The adjective is a part of speech that denotes quality (property). Adjectives fall into two groups — qualitativeand relative.

Qualitativeadjectives denote properties of size, shape, colour, etc. which an object may possess in various degrees. They have degrees of comparison (great, calm, beautiful, cold, large, quick, loud).

Relativeadjectives describe properties of a substance through relation to some material (woolen, wooden, golden, cotton, glass, plastic, metal), to place (northern, Italian, European), to time (ancient, contemporary, daily, monthly). They have no degrees of comparison.

Relative adjectives may become qualitative when used metaphorically:

A silver watch – relative

A silver stream – qualitative

An iron bridge – relative

An iron will - qualitative

Some qualitative adjectives are formed from relative ones by adding the suffix –en

A gold chain (rel.) - golden hair (qual.)

A wax candle – waxen cheeks

A silk dress – silken hair


Noun + Noun combinations

Compared with the Possessive case and prepositional phrases

Noun + Noun combinations can express the relationship of:

1) material

A stone wall, a chocolate bar, a glasshouse, milk chocolate

2) place

London conference, a kitchen cupboard, a corner shop

3) time

winter exams, a morning call, a night flight

4) connection with something

Health problems, a youth festival, a road accident, a headache, family life

5) meaning, purpose (for) (only with inanimate nouns)

A tennis ball = a ball for tennis

A toothpaste, a wine glass, a shopping bag, a tablecloth, a window-cleaner, a coffee cup

6) dedication

The Pushkin museum, the Tate gallery, the Tchaikovsky contest


Noun + Noun combinations do not express:

1) the meaning of possession (belonging), part of a whole. The Possessive case or an of-phrase are used instead:

Byron’s poems, the roof of a house, the quality of goods, the results of the work

2) the doer of the action

Clinton’s visit, Byron’s arrival, the demands of youth

3) the object of the action

The teaching of music, an expression of joy, the arrival of goods

4) contents, composition of something

A cup of coffee, a group of boys

5) they do not include animate nouns

A children’s theatre



There are three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative, superlative.

The adjective in the positive form expresses a simple quality without comparison. Ways of formation of the comparative and superlative degrees may be synthetic, analytic and suppletive (irregular, from different roots). The synthetic way is by adding –er, -est as tall – taller – tallest, the analytic way is by adding more, most, as ridiculous – more ridiculous – most ridiculous.

Mind the spelling rules:

fine -finer –finest (no doubling of e)

hot - hotter - hottest (doubling of final consonants in one-syllable words)

easy – easier – easiest (-y changes into –ie)

dry - drier – driest

But: shy – shyer – shyest

gay – gayer – gayest

I. One-syllable adjectives take –er, -est

Big – bigger – biggest

Soft - softer – softest

Note. One-syllable past participle adjectives in – ed (bored, creased, pleased) and the adjectives fun, real, right, wrong form their degrees of comparison analytically:

After I’d ironed my shirt it looked more creased than before.

I expected the film to be rather dull, but I couldn’t have been more wrong.

II. Most two-syllable adjectives can form their degrees of comparison in both ways, thus they take either er/estor more/most:able, common, cruel, gentle, handsome, pleasant, polite, simple, stupid, quiet, wicked, horrid, etc.

Two-syllable adjectives ending in -y usually take er/est(luckier - luckiest), although more/mostis possible.


Note 1. Some two-syllable adjectives can take only more/most. Here belong adjectives ending in - ful (careful, helpful), - less (helpless, useless), - ing (boring, pleasing, tiring), - ed (amused, confused) and the adjectives afraid, certain, correct, eager, exact, formal, foolish, modern, normal, recent, active, complex, direct, frequent, special, proper, etc.

Note 2. In modern English adjectives that admit of both analytical and synthetic forms usually take the analytic form when they are used predicatively:

He was more angry (angrier).

His life in Paris was much more happy than in London.

When these adjectives are used attributively the synthetic form is more common:

He is a cleverer man.

He is the happiest man in his family.

III. Adjectives of three or more syllables take more/most.The superlative degree is generally used with the definite article: expensive - more expensive - the most expensive; magnificent -more magnificent — the most magnificent.

This is the most interesting book I have ever read.

In formal English mostcan mean 'very'. In this case it is used either with the indefinite article, or without any. Compare the mostand a most:

It's the most exclusive store in New York (superlative).

It's a most exclusive store (very exclusive, not the superlative, called 'the elative', translated as весьма, чрезвычайно, довольно)

Thank you, you have been most kind to me (=very, not kindest).

IV. Compound adjectives form their degrees in the following ways:

good-natured - better-natured - best-natured

fine-looking - finer-looking - finest-looking

well-read – better-read - best–read

strong-willed —stronger-willed – strongest-willed

You can also say:

He is more well-read than I am.

or: More so than I am.


The traditional rule is that we use the comparative for two items (Which of them two is the taller? - mind the use of the article!), and the superlative for more than two (Who is the tallest of the three?). But in informal English we often use the superlative to refer to one of only two items: Which of these photos is better/best?