Correct use of some adjectives
The adjective can be correctly used with a verb when some quality of the subject, rather the action of the verb, is to be expressed.
• These flowers smell sweet. (NOT These flowers smell sweetly.)
• It tastes sour. (NOT It tastes sourly.)
The plural forms these and those are often used with the singular nouns kind and sort.
Examples are: these kind of things
However, some grammarians insist that we should say: this kind of things
The words superior, inferior, senior, junior, prior, anterior, and posterior take to instead of than.
• He is senior to me.
• James is inferior to Peter is intelligence.
In comparing two things or classes of things the comparative should be used.
• Take the shorter of the two routes. (NOT Take the shortest of the two routes.)
• Of the two suggestions, the former is better. (NOT Of the two suggestions, the former is the best.)
This rule, however, is not strictly observed. In informal English, the superlative is often used when we talk about one of only two items.
When a comparison is made by means of a comparative, the thing that is compared must be excluded from the things with which it is compared.
• Hercules was stronger than any other man. (NOT Hercules was stronger than any man – this sentence would suggest that Hercules was stronger than Hercules himself, which, of course, is absurd.)
Attributive adjectives after nouns
Most adjectives can go in two main places in a sentence: in attributive position and predicative position.
In attributive position, an adjective comes before the noun it modifies.
• She is a nice girl.
• She married a rich businessman.
In predicative position, an adjective goes after the verb.
• She is nice.
• He looked upset.
While attributive adjectives usually go before the nouns, a few can be used after nouns. This, for example, happens in some fixed phrases.
• Secretary General
• Poet Laureate
• Attorney General
• Court martial
Some adjectives ending in -able/-ible can also be used after nouns.
• It is the only solution possible.
• Book all the tickets available.
After something, everything etc.
Adjectives come after words like something, everything, anything, nothing, somebody, anywhere etc.
• I would like to go somewhere quiet. (NOT I would like to go quiet somewhere.)
• I heard something interesting today. (NOT I heard interesting something today.)
In most expressions of measurement adjectives come after the measurement noun.
• ten years older (NOT Older ten years) (NOT ten older years)
• six feet deep
• two miles long
Verb + object + adjective
Adjectives can be placed after the object.
• You make me happy.
• Can you get the children ready for school?
Each, every, either and neither are distributive adjectives. These are normally used with singular nouns.
Distributives are placed immediately before the nouns they qualify.
• Each boy wore a hat.
• Neither answer is correct.
• Every child needs love.
Each, either and neither can be used with plural nouns when they are followed by ‘of’
• Each of the boys wore a hat.
• Neither of the answers is correct.
Each is used when we are talking about the members of a group as individuals.
• Each boy was given a watch.
• Each of the boys was given a watch.
Each and every
Each is preferred when we are thinking of people or things separately, one at a time. Every is similar to all. Every is preferred when we are thinking of people or things together.
• Each patient went to see the doctor. (In turn)
• He gave every patient the same medicine.
Either and Neither
Either and neither are used to talk about distribution between two things.
Either is used in affirmative clauses. Neither is used in negative clauses.
• Which shirt do you want? Either shirt will do.
• I will take either shirt, they are both good.
• Neither answer is correct.
• Neither of them came.
Sometimes a group of words does the work of an adjective.
Study the following examples.
• The mayor was a wealthy man.
• The mayor was a man of great wealth.
In sentence 1, the adjective wealthy says what sort of man the mayor was. In sentence 2, the group of words ‘of great wealth’ also says the same thing. It qualifies the noun man as an adjective does. It therefore does the work of an adjective and is called an adjective phrase.
An adjective phrase is a group of words that does the work of an adjective.
• The magistrate was a kind man. (Here the adjective kind modifies the noun man.)
• The magistrate was a man with a kind heart. (Here the adjective phrase ‘with a kind heart’ modifies the noun man.)
• They lived in a stone house.
• They lived in a house built of stone.
• The workers belonged to a hill tribe.
• The workers belonged to a tribe dwelling in the hills.
Study the following adjectives and the adjective phrases that are equivalent to them.
• A golden necklace – a necklace made of gold
• A white coat – a coat of white color
• A jungle track – a track through the jungle
• A deserted city – a city with no inhabitants
• The French flag – the flag of France
• A wooden hut – a hut built of wood
• A blank page – a page with no writing on it
Position of adverbs: difference between British and American English
Mid-position adverbs usually go after auxiliary verbs, after am / are / is / was / were and before other verbs.
• She has never written to me.
• The discussion was mainly about politics.
When there are two or more auxiliary verbs, the adverb usually goes after the first.
• You have definitely been working hard.
In American English, mid-position adverbs are often put before auxiliary verbs and am / are / is / was / were, even when the verb is not emphasized.
• You certainly have made him angry. (US)
• You have certainly made him angry. (GB)
• You are always late. (GB)
• You always are late. (US)
• America has long been known as a land of opportunities. (GB)
• America long has been known as a land of opportunities. (US)
In British English, mid-position adverbs can go before auxiliary verbs and am / are / is / was / were when we want to emphasize the auxiliary verbs.
• I am really sorry. (No emphasis on am.)
• I really AM sorry. (Emphasis on AM)
In negative sentences, mid-position adverbs generally come before not if they emphasize the negative.
• I really don’t like her. (Strong dislike)
• I don’t really like her. (Mild dislike)
Position of adverbs of certainty and place
We use adverbs of certainty to say how sure we are of something. Examples are: certainly, definitely, clearly, obviously and probably.
Adverbs of certainty usually go in mid-position.
Study the following patterns.
Auxiliary verb + adverb
• She will probably come.
• The train has obviously been delayed.
Am / are / is / was / were + adverb
• She is certainly right.
• There is clearly something wrong.
Adverb + other verb
He probably thinks that he is the smartest. (NOT He thinks probably that …)
• I certainly feel better today.
Maybe and perhaps usually come at the beginning of a clause.
• Maybe you are right.
• Perhaps he will come.
Adverbs of place
Adverbs of place say where something happens. Examples are: upstairs, around, here, in London, out of the window
Adverbs of place usually go at the end of a clause.
• The children are playing in the garden.
• Don’t throw things out of the window.
• The old man sat in the corner.
• There was a very tall tree at the end of the garden.
Initial position is also possible. This usually happens in a literary style.
• At the end of the garden there was a very tall tree
Adverb clauses of degree or comparison
Adverb clauses of degree or comparison answer the question how much, how little or how many. The chief conjunctions used to introduce adverb clauses of degree are as, as…as, so…as and than.
• She is older than her husband.
• She is as intelligent as she is beautiful.
• You are later than I expected.
• She is as pretty as a doll.
• She is not so intelligent as her sister.
The correlative the…the may also be considered as a conjunction introducing adverb clauses of degree.
• The older you grow the wiser you become.
• The more he earns the more he spends.
In adverb clauses of degree or comparison, the verb is often understood and not expressed.
• I earn as much as you (do).
• I can sing as well as he (does).
• She is as tall as he (is).
• Nobody knows her better than I (do).
Note that when the verb is not expressed it is more common to use object pronouns after as and than.
• I can sing as well as him. OR I can sing as well as he does. (More natural than ‘I can sing as well as he’.)
• Nobody knows her better than me. OR Nobody knows her better than I do. (More natural than ‘Nobody knows her better than I.)
Adverb clauses of result and concession
Adverb clauses of result or consequence are introduced by the subordinating conjunctions that, so…that, so that and such…that.
• The famine was so severe that thousands perished.
• They fought so bravely that the enemy fled.
• He is such a good man that all respect him.
• He spoke in such a low voice that few people could hear him.
That is often omitted.
• She was so weak that she could hardly stand. OR She was so weak she could hardly stand.
• It was so hot we didn’t go out. OR It was so hot that we didn’t go out.
Adverb clauses of concession
Adverb clauses of concession are introduced by the subordinating conjunctions though, although, even though, while, whereas and even if.
• Though I am poor I am honest.
• I will be able to get in although I have no ticket.
• Even if it rains I will come.
• The men managed to survive even though they were three days without water.
• John is very popular among his friends, whereas his brother is a reclusive.
As is sometimes used in the sense of though.
• Young as he is he occupies an important position in the firm. (= Though he is young, he occupies an important position in the firm.)