Businesss English Basics

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Business Contacts Language focus: adjectives


Adjectives are words that are used to modify a noun.


There are many kinds of adjectives and they usually determine a noun. We have met a clever negotiator (adjectives of quality: new, young, interesting, rich, poor etc); Some people understand our policy (quantitative adjectives: some, any, no, few, many, much, one)); This office is ours (demonstrative adjectives: this, that, these, those). There are also distributive adjectives: each, every, either, neither, interrogative adjectives: which, what, whose and possessive adjectives: my, your, his, her, its, our, your, their.

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Adjectives of Quality

We will focus on adjectives of quality in this section.


These adjectives have only one form for singular, plural, masculine and feminine nouns:

I have a very young boss (m. or f.) I have a young sister/ I have young colleagues.

Some adjectives are derived from other parts of speech (usually verbs or nouns) by means of suffixation, as shown in the table below:

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Verb: limit, persuade, deduct, persist, etc.

Derived adjective: limited, persuasive, deductible, persistent.

Noun: hope, fame, care, profession etc

Derived adjective: hopeless, famous, careful, professional

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The position of adjectives is usually before nouns, but also after the verbs: be, seem, appear and look.

We have a competitive product/ The product seems competitive.

Some adjectives are used after the nouns:

The problems discussed were very interesting for most of the directors.

Other adjectives may be used both before and after the noun (present, involved, responsible etc.)

The present members of our Board will decide in this matter./ Those members present today will take a decision.

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Compound adjectives

Nouns and adjectives may be combined to modify another noun, in which case the word can be hyphenated (although the hyphen is often a matter of personal preference).

He is an open-minded fellow.

I can be empty-headed sometimes.

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Adjectives - Degrees of comparison

There are three degrees of comparison: positive, comparative and superlative.

One-syllable adjectives form their comparative and superlative in a synthetic way, namely by adding -er and -est to the positive form. Let us take the adjective rich as an example. Here are its degrees of comparison:

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Degrees of comparison – short adjectives

Positive: rich

Comparative of superiority: richer than

Comparative of equality: as rich as

Comparative of inferiority: less rich than

Superlative absolute: very rich

Superlative relative: the richest of/from

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In the case of long adjectives (of two or more syllables) the comparative of superiority and the superlative relative are formed by the help of more and respectively most. Let us take the adjective interesting and form its degrees of comparison:

Positive: interesting

Comparative of superiority: more interesting than

Comparative of equality: as interesting as

Comparative of inferiority: less interesting than

Superlative absolute: very interesting

Superlative relative: the most interesting of/from

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Adjectives of two syllables can follow one or other of the above rules: the ones ending in –ful or –re usually take more and most, whereas those ending in –er, -y or –ly take –er and –est:

careful more careful the most careful

obscure more obscure the most obscure

clever cleverer the cleverest

pretty prettier the prettiest

holy holier the holiest

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Some adjective have irregular comparisons:

good better best

bad worse worst


little less least

many more most


far further furthest

farther farthest (of distance only)

old older oldest

elder eldest (of people only and especially within a family)

late later latest

latter (the second of two)

last (the opposite of the first)

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There are many constructions with comparisons used in the discourse:

The bigger the investment is the more money it will produce.

His position in the company is getting higher and higher.

Last but not least point is

The results of our team are exceptionally good.


Some adjectives are also used as nouns: good, bad, poor, rich, young, old, living, dead, healthy, sick.

The rich(n[1]) are making the rules here. Rich (adj[2].) people are always making the rules.

[1] n = noun

[2] adj. = adjective

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Multiple adjectives

When using more than one adjective to modify a noun, they may be separated by a conjunction or by commas.

Your results are good and promising.

You have good, promising results.

Past participles of verbs can also be used as adjectives, such as native born, foreign made, soft spoken, warmly dressed, well behaved, and so on.

I was satisfied with that foreign made device.

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