10.4 Classification of adjectives
1) One-word adjectives and compound adjectives
terms of word formation, adjectives may be classified into one-word
adjectives and compound adjectives.
a. A one-word adjective may consist of only one free morpheme,
such as big, small, good, bad, cold, etc.; it may also consist of
a free morpheme as root plus a prefix or a suffix or both, such
as unkind, useless, unlikely, voiceless, unbelievable, etc.
b. Compound adjectives are formed in different ways.
¢Ù They may be "adjective + adjective", e.g.
¢Ú Adjective/adverb + -ing participle, e.g.
- good-looking, hard-working, etc.
¢Û adjective/adverb + -ed participle, e.g.
¢Ü noun + adjective, e.g.
¢Ý noun + -ing participle, e.g.
¢Þ noun + -ed participle, e.g.
¢ß adjective + noun + -ed, e.g.
- kind-hearted, absent-minded
2) Central and peripheral adjectives
terms of syntactic function, adjective can be divided into two groups:
central adjectives and peripheral adjectives.
a. central adjectives
¡¡¡¡Most adjectives can be used both as modifier in a noun phrase
and as subject/object complement. These adjectives are called central
adjectives. In the following three examples green is a central adjective,
functioning as modifier of nouns, subject complement and object
- Green apples are sour. (modifier in a
- Those apples are green. (subject complement)
- They have painted the door green. (object
b. peripheral adjectives
¡¡¡¡Peripheral adjectives refer to the few which can not satisfy both
requirements. Some peripheral adjectives can only act as pre-modifier,
- chief, main, principal, utter, sheer,
¡¡¡¡other peripheral adjectives can only act as complement, e.g.
- afloat, afraid, asleep, alone, alive,
3) Dynamic and stative adjectives
adjectives can be dynamic or stative.
a. Stative adjectives
¡¡¡¡Stative adjectives, such as tall, short, big, small, beautiful,
pretty, describe the static characteristics of animate or inanimate
objects, and most adjectives are static adjectives.
b. Dynamic adjectives
¡¡¡¡Dynamic adjectives, such as ambitious, careful, generous, helpful,
patient, witty, polite, describe the dynamic properties of people
Dynamic adjectives are different in use from stative adjectives.
¢Ù Dynamic adjectives can go with progressive aspect of the verb
be, while stative adjectives cannot, e.g.
- She is being helpful/careful/polite/patient.
- * She is being tall/ beautiful/ pretty.
¢Ú Dynamic adjectives can co-occur with imperative be, while stative
adjectives cannot, e.g.
- Be patient! Be careful!
- * Be tall/beautiful.
¢Û Dynamic adjectives can occur in causative constructions in which
it is impossible to use stative adjectives, e.g.
- I told her to be generous/polite/careful.
- * I told her to be beautiful/tall/pretty.
4) Gradable and non-gradable adjectives
adjectives can be gradable and non-gradable.
a. Gradable adjectives
¡¡Most adjectives are gradable adjectives. The gradability can be
manifested through the forms of comparison, e.g.
- short shorter shortest¡¡beautiful more
beautiful so beautiful
¡¡The gradability can also be manifested through modification by
- very short, so beautiful, extremely kind
¡¡All dynamic and most stative adjectives are gradable adjectives.
b. Non-gradable adjectives
¡¡The few non-gradable adjectives include some denominal adjective
that denote classification or provenance, e.g.
- atomic scientist
- Chinese food
¡¡Some other adjectives, such as perfect, excellent, extreme, married,
dead, etc. are also non-gradable because their lexical meaning have
already denoted a high or extreme degree.