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How to use adjectives

Adjectives describe nouns and they usually go before nouns and not after them. We went on a long holiday.

I do not like loud music.
John drives a fast car.
He bought 10 apples.
The tourist carried a big bag.

A big black dog bit his leg

Adjectives do not change for singular and plural nouns.
He is a good boy.
They are good boys.
She is a beautiful woman.
They are beautiful women.
He is a brave soldier.
They are brave soldiers.
He drives an expensive car.
They drive expensive cars.
This is a tall tree.
These are tall trees.

Before nouns we do not usually put ‘and’ between adjectives.
The story is about a big bad wolf.
She is a pretty little girl.
We sat under a tall green tree.
The animal had long white teeth.
She has long brown hair.

Colour adjectives usually come after other adjectives.
She bought 10 beautiful red apples.
A big black dog bit his leg.
She always carries a little black umbrella.
Grandfather has a long grey beard.
She has small blue eyes.

We use adjectives after ‘be’ verbs, ‘become, get, seem, look’ and ‘feel’.
The tea is still hot.
You look happy.
He feels sorry.
It is getting late.
You seem tired.

Demonstrative adjectives ‘this’ and ‘that’ change to ‘these’ and ‘those’ before plural nouns.

This cat does not like milk.
These cats do not like milk.
That dog is ferocious.
Those dogs are ferocious.

The tourist carried a big bag.

There are three degrees of comparison.
Positive: tall, dark, big, sharp, small
Comparative: taller, darker, bigger, sharper, smaller
Superlative: tallest, darkest, biggest, sharpest, smallest

One syllable adjectives form their comparatives and superlatives by adding ‘er’ and ‘est’ to the positive form.

short - shorter- shortest
big - bigger - biggest
brave - braver - bravest
tall - taller - tallest
dark - darker - darkest

Adjectives of three or more syllables form their comparative and superlative by putting ‘more’ and ‘most’ before the positive form.

beautiful - more beautiful - most beautiful
interesting - more interesting - most interesting
frightening - more frightening - most frightening
doubtful - more doubtful - most doubtful

Irregular comparison

Positive: bad, good, little, many,
Comparative: worse, better, less, more
Superlative: worst, best, least, most


Match words and meanings

Here’s an exciting way to enrich your vocabulary. Match the words in Column ‘A’ with their meanings in Column ‘B’ and check your answers with the key. The first has been done for you.

[Column A]

Y 1. dinky
... 2. dire
... 3. directionless
... 4. directive
... 5. dirge
... 6. dirt cheap
... 7. dirty
... 8. disabled
... 9. disabuse
.. 10. disadvantaged
.. 11. disagree
.. 12. disagreeable
.. 13. disappoint
.. 14. disapprobation
.. 15. disarm
.. 16. disarmament
,. 17. disarrange
.. 18. disaster
.. 19. disastrous
.. 20. disavow
.. 21. disband
.. 22. disbelief
.. 23. discard
.. 24. discern
.. 25. discerning

[Column B]

A. not knowing what you want to do
B. not having one or more of the physical or mental abilities
C. to take weapons away from someone
D. to make something untidy
E. extremely bad or unsuccessful
F. to say that you know nothing about something
G. the act of taking away or giving up weapons
H. to not have the same opinion
I. a slow sad song
J. not having the standard of living conditions
K. not clean
L. an official instruction
M. unpleasant
N. great harm, damage or death
O. to throw something away
P. to see something that is not clear
Q. showing good judgment
R. to fail to satisfy someone or their hopes
S. very serious or extreme
T. the refusal to believe that something is true
U. to stop being a group
V. strong feeling of not approving of something or someone
W. to cause someone no longer to have a wrong idea
X. very cheap
Y. small

Key:

2. S 3. A 4. L 5. I 6. X 7. K 8. B 9. W 10. J 11. H 12. M 13. R 14. V 15. C 16. G 17. D 18. N 19. E 20. F 21. U 22. T 23. O 24. P 25. Q


Starters:

Comparative and superlative patterns

We often use a phrase with ‘than’ after a comparative.
This restaurant is nicer than that hotel on the hill.
I have a bigger car than your old Morris Minor.

John is the tallest man in the crowd


A Benz car is more expensive than a Maruti car.
Sri Lanka is smaller than India and Malaysia.
She has more qualifications than you claim to possess.

We normally use ‘the’ before a superlative.
This is the tallest man living today.
Attempt the most difficult question after answering the others.
Shreya Goshal is the most famous playback singer in India today.
Socrates is supposed to be the wisest man who lived in ancient Greece.
The oldest university of Sri Lanka is at Peradeniya.

We use ‘one of’ with the superlative.
Michael Jackson was one of the most famous pop singers who lived in the recent past.
Martin Wickremasinghe was one of the most prolific writers of Sri Lanka.
Bin Laden was one of the most wanted terrorists.
The ant is one of the smallest creatures.
Mahogany is one of the most durable timber.

After a superlative we use ‘in’ with places and groups of people.
This is the most expensive hotel in Colombo.
Muralitharan was the best player in the team.
Piduruthalagala is the highest mountain in Sri Lanka.
John is the tallest man in the crowd.
The Mahaweli is the longest river in Sri Lanka.

After a superlative we also use ‘of'.
February is the shortest month of the year.
This is the most difficult of all the questions.
She always wears the best of clothes.
Solomon was the wisest of all the kings.
Tokyo is the most beautiful city of Japan.

We can use a clause after a superlative.
This is the most delicious drink I have ever tasted.
Jane is one of the most intelligent girls that I have come across.
Shakespeare was one of the most prolific dramatists who wrote the Merchant of Venice.
Ben Hur was one of the best films I have ever seen.
Anna Karenina is one of the best novels I have read.

‘Than me’ or ‘than I am’
‘Than me’ and ‘than I am’ are correct and they have the same meaning.
You are 10 years younger than me.
Or: You are 10 years younger than I am.
Her husband isn't as tall as her.
Or: Her husband isn't as tall as she is.

Quiz on idioms

An idiom is a special kind of phrase. It is a group of words which have a different meaning when used together from the one it would have if the meaning of each word were taken individually. Tick the correct item and check your answers with the key.

1. If you refer to a guess as a shot in the dark ...

(a) it is a complete guess
(b) it is an incomplete guess
(c) it is a lie

2. If someone is whistling in the dark ...

(a) they are enjoying life
(b) they are in a happy mood
(c) they are trying not to show that they are afraid

3. If someone cuts a dash ...

(a) they make a sudden exit
(b) they impress others with their stylish appearance
(c) they turn out to be rude

4. If you call it a day ...

(a) you decide to stop doing something
(b) you begin to do something new
(c) you postpone what you are planning to do

5. If someone calls it a day ...

(a) they go home after work
(b) they retire
(c) they enjoyed themselves at the party

6. If someone carries the day in a competition ...

(a) they win
(b) they lose
(c) they get angry

7. If someone does something late in the day ...

(a) they postpone it
(b) they don't do it
(c) they do it at the last moment

8. When a customer thanks you, it makes your day.

(a) you feel very happy
(b) you feel very angry
(c) you feel very sad

9. If you save for a rainy day ...

(a) you spend all your earnings
(b) you save energy
(c) you save money for an emergency

10. I saw a gunman shooting a man in broad daylight.

(a) at night
(b) in the daytime
(c) secretly

Key:

1. (a) 2. (c) 3. (b) 4. (a) 5. (b) 6. (a) 7. (c) 8. (a) 9. (c) 10. (b) Key

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