.: a pretty
girl – a prettier girl; a quick look – a quicker look; a hearty welcome
– the heartiest of welcomes; a bombastic speech – the most bombastic

However, in actual speech the described principle of distinction is not
at all strictly observed, which is noted in the very grammar treatises
putting it forward. Two typical cases of contradiction should be pointed
out here.

In the first place, substances can possess such qualities as are
incompatible with the idea of degrees of comparison. Accordingly,
adjectives denoting these qualities, while belonging to the qualitative
subclass, are in the ordinary use incapable of forming degrees of
comparison. Here refer adjectives like extinct, immobile, deaf, final,
fixed, etc.

In the second place, many adjectives considered under the heading of
relative still can form degrees of comparison, thereby, as it were,
transforming the denoted relative property of a substance into such as
can be graded quantitatively. Cf.: a mediaeval approach–rather a
mediaeval approach – a far more mediaeval approach; of a military design
– of a less military design – of a more military design;

a grammatical topic ~ a purely grammatical topic – the most grammatical
of the suggested topics.

In order to overcome the demonstrated lack of rigour in the definitions
in question, we may introduce an additional linguistic distinction which
is more adaptable to the chances of usage. The suggested distinction is
based on the evaluative function of adjectives. According as they
actually give some qualitative evaluation to the substance referent or
only point out its corresponding native property, all the adjective
functions may be grammatically divided into «evaluative» and
«specificative». In particular, one and the same adjective, irrespective
of its being basically (i.e. in the sense of the fundamental semantic
property of its root constituent) «relative» or «qualitative», can be
used either in the evaluative function or in the specificative function.

For instance, the adjective good is basically qualitative. On the other
hand, when employed as a grading term in teaching, i.e. a term forming
part of the marking scale together with the grading terms bad,
satisfactory, excellent, it acquires the said specificative value; in
other words, it becomes a specificative, not an evaluative unit in the
grammatical sense (though, dialectically, it does signify in this case a
lexical evaluation of the pupil’s progress). Conversely, the adjective
wooden is basically relative, but when used in the broader meaning
«expressionless» or «awkward» it acquires an evaluative force and,
consequently, can presuppose a greater or lesser degree («amount») of
the denoted properly in the corresponding referent. E.g.:

Bundle found herself looking into the expressionless, wooden face of
Superintendent Battle (A. Christie). The superintendent was sitting
behind a table and looking more wooden than ever.

The degrees of comparison are essentially evaluative formulas, therefore
any adjective used in a higher comparison degree (comparative,
superlative) is thereby made into an evaluative adjective, if only for
the nonce (see the examples above).

Thus, the introduced distinction between the evaluative and
specificative uses of adjectives, in the long run, emphasizes the fact
that the morphological category of comparison (comparison degrees) is
potentially represented in the whole class of adjectives and is
constitutive for it.

Among the words signifying properties of a neural referent there is a
lexemic set which claims to be recognized as a separate part of speech,
i.e. as a class of words different from the adjectives in its
class-forming features. These are words built up by the prefix a – and
denoting different states, mostly of temporary duration. Here belong
lexemes like afraid, agog, adrift, ablaze. In traditional grammar these
words were generally considered under the heading of «predicative
adjectives» (some of them also under the heading of adverbs), since
their most typical position in the sentence is that of a predicative and
they are but occasionally used as pre-positional attributes to nouns.

The only morphological problem concerning adjectives is, then, that of
degrees of comparison. The first question which arises here is, how many
degrees of comparison has the English adjective (and, for that matter,
the adjective in other languages, such as Russian. Latin, or German)? If
we take, for example, the three fоrms of an English adjective: large,
larger, (the) largest, shall we say that they are all three of them,
degrees of comparison? In that case we ought to term them positive,
comparative, and superlative. Or shall we sау that only the latter two
are degrees of comparison (comparative, and superlative), whereas the
first (large) does not express any idea of comparison and is therefore
not a degree of comparison at all? Both views have found their advocates
in grammatical theоry. Now, if we define a degree оf соmparisоn as а
form expressing соmparisоn of one object or objects with another in
respect of a certain property, it would seem that the first of the three
forms (large) shоuld not be inс1uded, as it does nоt express any
соmparisоn. Then we should have only twо degrees of comparisоn larger,
(the) largest, and a form standing apart, coinciding with the stem from
which the degrees of comparison are formed, and which may be described
as the basic form. B. Ilyish, The Structure of Modern English, p.59

4. Degrees of Comparison of Adjectives

The category is constituted by the opposition of the three forms known
under the heading of degrees of comparison: the basic form (positive
degree), having no features of comparison; the comparative degree form,
having the feature of restricted superiority (which limits the
comparison to two elements only); the superlative degree form, having
the feature of unrestricted superiority.

It should be noted that the meaning of unrestricted superiority is
in-built in the superlative degree as such, though in practice this form
is used in collocations imposing certain restrictions on the effected
comparison; thus, the form in question may be used to signify restricted
superiority, namely, in cases where a limited number of referents are
compared. Cf.: Johnny was the strongest boy in the company.

As is evident from the example, superiority restriction is shown here
not by the native meaning of the superlative, but by the particular
contextual construction of comparison where the physical strength of one
boy is estimated in relation to that of his companions.

Some linguists approach the number of the degrees of comparison as
problematic on the grounds that the basic form of the adjective does not
express any comparison by itself and therefore should be excluded from
the category. This exclusion would reduce the category to two members
only, i.e. the comparative and superlative degrees.

However, the oppositional interpretation of grammatical categories
underlying our considerations does not admit of such an exclusion; on
the contrary, the non-expression of superiority by the basic form is
understood in the oppositional presentation of comparison as a
pre-requisite for the expression of the category as such. In this
expression of the category the basic form is the unmarked member, not
distinguished by any comparison suffix or comparison auxiliary, while
the superiority forms (i.e. the comparative and superlative) are the
marked members, distinguished by the comparison suffixes or comparison

That the basic form as the positive degree of comparison does express
this categorical idea, being included in one and the same allegorical
series with the superiority degrees, is clearly shown by its actual uses
in comparative syntactic constructions of equality, as well as
comparative syntactic constructions of negated equality. Cf.: The remark
was as bitter as could be. The Rockies are not so high as the Caucasus.

These constructions are directly correlative with comparative
constructions of inequality built around the comparative and superlative
degree forms. Cf.: That was the bitterest remark I have ever heard from
the man. The Caucasus is higher than the Rockies.

Thus, both formally and semantically, the oppositional basis of the
category of comparison displays a binary nature. In terms of the three
degrees of comparison, on the upper level of presentation the
superiority degrees as the marked member of the opposition are
contrasted against the positive degree as its unmarked member. The
superiority degrees, in their turn, form the opposition of the lower
level of presentation, where the comparative degree features the
functionally weak member, and the superlative degree, respectively, the
strong member. The whole of the double oppositional unity, considered
from the semantic angle, constitutes a gradual ternary opposition.

The synthetical forms of comparison in – er and – (e) st coexist with
the analytical forms of comparison effected by the auxiliaries more and
most. The analytical forms of comparison perform a double function. On
the one hand, they are used with the evaluative adjectives that, due to
their phonemic structure (two-syllable words with the stress on the
first syllable ending in other grapho-phonemic complexes than – er, – y,
– le, – ow or words of more than two-syllable composition) cannot
normally take the synthetical forms of comparison. In this respect, the
analytical comparison forms are in categorial complementary distribution
with the synthetical comparison forms. On the other hand, the analytical
forms of comparison, as different from the synthetical forms, are used
to express emphasis, thus complementing the synthetical forms in the
sphere of this important stylistic connotation. Cf.: The audience became
more and more noisy, and soon the speaker’s words were drowned in the
general hum of voices.

The structure of the analytical degrees of comparison is meaningfully
overt; these forms are devoid of the feature of «semantic idiomatism»
characteristic of some other categorial analytical forms, such as, for
instance, the forms of the verbal perfect. For this reason the
analytical degrees of comparison invite some linguists to call in
question their claim to a categorial status in English grammar.

In particular, scholars point out the following two factors in support
of the view that the combinations of more/most with the basic form of
the adjective are not the analytical expressions of the morphological
category of comparison, but free syntactic constructions: first, the
more/most-combinations are semantically analogous to combinations of
less/least with the adjective which, in the general opinion, are
syntactic combinations of notional words; second, the most-combination,
unlike the synthetic superlative, can take the indefinite article,
expressing not the superlative, but the elative meaning (i.e. a high,
not the highest degree of the respective quality).

The reasons advanced, though claiming to be based on an analysis of
actual lingual data, can hardly be called convincing as regards their
immediate negative purpose.

Let us first consider the use of the most-compilation with the
indefinite article.

This combination is a common means of expressing elative evaluations of
substance properties. The function of the elative most-construction in
distinction to the function of the superlative most-‘construction will
be seen from the following examples:

The speaker launched a most significant personal attack on the Prime
Minister. The most significant of the arguments in a dispute is not
necessarily the most spectacular one.

While the phrase «a most significant (personal) attack» in the first of
the two examples gives the idea of rather a high degree of the quality
expressed irrespective of any directly introduced or implied comparison
with other attacks on the Prime Minister, the phrase «the most
significant of the arguments» expresses exactly the superlative degree
of the quality in relation to the immediately introduced comparison with
all the rest of the arguments in a dispute; the same holds true of the
phrase «the most spectacular one». It is this exclusion of the outwardly
superlative adjective from a comparison that makes it into a simple
elative, with its most-constituent turned from the superlative auxiliary
into a kind of a lexical intensifier.

The definite article with the elative most-construction is also
possible, if leaving the elative function less distinctly recognizable
(in oral speech the elative most is commonly left unstressed, the
absence of stress serving as a negative mark of the elative).

Cf.: I found myself in the most awkward situation, for I couldn’t give a
satisfactory answer to any question asked by the visitors.

Now, the synthetically superlative degree, as is known, can be used in
the elative function as well, the distinguishing feature of the latter
being its exclusion from a comparison.

Cf.: Unfortunately, our cooperation with Danny proved the worst
experience for both of us. No doubt Mr. Snider will show you his
collection of minerals with the greatest pleasure.

And this fact gives us a clue for understanding the expressive nature of
the elative superlative as such – the nature that provides it with a
permanent grammatico-stylistic status in the language. Indeed, the
expressive peculiarity of the form consists exactly in the immediate
combination of the two features which outwardly contradict each other:
The categorial form of the superlative on the one hand, and the absence
of a comparison on the other.

That the categorical form of the superlative (i.e. the superlative with
its general functional specification) is essential also for the
expression of the elative semantics can, however paradoxical it might
appear, be very well illustrated by the elative use of the comparative
degree. Indeed, the comparative combination featuring the dative
comparative degree is constructed in such a way as to place it in the
functional position of unrestricted superiority, i.e. in the position
specifically characteristic of the superlative.

E.g.: Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to greet you as our guest
of honors. There is nothing more refreshing than a good swim.

The parallelism of functions between the two forms of comparison (the
comparative degree and the superlative degree) in such and like examples
is unquestionable.

As we see, the elative superlative, though it is not the regular
superlative in the grammatical sense, is still a kind of a specific,
grammatically featured construction. This grammatical specification
distinguishes it from common elative constructions which may be
generally defined as syntactic combinations of an intensely high

E.g.: an extremely important amendment; a matter of exceeding urgency;
quite an unparalleled beauty; etc.

Thus, from a grammatical point of view, the elative superlative, though
semantically it is «elevated», is nothing else but a degraded
superlative, and its distinct featuring mark with the analytical
superlative degree is the indefinite article: the two forms of the
superlative of different functional purposes receive the two different
marks (if not quite rigorously separated in actual uses) by the article
determination treatment.

It follows from the above that the possibility of the most-combination
to be used with the indefinite article cannot in any way be
demonstrative of its non-grammatical character, since the functions of
the two superlative combinations in question, the elative superlative
and the genuine superlative, are different.

Moreover, the use of the indefinite article with the synthetical
superlative in the degraded, dative function is not altogether
impossible, though somehow such a possibility is bluntly denied by
certain grammatical manuals.

Cf.: He made a last lame effort to delay the experiment; but Basil was
impervious to suggestion.

But there is one more possibility to formally differentiate the direct
and dative functions of the synthetical superlative, namely, by using
the zero article with the superlative. This latter possibility is noted
in some grammar books. Cf.: Suddenly I was seized with a sensation of
deepest regret.

However, the general tendency of expressing the superlative dative
meaning is by using the analytical form. Incidentally, in the Russian
language the tendency of usage is reverse: it is the synthetical form of
the Russian superlative that is preferred in rendering the dative
function. Cf.: слушали с живейшим интересом; повторялась скучнейшая
история; попал в глупейшее положение и т.д.

Let us examine now the combinations of less/least with the basic form of
the adjective.

As is well known, the general view of these combinations definitely
excludes them from any connection with categorial analytical forms.
Strangely enough, this rejectionist view of the «negative degrees of
comparison» is even taken to support, not to reject the morphological
interpretation of the more/most-combinations.

The corresponding argument in favour of the rejectionist interpretation
consists in pointing out the functional parallelism existing between the
synthetical degrees of comparison and the more/most-combinations
accompanied by their complementary distribution, if not rigorously
pronounced (the different choice of the forms by different
syllabo-phonetical forms of adjectives). The less/least-combinations,
according to this view, are absolutely incompatible with the synthetical
degrees of comparison, since they express not only different, but
opposite meanings.

Now, it does not require a profound analysis to see that, from the
grammatical point of view, the formula «opposite meaning» amounts to
ascertaining the categorial equality of the forms compared. Indeed, if
two forms express the opposite meanings, then they can only belong to
units of the same general order. And we cannot but agree with
B.A. Ilyish’s thesis that «there seems to be no sufficient reason for
treating the two sets of phrases in different ways, saying that ‘more
difficult’ is an analytical form, while ‘less difficult’ is not». True,
the cited author takes this fact rather as demonstration that both types
of constructions should equally be excluded from the domain of
analytical forms, but the problem of the categorial status of the
more/most-combinations has been analyzed above.

Thus, the less/least-combinations, similar to the
more/most-combinations, constitute specific forms of comparison, which
may be called forms of «reverse comparison». The two types of forms
cannot be syntagmatically combined in one and the same form of the word,
which shows the unity of the category of comparison. The whole category
includes not three, but five different forms, making up the two series –
respectively, direct and reverse. Of these, the reverse series of
comparison (the reverse superiority degrees) is of far lesser importance
than the direct one, which evidently can be explained by semantic
reasons. As a matter of fact, it is more natural to follow the direct
model of comparison based on the principle of addition of qualitative
quantities than on the reverse model of comparison based on the
principle of subtraction of qualitative quantities, since subtraction in
general is a far more abstract process of mental activity than addition.
And, probably, exactly for the same reason the reverse comparatives and
superlatives are rivaled in speech by the corresponding negative
syntactic constructions.

Having considered the characteristics of the category of comparison, we
can see more clearly the relation to this category of some usually
non-comparable evaluative adjectives.

Outside the immediate comparative grammatical change of the adjective
stand such evaluative adjectives as contain certain comparative Semitic
elements in their semantic structures. In particular, as we have
mentioned above, here belong adjectives that are themselves grading
marks of evaluation. Another group of evaluative non-comparables is
formed by adjectives of indefinitely moderated quality, or, tentatively,
«moderating qualifiers», such as whitish, tepid, half-ironical,
semi-detached, etc. But the most peculiar lexemic group of
non-comparables is made up by adjectives expressing the highest degree
of a respective quality, which words can tentatively be called
«adjectives of extreme quality», or «extreme qualifiers», or simply

The inherent superlative semantics of extremals is emphasized by the
definite article normally introducing their neural combinations, exactly
similar to the definite article used with regular collocations of the
superlative degree. Cf.: The ultimate outcome of the talks was
encouraging. The final decision has not yet been made public.

On the other hand, due to the tendency of colloquial speech to
contrastive variation, such extreme qualifiers can sometimes be modified
by intensifying elements. Thus, «the final decision» becomes «a very
final decision»; «the ultimate rejection» turns into «rather an ultimate
rejection»; «the crucial role» is made into «quite a crucial role», etc.

As a result of this kind of modification, the highest grade evaluative
force of these words is not strengthened, but, on the contrary,
weakened; the outwardly extreme qualifiers become degraded extreme
qualifiers, even in this status similar to the regular categorial
superlatives degraded in their relative use.


In the conclusion of my work, I would like to say some words according
the done investigation.

The main part of my work consists of following items:

· «Definition of the Term Adjectives», as it is seen from the title in
this part I gave the definition to the term adjective.

· «How Do Adjectives Make Speech More Expressive?» in this paragraph I
described the role of adjectives in English language

· Grammatical overview of English Adjectives. This part contains
description of adjectives from the grammatical point of view, and
classification of adjectives from the same point.

· In the last paragraph «Degrees of Comparison of Adjectives» I
described the only grammatical category of English adjectives.

Standing on such ground I will add that investigation in the questions
dealt with English adjectives is not finished yet, so we will continue
it while writing our qualification work.

I hope that my course paper will arise the sincere interest of students
and teachers to the problem of adjectives in contemporary English.


1. B. Ilyish, The Structure of Modern English.

2. V.N. Zhigadlo, I.P. Ivanova, L.L. Iofik» Modern English language»
(Theoretical course grammar) Moscow, 1956 y.

3. Gordon E.M. The Use of adjectives in modern English.

4. М.М. Галииская. «Иностранные языки в высшей школе», вып. 3, М., 1964.

5. Г.Н. Воронцова. Очерки по грамматике английского языка. М., 1960

6. O. Jespersen. Essentials of English Grammar. N.Y., 1938

7. Иванова И.П., Бурлакова В.В., Почепцов Г.Г. Теоретическая грамматика
современного английского языка. – М., 1981. – 285 c.

8. Ch. Barber. Linguistic change in Present-Day English. Edinburgh, 1964

9. The Structure of American English. New York, 1958.

10. World Book Encyclopedia Vol.1 NY. 1993 pp.298–299

11. Internet http://madrasati2010.bravehost.com/adj.htm

12. Internet http://www.vestnik.vsu.ru

13. Internet:http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/adjectives/theory.htm

14. Inbternet:http://www.englishlanguage.ru/main/definitearticle.htm

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