WRITING W/ STYLE: A Guide To Adjectives
PART ONE: A GUIDE TO THE BASIC TERMINOLOGY
(passage photographed from my copy of the sexy Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale, whose* chapter on adjectives serves as primary inspiration forthis first section of Writing w/ Style)
Before we can start pulling back on our indiscriminate, eager, and loathful** adjective abuse as writers, we first have to understand the squirmy bastards. The following are definitions (with a little sass) and examples, because nobody remembers their middle school grammar lessons word for word.
THE THREE TRUE FORMS OF ADJECTIVES
Verbals: Participles (transformed by his performance, learning to get along, she shared the booty) and infinitives (to watch, to catch) are both verbals (which are, put simply, verbs that had a midlife crisis and function as a noun or a modifier in the way that my Uncle Vinnie functions as a stripper instead of an accountant) that act as adjectives in a sentence.
Limiting Adjectives: Numbers - ordinal (the sixth time she did it) and cardinal (the movie is three hours long?); articles (a cat, the door, a house, the girl); interrogative, indefinite, and demonstrative pronouns (which bathroom, that dorm, any person); and possessive nouns and pronouns (my guide, james’attitude) are all ‘limiting’ adjectives, or adjectives that modify the nouns to which they are applied by restricting rather than describing or qualifying.
Predicate Adjectives: To refresh your memory, the predicate is the part of a sentence w/ a verb that states something about the subject. HOWEVER, modern grammar, influenced by predicate calculus and moody domineering mathematicians, views them in a more expansive manner:
In contemporary linguistics a predicate serves as a function over an argument, assigning a property to a single argument and relating multiple.
I will go into the specifics of the logic-based predicate theory at length in a special post, (focusing on the concept of valency – monovalent, bivalent, trivalent and avalent predicates) but this is all you need for now.
Basically, any word that either modifies the subject of a sentence and is connected by a linking verb, or serves quantify an argument, is a ‘predicate’ adjective. Some examples (where the predicate adjective is italicized):
- You seem tired today.
- Stephen is grumpy.
- The pizza tastes great.
- Cols gave Nik his cookie.
NEXT: ADJECTIVES PART II: SKILLED USAGE/WHAT YOU COULD DO
*before you jump on me, whose is the only english word that can be used to refer to an inanimate antecedent.
** I died inside writing this sentence.