Adjectives are one of the most important parts of any language. Without them, you couldn’t describe the smell of a flower, how someone makes you feel, or how food tastes. They add texture and life to a language.
There are tens of thousands of adjectives (and adverbs) in English, and while you don’t have to learn all of them, it’s essential that you learn at least a few dozen – if not a few hundred – so you can accurately and fully express yourself. But how do you do this? Here are three simple steps to learn English adjectives.
3 Simple Steps to Learn English Adjectives
1. One Theme at a Time
One of the best ways to learn vocabulary in general is to learn words based on a common theme. For example, one day you can focus on food; the next you can study personality; the next, sounds.
But don’t just read lists of words; make lists or spider diagrams of adjectives around themes relevant to you. Writing words down helps you remember them better.
In addition, write sentences using the adjectives you learn and try to use them in conversation as much as possible. Focus on one or two themes per week – you’ll be able to learn English adjectives better if you’re learning fewer of them and using them as much as possible.
2. Learn Opposites
Another way you can organize your learning is to learn adjective opposites. This method is especially helpful for beginners. You can find lists of opposite adjectives online; for example, go to My English Pages for a list of opposites and exercises, and Better English Lessons for exercises to practice.
A thesaurus is also a great resource; a thesaurus provides synonyms (and antonyms) for words rather than definitions. After you find (or make) a list of adjectives around a certain theme, go to thesaurus.com and add more synonyms and antonyms to your list.
3. Don’t Forget Adjective Order
It’s also important to study the grammar related to adjectives, which means you must learn how to properly order adjectives in a sentence. Unfortunately, we can’t just list adjectives in any order – there are rules for which come first, second, third, and so on.
Native speakers are often unaware that there are rules governing adjective order; they simply learn it from experience. English learners, however, must study the rules.
So what are these rules? You can find thorough explanations and exercises in textbooks and online but here are the general guidelines.
First, we use adjectives of general opinion – words like good, bad, and beautiful.
Next, come adjectives that express a specific opinion; in other words, adjectives that describe particular kinds of things like food, furniture, and people. For example, delicious could describe a food, and comfortable could describe furniture.
Next up are adjectives describing size, then shape, and so on. It’s a bit confusing. The more you read, listen to, and study English, the more natural adjective order will become for you.
The Wide World of Adjectives
There are thousands of adjectives in English, so learning them takes time. Simplify your learning by studying adjectives by theme and studying opposites.
Be sure to study all the categories of adjectives: these include not only descriptive adjectives like big, lovely, etc., but also possessive adjectives such as my and theirs, comparative adjectives such as more, larger, heavier, and so forth.