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I. Adjectives ending in -ly

1 Many adverbs end in -ly – for example happily, nicely. But some words that end in -ly are adjectives, not adverbs. The most important are friendly, lovely, lonely, ugly, silly, cowardly, likely, unlikely.

She gave me a friendly smile. Her singing was lovely.

There are no adverbs friendly or friendlily, lovely or lovelily etc We have to use different structures.

She smiled at me in a friendly way. (NOT She smiled at me friendly.)

He gave a silly laugh. (NOT He laughed silly)

2 Daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and early are both adjectives and adverbs.

It's a daily paper. It comes out daily.

an early train I got up early

II. Adjectives: order

Before a noun, we put adjectives in a fixed order The exact rules are very complicated (and not very well understood). Here are the most important rules:

1 Adjectives of colour, origin (where something comes from), material (what it is made of) and purpose (what it is for) go in that order.

colour origin material purpose noun

red Spanish leather riding boots

a Venetian glass ashtray (NOT a glass Venetian ashtray)

a brown German beer-mug (NOT a German brown beer mug)

2 Other adjectives come before colour-adjectives etc.

Their exact order is too complicated to give rules.

a big black eat (NOT a black big cat)

the round glass table (NOT the glass round table)

3 First, last and next usually come before numbers.

the first three days (NOT the three first days)

my last two jobs (NOT my two last jobs)

III. Adjectives: position

adjective + noun

subject + copula verb (be, seem. look etc) + adjective


1 Most adjectives can go in two places in a sentence :

a) before a noun

The new secretary doesn 't like me.

She married a rich businessman.

b) after a 'copula verb' (be, seem look, appear, feel and some other verbs)

That dress is new, isn't it? He looks rich.

2 A few adjectives can go before a noun, but not usually after a verb. Examples are elder, eldest and little. After a verb we use older, oldest and small.

My elder brother lives in Newcastle. (Compare: He's three years older than me. )

He's a funny little boy (Compare:He looks very small. )

3 Some adjectives can go after a verb, but not usually before a noun. The most common are ill, well, afraid, alive, alone, asleep. Before nouns we use sick, healthy, frightened, living, lone, sleeping.

He looks ill. (Compare He's a sick man. )

Your mother's very well. (Compare:She's a very healthy woman. )

She's asleep. (Compare a sleeping baby)

4 In expressions of measurement, the adjective comes after the measurement-noun.

two metres high (NOT high tvvo metres)

ten years old two miles long

IV. Adjectives without nouns

We cannot usually leave out a noun after an adjective.

Poor little boy ! (NOT Poor little !)

But there are some exceptions:

1. We sometimes leave out a noun when we are talking about a choice between two or three different kinds (of car, milk, cigarette, bread, for example).

'Have you got any bread?' 'Do you want white or brown?'

‘A pound of butter please.’ ‘I’ve only got unsalted.

2 We can use superlative adjectives without nouns, if the meaning is clear.

I'm the tallest in my family. 'Which one shall I get?' 'The cheapest.'

3 We can use some adjectives with the to talk about people in a particular


He’s collecting money for the blind.

Note that this structure has a plural ‘general’ meaning: the blind means 'all blind people', not 'the blind person' or 'certain blind people'.

The most common expressions of this kind are:

the dead the sick the blind the deaf the rich

the poor the unemployed the young the old the handicapped the mentally ill

(In informal speech, we usually say old people, young people etc instead of the old, the young.)

These expressions cannot be used with a possessive 's.

the problems of the poor OR poor people's problems (NOT the poor’s problems)

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