Analysis of functional types of adjectives in the English language

The definition of an adjective is a word that modifies or describes attributes of a noun. Another definition: “Adjectives describe or limit the qualities of people, things, and abstractions.”

I’m interested to understand everything about adjectives so that I can have a theory of how to better implement them into computational models. I focused on English as it is a common language and I know it fairly well. In this analysis we look at the types of functional adjectives.

Quality– Different attributes or qualities of nouns.

big, little, fast, slow, new ,old, smooth, rough, ugly, beautiful, smelly, fragrant, etc

These are the most common types of adjectives and needs its own analysis as there are too many types types of quality adjectives describing every aspect of objects.

Possessive – describing ownership

their, my, his, her’s, their, our, your,its

Demonstratives – used to focus on noun(s) spatially.

those, that, these, this

Those are the only 4. They are like a shortcut to point or reference objects. You may use them if you don’t know the specific names of the objects or prefer to reference spatially. To use these words, there must be some notion of pointing. In the previous sentence I used the phrase “these words” to reference demonstratives. The pointing happened implicitly by “pointing” to this whole paragraph or previous words. “These” acted as pointing to “here”, being this whole section.

A says: “The red boxes over there”

B says: “These ones?”

A says: ” No (points),those ones.”

Interrogatives – questions about nouns


I didn’t know some of the question words are considered adjectives, but it seems to make sense when you use them with nouns. “Whose cat is that?” “Which car was your favorite?” “What flavor did you enjoy?” I wonder how this fits in with all the other question words,[will have to do a deep analysis on this later].

Comparatives – when you need to compare or point out specific objects in a group.

bigger, faster, smaller, shorter, taller, better, worse

These are important in that you can reference specific objects with verbal descriptors.

“The taller one.”

Superlatives (Absolutes) – adjectives that can’t be compared, they are absolute. You can’t modify them with words like very: “very easy” vs “easiest”

best, final, worst, perfect, skinniest, easiest, infinite, smallest.

The best present.

Color – colors are adjectives,nouns, and verbs!

black,white,green,red, etc

These probably fit under quality adjectives as they describe physical properties of objects, but they are pretty special so I gave them their own category. I don’t know if there are other words that can be all the main parts of speech, but colors can.

Definite Numerals – Exact numbers of things. Both ordinal and cardinal counting of items

one ,two, three, first, second, third,etc

“I want two apples.” “She won second place.”

Indefinites – describe groups of things without using exact quantities

any,  few, many, much, most, several, some

“There are a few bad apples in the bunch.”

Distributive – denotes singular nouns from a group

each, every, either, neither

Examples: Each person is responsible for their well being.

Origin – describing where something is from.

Chinese, Japanese, American, etc

Besides countries, I don’t think there are other types of these adjectives.

Emphasizers – adding “more” to an adjective.

very, more

He is very strong.


In my analysis, I found many adjectives can overlap with each other. There are a couple of other types such as articles and exclamatory that I ignored. All of the quantity related ones are very clear and are easily implementable in computers.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *