Adjectives are words that are used to describe nouns. They are also known as modifiers. These common words follow two basic patterns in English. Students often ask which pattern is better or more common to use, and the answer is that they’re equally  common!


Adjectives are used to describe nouns (people, places, or things).

  • green coat
  • beautiful sunset
  • cute puppies
  • interesting lesson

Adjectives are also used to describe how someone is feeling.

  • happy
  • sad
  • hot
  • cold


There are two basic adjective patterns in English.

Pattern 1: Adjective + Noun

An adjective often comes right before a noun. It stays right before the noun even when there are other parts of speech that are part of the pattern, such as an article, an adverb, or a preposition. This pattern is common for adjectives that describe people, places, or things.

  • soft pillow (Adj + N)
  • a soft pillow (Art + Adj + N)
  • a really soft pillow (Art + Adv + Adj + N)
  • on a really soft pillow (Prep + Art + Adv + Adj + N)

Pattern 2: Be + Adjective

An adjective can also follow the Be verb. This pattern is common for adjectives that describe feelings as well as people, places, or things.

  • She is happy.
  • I am tired.
  • Your brother is nice.
  • This pillow is soft.


Note #1

To form an adjective, a suffix is often added to the end of a noun. Some common adjective suffixes in English include -able, -al, -ant, -ed, -ent, -ful, -ible, -ic, -ing, -ive, -less, -ous, and -y. For more examples, see English Word Endings: Suffixes That Show the Part of Speech.

  • logical
  • important
  • careful
  • dangerous

Note #2

Some adjectives don’t come from a noun. These adjectives don’t have suffixes.

  • big
  • small
  • good
  • bad


It’s a good idea to give students similar examples of the two patterns so they can see that there is no difference in meaning. Both patterns are common for describing nouns. It’s their choice which pattern they want to use!

  • This is delicious pizza.
  • This pizza is delicious.

You may also want to remind students that for feelings, Be + Adjective is the more common pattern.

  • He is happy.
  • I am sick.


For more materials on adjectives as well as more advanced adjective tips, see the related resources below!

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  1. Vaporleaf says:

    Nov 12, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    This is a great simple guide to grammar. You could totally use this outside of ESL, and teach children with this.


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