The Mystery of the Little Boxes – Parts of Speech: the Adjective

By Jacqueline Schaalje

boxDominic Alves

All this parts of speech stuff is on request.

Now we’ll talk about the adjective.

Adjectives are words that describe a noun.

Learn here what nouns are. 

So if nouns are things, people, feelings, animals or something else you can see, feel or touch, then adjectives say something about them.

Here are some examples:

1 The blue bird.

Blue is the adjective because it tells you what bird it is.

2 Are those expensive speakers really better than cheap ones?

Expensive is an adjective describing speakers, and cheap describes ones, so cheap is an adjective too.

3 The teachers loved those clever students.

Clever describes students, so that’s the adjective. Those is not an adjective, but a determiner. Other determiners are a/an, the, this, that, many, some, numbers, etc).

The box is full.

The adjective doesn’t need to stand next to the noun.

It can also be somewhere else in the sentence. Look at these examples:

1 The bird is blue.

Blue is an adjective. It describes the bird.

2 That cake was delicious yesterday, but now it’s gone stale. (stale is when it’s not fresh anymore, and it’s hard to put your teeth in.)

The adjectives are: delicious and stale, and they both describe the cake (stale describes “it,” which is the cake).

Piling of Adjectives

The nice thing about adjectives is that you can pile them on, so you can use a lot of them (as many as you like) to describe the same noun. But wait, don’t use too many adjectives with the result that your sentence sounds crazy. Unless you want to sound crazy of course.

How much is too many?

While it’s perfectly normal to write that Lou is a bad-mouthed, grumpy little man, it would be too much if you wrote: Lou is a pale bad-mouthed pimply grumpy stout little man. The rule is: when it’s hard to understand what is happening, take off an adjective or two.

box2Tina D

Commas between the adjectives or not?

When you’ve got more than one adjective and the two adjectives don’t belong together but describe two different aspects of the noun, you should separate them with a comma. What do I mean? Look at this example:

1 The funny little dog.

Do I need a comma between funny and little?

No, I don’t, because funny and little belong together to create the idea that the dog is funny also because he’s little.

Now look at this description of a dog:

2 The serious watchful dog.

Do I need a comma between serious and watchful?

Yes, I do, because serious and watchful don’t make one description together. They’re two different qualities of the dog.

So actually it should be:

The serious, watchful dog.

Another example:

3 The blue luminescent glass. (Luminescent means seeming to give light.)

Should I put a comma between blue and luminescent?

Yes, I should, because blue and luminescent are two different things about the glass. The glass isn’t blue because it’s luminescent, and it’s not luminescent because it’s blue.

The blue, luminescent glass would be better.

Unless you mean that the glass seems to give blue light, in which case you don’t need the comma.

One last example:

4 That annoying loud music.

Do I need a comma here?

No, I don’t, because I mean that the music is annoying also because it’s loud: the loud and annoying go together in the same idea.



Okay, let’s read the second of those burglary stories for the quiz. Want to read the others? Download the e-book here. Your task is to pick out the adjectives.

Click here to do this quiz online.   

The first sentence is an example.

Example: This is a real story, based on true events. (Names have been changed.)

Real and true are the adjectives, so you type:

real true

(Don’t use commas in your answer, an no capital letters unless they appear in the sentence.)

The Mystery of the Boxes

1 Dorothy collected little boxes: she had hundreds of them inside some drawers in her bedroom.

2 Her sister Nora was writing her final thesis for her biology studies.

3 One summer, the two sisters decided to go on a short holiday break with their families.

4 When they came back, all brown and happy from their lovely Greek holiday, they discovered that both their houses had been burgled.

5 Dorothy’s little cute boxes were all ripped open and lots of feathers, beads and other knick-knacks lay on the floor.

6 At first Dorothy laughed hysterically, because the idea that the burglar had gone through all those boxes was funny.

7 But then she became sad: “My grandmother’s ring was in one of the boxes,” she said.

8 Nora’s laptop had been stolen, and on it her only copy of her brilliant thesis!

9 Nora’s husband’s laptop was also gone, but luckily he didn’t have any important information on it.

10 Dorothy still had her laptop. It was on the corner desk where she left it.

11 “In one of my boxes were a few bills of money, and they’re gone too,” she said.

12 “That’s funny,” said Nora. “We had 1000 dollars in bills in an envelope and the thief didn’t touch them.”

13 That afternoon, Nora went to the police to file a complaint, but the officer who took her case was in a bad mood.

14 “We’ve been trying to find a murderer since this morning, so we don’t have time to look for your precious laptop,” the officer said.

15 The next morning the police called her to tell her they’d found a grey laptop. Unfortunately, Nora’s laptop was black.

Want to read more about adjectives?

Adjectives with in- and –un. 

Adjectives with –able and -ive. 

Want to do more quizzes?

You can order more here.

3 thoughts on “The Mystery of the Little Boxes – Parts of Speech: the Adjective

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