Adjectives are words used to describe nouns, such as a character, setting, feeling, or action. These descriptive words are used in all types of writing, and have many different purposes. When an author uses adjectives, their descriptions are more vivid to the reader. As your child develops their vocabulary, their knowledge of different adjectives will help them improve their writing.
In this guide, we’ve compiled everything your child needs to know about adjectives, and included tips, activities, and resources to help them practice!
Grouping adjectives into different categories can be done based on several characteristics. Here’s a list of adjective categories that we’ll get into further in the page:
Comparative adjectives describe nouns by comparing them to other nouns. They differ from regular adjectives in that they use comparison and can’t be used without the presence of another noun.
Comparative adjectives can typically be identified with the -er ending, but not always.
Here is a list of example sentences using comparative adjectives:
Compound adjectives are descriptive words that are joined together with a hyphen (-) to describe a noun. They can sometimes be three words, linked together by two hyphens!
Even though compound adjectives take on a different structure than regular adjectives, they still modify a pronoun or noun!
Attributive adjectives can’t be separated from the noun they’re describing by a linking verb - word order matters!
Predicate adjectives are separated from the noun by a linking verb. These can also be called subject complements, as their main purpose is to describe or slightly alter the noun.
Postpositive adjectives are descriptive words that appear immediately after the noun. These are sometimes also paired with superlative, attributive adjectives.
When using multiple adjectives to describe something in your child’s writing, there is a specific order that the adjectives must follow if they are within the same sentence.
Article (the/a/an), number, opinion, size, shape, age, shade, origin, material, noun.
The two horrid, big, spidery, new, black, Nulth, metal, Voids.
Each adjective needs to be separated from the next one by a comma within the sentence. Here’s an example:
In this case, the order of the adjectives is as follows:
If a sentence uses only a few adjectives from the above categories mentioned (number, opinion, size, shape, etc), they should still be ordered according to the table we have created above. Here is an example of a shortened version of the original sentence:
Notice how the opinion category came first (the adjective "horrid") because we didn’t use a determiner. Then, we followed the same order for the other adjectives, just skipping the categories we didn’t use.
You may be wondering what types of adjectives your child writer should use when they rely on each of their senses to describe something.
Here is an idea of what types descriptive adjectives your child can use for each of the five senses:
By using their sight sense, your child should come up with adjectives that describe the appearance of their surroundings. This may include shape, size, position etc.
When using their sense of smell, your child should come up with adjectives that describe how their surroundings smell. This may include how strong or weak the smell is, an analogy of what it smells like, and overall adjectives they see fit to describe the smell.
If your child is describing how something tastes, they should do so by comparing it to the tastes or textures of other things. Children often use simple adjectives to describe taste preferences, and it can be comparable to how they describe the smell of something.
When using their sense of touch, your child will come up with adjectives that describe how something feels to them. This may include textures, feelings, or abstract concepts.
When using their sense of hearing, your child will come up with adjectives to describe the sounds they hear around them. This may include describing the sounds of movement, background noise, voices, etc.
Here is an example from the Night Zookeeper story books of writing that uses the senses to describe:
Will Rivers the Night Zookeeper, together with Riya and Sam the Spying Giraffe, passed through the magical portal. Seconds before, they had said goodbye to the other giraffes and the lush coolness of the Whispering Woods. Now the three friends were standing in the fierce heat of the Fire Desert. Will felt his feet sinking into the fine sand.
He could feel the warmth of it through his shoes. Sweat was already beading on his forehead.
“Wow, it’s like stepping into an oven,” remarked Riya.
Now that you know what to expect when your child uses their senses to describe something, have them try out the activity we have prepared. This activity asks the child to use their senses to describe the surroundings of a fictional character, which will engage their imagination as well.
Night Zookeeper is a learning program that makes reading & writing fantastically fun for children aged six to twelve.
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