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Rules of using Adjectives

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Rule 1. An adjective is a word which qualifies, or describes the qualities of a noun or a pronoun. As a general rule an adjective is placed before the noun or pronoun it qualifies. But there are certain exceptions to this rule. The more important of such exceptions are:

(a)When several adjectives qualify the same noun they are generally placed after it.
(b)In certain fixed phrases.

Rule 2. Most adjectives of one syllable (i.e. having more than one vowel sound), and some of more than one, form the comparative by adding “er" and superlative by adding “est" to the positive.

Rule 3. When the positive ends in “y" and there is a consonant before the “y", the “y" is changed into “i" before adding “er" or “est".
Note: when there is no consonant, but a vowel, before the ‘y' it is not changed into ‘i'

Rule 4. The Comparative of Adjectives of ‘two' or ‘more than two' syllables is formed by using the adverb ‘more' with the positive. The superlative of such objectives is formed by adding ‘most'.

Rule 5. When we compare two qualities in the same person or thing we use ‘more' and not ‘er' to form the comparative.

Rule 6. When two objects are compared with each other, then care must be taken to exclude the thing compared from the other objects of the same class or kind. This is done by the use of the word ‘other'.

Rule 7. The comparative degree is used when we want to state that some thing or some person possess some quality in a greater or lesser degree than another. Therefore, the comparative should not be used when no comparison is meant.

Rule 8. The use of double comparatives and superlatives is wrong and must be avoided.
Note: ‘Rather' is also a comparative and hence it is wrong to write, ‘rather better'.
Exception: ‘Lesser' is a double comparative, but it is used even by the best writers.

Rule 9. An adjective in the comparative degree is usually followed by ‘than'. But the following adjectives have lost their comparative meaning and are used as positives. Hence they are not followed by ‘than'. Former, latter, elder, upper, inner, outer, interior, major, minor.

Rule 10. Certain comparatives ending in ‘or' or ‘er' are followed by ‘to' and not ‘than'. They are inferior, superior, prior, posterior, senior, junior, prefer, preferable.

Rule 11. Certain adjectives of quality cannot be different degrees. They cannot have that particular quality in a more or less degree. Hence they are never compared. They are square, round, perfect, universal, eternal, unique.

Rule 12. An adjective in the superlative degree takes ‘the' and not ‘a' or ‘an' before it.

Rule 13. ‘Of any' must not be used long with a superlative.

Rule 14. ‘Later' and ‘latest' refer to time; they are the comparative and superlative degrees of ‘late. ‘Latter' and ‘last' refer to position; they indicate a position in a particular order.

Rule 15. ‘Elder' and ‘eldest' are used for the members of the same family and ‘Elder' takes ‘to' and not ‘than' after it; ‘older' and ‘oldest' are the comparative and superlative of ‘old' and can be used with reference to persons, animals and things.

Rule 16. ‘Farther' means more distant; ‘further' means ‘in addition to' or ‘more'. “Farther" is the comparative of ‘far' and ‘farthest' is its superlative. ‘Further' is positive and has no comparative and superlative.

Rule 17. ‘Nearest' is used for distance and is the superlative of ‘near'. ‘Next' is used for position and has no comparative or superlative.

Rule 18. ‘Some' is used in affirmative sentences, ‘any' in negative or interrogative sentences.

Rule 19. ‘Each' is used in speaking of two or more persons; ‘Every' in speaking of more than two.

Rule 20. There is a lot of difference in the meaning of ‘little', ‘a little' and ‘the little'.
Little= not much
A little= some, though not much
The little=not much, but all that is

Rule 21. There is a similar difference in the meaning of ‘few', ‘a few' and ‘the few'.
Few= not many, hardly any
A few= some, though not much
The few= not many, but all that there are

Rule 22. ‘Less' is used of quantity and size, never in respect of numbers; ‘Fewer' is used of numbers.

Rule 23. In the expression ‘Many a man', ‘many' is a collective noun and, a=of. ‘Many a man' is a singular expression and takes a singular verb after it. It is to be distinguished from ‘many men' in which ‘many' is adjective of number.

Rule 24. When used as an adjective ‘Both' takes ‘the' after it. Both and also ‘all' must be placed before and not after a noun or pronoun of the possessive case.

Rule 25. ‘Only is an adverb not an adjective. ‘Alone is an adjective and must be used where an adjective is required. No confusion must be made between the two.

Sample Usage


(a) The kind, fearless and determined men, moved forward.
(b) When I met him, he was hale and hearty.
(c) The heir apparent, time immemorial, God almighty, body politic etc.

(a) Sweet, sweeter, sweetest
(b) Kind, kinder, kindest

(a) Happy, happier, happiest
(b) Easy, easier, easiest
(c) Gay, gayer, gayest

(a) Beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful
(b) Proper, more proper, most proper

5. Ram is more brave than wise.

(a) Gold is costly than any other metal.
(b) Calcutta is more populated than any other city of India.

7. He is more intelligent boy of this class. (Wrong)
He is a very intelligent boy of this class. (Right)

(a)He is the most cleverest boy of his class. (Incorrect)
He is the cleverest boy of his class. (Correct)
(b)This book is rather better than that. (Incorrect)
This book is better than that.

9. Former, latter, elder, upper, inner, outer, interior, major, minor.

10. They are inferior, superior, prior, posterior, senior, junior, prefer, preferable.

11. They are square, round, perfect, universal, eternal, unique.

(a) He is the my best friend. (Incorrect)
He is my best friend. (Correct)
(b)The dearest friend, come here (Incorrect)
O' dearest friend, come here.(Correct)

13. He is the cleverest student of any in the class. (Incorrect)
He is the cleverest student in the class.(Correct)

(a) I have not heard the latest news.
(b) The latter chapters of the book are uninteresting.
(c) I have not yet prepared the last chapter of this book.

(a) He is the elder of the two brothers.
(b) Ram is elder to Sohan.
(C) Mohan is older than his friend Sohan.

(a)Delhi is farther from Meerut than Ghaziabad.
(b) Please reply without further delay.

(a) He lives next to the post office.
(b) The nearest school from my house is at a distance of one furlong.

(a) I shall buy some mangoes.
(b) I shall not buy any mangoes.
(c) Have you bought any mangoes?

(a) Each of the two boys has finished his work.
(b) Every boy in the class has finished his work.

(a) I have little hope of his arriving today. (That is, I have no hope of his arriving today. )
(b) I have a little hope of his arriving today. (That is, I have some hope of his arriving today.)
(c) The little money he had has all been spent. (That is, he had not much money, but all that he had has been spent.)

(a) He has few friends. (That is, no)
(b) He has a few friends. (That is some, though not many)
(c) The few friends he had, have all left him in his time of need. (that is, all that he had)

(a) Not less than fifty soldiers were killed in the battle. (Incorrect)
(b) No fewer than fifty soldiers were killed in the battle. (Correct)

(a) Many a man was going to the fair.
(b)Many men were going to the fair.

(a) Both boys are working hard. (Incorrect)
Both the boys are working hard. (Correct)

(a) He can only do this work. (Incorrect)
He alone can do this work. (Correct)

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