What Is an Adjective of Quality?

G. Wiesen

An adjective of quality gives information about another word to describe it. Much like other forms of adjectives, they are used with another word that they modify, which is typically a noun or pronoun. These words basically answer a question like “What kind of?” about the object that it modifies. For example, while someone could simply say “I have a book,” it would leave the statement open to the question, “What kind of book?” The same statement with an adjective of quality could be “I have a large book,” or “I have a good book,” and answers that question through the words “large” or “good.”

"I have a large cat" is an example of a statement containing an adjective of quality.
"I have a large cat" is an example of a statement containing an adjective of quality.

There are a number of different types of adjectives, but they all serve a similar function. The basic purpose of them is to modify another word, which means that they are never found alone in a sentence, unless the modified word is implied. An adjective of quality usually comes before the word that it modifies, as in a phrase like “red house” or “shiny spoon.”

While this type of adjective can come in a number of different forms, they all tend to describe some specific element about an object. Shape and color can be expressed by these words through adjectives like “large,” “rectangular,” “blue,” and “dark.” There are also ways in which an adjective of quality can be used to express the opinion of a speaker about an object’s value or worth through words like “good” or “useless.”

The origin of an object can be indicated through the use of an adjective of quality, usually by some type of directional or geographic indicator. A phrase like “northern trout,” typically indicates that the trout comes from the north or is commonly found there; “American English” is used to demonstrate that the type of English being referred to is American in origin. These words can also describe the material or components from which an object is made. “Wooden train,” for example, indicates that the train is made out of wood.

There are also types of adjectives other than an adjective of quality, such as one of quantity or distinction. An adjective of quantity answers the question of “How much?” about an object. This can include general words like “many” or “some,” as well as specific amounts like “six.” Adjectives of distinction typically provide information that allows someone to indicate the exact object to which he or she is referring. These can include possessive adjectives like “her” or “his” and demonstrative words like “that” to indicate “that book.”

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