I feel like writing more about adjectives

(Following on from the previous post about adjectives.)

Adjectives modify nouns, and can, in turn, be modified by adverbs and a number of other elements. These can go either before or after the adjective. Three common adverbs before an adjective are: very (no example in this song), so (so pretty/charming) and too (too much to eat). Some of these work better in some sentence patterns than others: My dress is very pretty, I am wearing a very pretty dress, My dress is so pretty!, *I am wearing a so pretty dress (>I am wearing such a pretty dress), My dress is too pretty!, *I am wearing a too pretty dress (>?I am wearing too pretty a dress).

Note that in I’m loved by a pretty wonderful boy, pretty is not an adjective, like it was in I feel pretty, and such a pretty dress!, but rather an adverb. ‘Extreme adjectives’ are particularly limited in which adverbs can go before them: ?He is very wonderful!, ?He is a very wonderful boy!, He is so wonderful!, *He is a so wonderful boy! (>He is such a wonderful boy!), He is too wonderful!, *He is a too wonderful boy! (>?He is too wonderful a boy!)

Some other adverbs go after the adjective: pretty enough.

Other elements which can go after an adjective include:

It’s alarming how charming I feel!

I feel so pretty that I hardly can believe I’m real / that the city should give me its key / (that) Miss America can just resign!

Others are prepositional phrases and to V: Maria is pretty enough for Tony (compare *Maria is pretty for Tony, Maria is good enough for Tony, Maria is good for Tony), It’s nice to wear such a pretty dress. 

Some adjectives or adverb/adjective pairs strongly need some element after them to complete the meaning: so adj is often followed by that S (as above) and too adj by to V: It’s too hot to run and dance for joy. (But many people these days say “Thank you so much”, which seems wrong to me.)

The adjectives in the song can be generally divided into groups of meanings: describing someone’s appearance (pretty), describing someone’s character (witty), describing a temporary (or permanent) state (insane) and describing a thing (advanced, rare). But many common adjectives have meanings related to which one(s): the same dress(es), a different dress/different dresses, another dress, other dresses. Note that same can mean ‘the exact one’: I am wearing the same dress as yesterday, or ‘one of the same kind’: We are wearing the same dress (really, two of the same kind). Many years ago my family was on holidays and we were waiting in the car to go to church on the Sunday morning. Suddenly one sister got out of the car and said “I’m going to put another dress on”. My father said “Won’t you be too hot with two dresses on?”.

Similarly to The French people becoming The French (see the previous post), too much food can become too much. Note, though, that we don’t say much food to eat, rather a lot of food to eat. (Compare not much food and not a lot of food.)

Finally (after a thousand words in the previous post and 500 already in this one), it is possible to use many adjectives in a row. I could say “Have you met my pretty, witty, bright, charming, stunning and entrancing friend Maria?”, but that many in a row is awkward. Some style advice goes as far as to say “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs … The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place”. Ummm, weak and inaccurate are adjectives. The problem is not the adjectives themselves, but using too many of them in a row. (A lot of style advice begins that way: if too much of something is bad, then the solution is none of it.) But Maria really is feeling all of those things right now, because she’s loved by a pretty wonderful boy. (Passive voice, oh dear! Because a pretty wonderful boy loves her!)

Added later: I knew there was more I had to say. I mentioned adverbs such as very, so, too and enough, but many adverbs are derived from adjectives by adding -ly. Maria feels pretty, witty, bright, stunning and entrancing. She behaves prettily, wittily, brightly, stunning and entrancingly.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s