Office of Adjectives.
139.Nouns are seldom used as names of objects without additional words joined to them to add to their meaning. For example, if we wish to speak of a friend’s house, we cannot guide one to it by merely calling it a house. We need to add some words to tell its color, size, position, etc., if we are at a distance; and if we are near, we need some word to point out the house we speak of, so that no other will be mistaken for it. So with any object, or with persons.
As to the kind of words used, we may begin with the common adjectives telling the characteristics of an object. If a chemist discovers a new substance, he cannot describe it to others without telling its qualities: he will say it is solid, or liquid, or gaseous; heavy or light; brittle or tough; white or red; etc.
Again, in pointing out an object, adjectives are used; such as in the expressions “this man,” “that house,” “yonder hill,” etc.
Instead of using nouns indefinitely, the number is limited by adjectives; as, “one hat,” “some cities,” “a hundred men.”
The office of an adjective, then, is to narrow down or limit the application of a noun. It may have this office alone, or it may at the same time add to the meaning of the noun.
140.Nouns are not, however, the only words limited by adjectives: pronouns and other words and expressions also have adjectives joined to them. Any word or word group that performs the same office as a noun may be modified by adjectives.
To make this clear, notice the following sentences:—
If he be thankful for small benefits, it shows that he weighs men’s minds, and their trash.—Bacon.
To err is human; to forgive, divine.—Pope.
With exception of the “and then,” the “and there,” and the still less significant “and so,” they constitute all his connections.—Coleridge.
141.An adjective is a word joined to a noun or other substantive word or expression, to describe it or to limit its application.
142.Adjectives are divided into four classes:—
(1) Descriptive adjectives, which describe by expressing qualities or attributes of a substantive.
(2) Adjectives of quantity, used to tell how many things are spoken of, or how much of a thing.
(3) Demonstrative adjectives, pointing out particular things.
(4) Pronominal adjectives, words primarily pronouns, but used adjectively sometimes in modifying nouns instead of standing for them. They include relative and interrogative words.
143.This large class includes several kinds of words:—
(1) SIMPLE ADJECTIVES expressing quality; such as safe, happy, deep, fair, rash, beautiful, remotest, terrible, etc.
(2) COMPOUND ADJECTIVES, made up of various words thrown together to make descriptive epithets. Examples are, “Heaven-derived power,” “this life-givingbook,” “his spirit wrapt and wonder-struck,” “ice-cold water,” “half-dead traveler,” “unlooked-for burden,” “next-door neighbor,” “ivory-handled pistols,” “the cold-shudder-inspiring Woman in White.”
(3) PROPER ADJECTIVES, derived from proper nouns; such as, “an old English manuscript,” “the Christian pearl of charity,” “the well-curb had a Chinese roof,” “the Roman writer Palladius.”
(4) PARTICIPIAL ADJECTIVES, which are either pure participles used to describe, or participles which have lost all verbal force and have no function except to express quality. Examples are,—
Pure participial adjectives: “The healing power of the Messiah,” “The shattering sway of one strong arm,” “trailing clouds,” “The shattered squares have opened into line,” “It came on like the rolling simoom,” “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.”
Faded participial adjectives: “Sleep is a blessed thing;” “One is hungry, and another is drunken;” “under the fitting drapery of the jagged and trailing clouds;” “The clearness and quickness are amazing;” “an aged man;” “a charming sight.”
144.Care is needed, in studying these last-named words, to distinguish between a participle that forms part of a verb, and a participle or participial adjective that belongs to a noun.
For instance: in the sentence, “The work was well and rapidly accomplished,” was accomplished is a verb; in this, “No man of his day was more brilliant or more accomplished,” was is the verb, and accomplished is an adjective.
1. Bring up sentences with twenty descriptive adjectives, having some of each subclass named in Sec. 143.
2. Is the italicized word an adjective in this?—
ADJECTIVES OF QUANTITY.
145.Adjectives of quantity tell how much or how many. They have these three subdivisions:—
(1) QUANTITY IN BULK: such words as little, much, some, no, any, considerable, sometimes small, joined usually to singular nouns to express an indefinite measure of the thing spoken of.
The following examples are from Kingsley:—
So he parted with much weeping of the lady.Which we began to do with great labor and little profit.Because I had some knowledge of surgery and blood-letting.But ever she looked on Mr. Oxenham, and seemed to take nocare as long as he was by.
Examples of small an adjective of quantity:—
“The deil’s in it but I bude to anger him!” said the woman, and walked away with a laugh of small satisfaction.—Macdonald.
‘Tis midnight, but small thoughts have I of sleep.—Coleridge.
It gives small idea of Coleridge’s way of talking.—Carlyle.
When some, any, no, are used with plural nouns, they come under the next division of adjectives.
(2) QUANTITY IN NUMBER, which may be expressed exactly by numbers or remotely designated by words expressing indefinite amounts. Hence the natural division into—
(a) Definite numerals; as, “one blaze of musketry;” “He found in the pathway fourteen Spaniards;” “I have lost one brother, but I have gained fourscore;” “a dozenvolunteers.”
(b) Indefinite numerals, as the following from Kingsley: “We gave several thousand pounds for it;” “In came some five and twenty more, and with them a fewnegroes;” “Then we wandered for many days;” “Amyas had evidently more schemes in his head;” “He had lived by hunting for some months;” “That light is far too red to be the reflection of any beams of hers.”
Single ones of any number of changes.
(3) DISTRIBUTIVE NUMERALS, which occupy a place midway between the last two subdivisions of numeral adjectives; for they are indefinite in telling how many objects are spoken of, but definite in referring to the objects one at a time. Thus,—
Every town had its fair; every village, its wake.—Thackeray.
An arrow was quivering in each body.—Kingsley.
Few on either side but had their shrewd scratch to show.—Id.
Before I taught my tongue to woundMy conscience with a sinful sound,Or had the black art to dispenseA several sin to every sense.—Vaughan.
Exercise.—Bring up sentences with ten adjectives of quantity.
Not primarily pronouns.
146.The words of this list are placed here instead of among pronominal adjectives, for the reason that they are felt to be primarily adjectives; their pronominal use being evidently a shortening, by which the words point out but stand for words omitted, instead of modifying them. Their natural and original use is to be joined to a noun following or in close connection.
The demonstrative adjectives are this, that, (plural these, those), yonder (or yon), former, latter; also the pairs one (or the one)—the other, the former—the latter, used to refer to two things which have been already named in a sentence.
The following sentences present some examples:—
The bashful virgin’s sidelong looks of love, The matron’s glance that would those looks reprove.—Goldsmith.
These were thy charms…but all these charms are fled.—Id.
About this time I met with an odd volume of the “Spectator.”—B. Franklin.
Yonder proud ships are not means of annoyance to you.—D. Webster.
Yon cloud with that long purple cleft.—Wordsworth.
I chose for the students of Kensington two characteristic examples of early art, of equal skill; but in the one case, skill which was progressive—in the other, skill which was at pause.—Ruskin.
Exercise.—Find sentences with five demonstrative adjectives.
Ordinal numerals classed under demonstratives.
147.The class of numerals known as ordinals must be placed here, as having the same function as demonstrative adjectives. They point out which thing is meant among a series of things mentioned. The following are examples:—
The first regular provincial newspapers appear to have been created in the last decade of the seventeenth century, and by the middle of the eighteenth century almost every important provincial town had its local organ.—Bancroft.
These do not, like the other numerals, tell how many things are meant. When we speak of the seventeenth century, we imply nothing as to how many centuries there may be.
148.As has been said, pronominal adjectives are primarily pronouns; but, when they modify words instead of referring to them as antecedents, they are changed to adjectives. They are of two kinds,—RELATIVE and INTERROGATIVE,—and are used to join sentences or to ask questions, just as the corresponding pronouns do.
Modify names of persons or things.
149.The RELATIVE ADJECTIVES are which and what; for example,—
It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures. —Carlyle.
The silver and laughing Xenil, careless what lord should possess the banks that bloomed by its everlasting course.—Bulwer.
The taking of which bark. I verily believe, was the ruin of every mother’s son of us.—Kingsley.
In which evil strait Mr. Oxenham fought desperately.—Id.
Indefinite relative adjectives.
150.The INDEFINITE RELATIVE adjectives are what, whatever, whatsoever, whichever, whichsoever. Examples of their use are,—
He in his turn tasted some of its flavor, which, make what sour mouths he would for pretense, proved not altogether displeasing to him.—Lamb.
Whatever correction of our popular views from insight, nature will be sure to bear us out in.—Emerson.
Whatsoever kind of man he is, you at least give him full authority over your son.—Ruskin.
Was there, as it rather seemed, a circle of ominous shadow moving along with his deformity, whichever way he turned himself?—Hawthorne.
New torments I behold, and new tormentedAround me, whichsoever way I move,And whichsoever way I turn, and gaze.—Longfellow (From Dante).
151.The INTERROGATIVE ADJECTIVES are which and what. They may be used in direct and indirect questions. As in the pronouns, which is selective among what is known; what inquires about things or persons not known.
In direct questions.
Sentences with which and what in direct questions:—
Which debt must I pay first, the debt to the rich, or the debt to the poor?—Emerson.
But when the Trojan war comes, which side will you take? —Thackeray.
But what books in the circulating library circulate?—Lowell.
What beckoning ghost along the moonlight shadeInvites my steps, and points to yonder glade?—Pope.
In indirect questions.
Sentences with which and what in indirect questions:—
His head…looked like a weathercock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew.—Irving.
A lady once remarked, he [Coleridge] could never fix which side of the garden walk would suit him best.—Carlyle.
He was turned before long into all the universe, where it was uncertain what game you would catch, or whether any.—Id.
At what rate these materials would be distributed and precipitated in regular strata, it is impossible to determine.—Agassiz.
Adjective what in exclamations.
152.In exclamatory expressions, what (or what a) has a force somewhat like a descriptive adjective. It is neither relative nor interrogative, but might be called an EXCLAMATORY ADJECTIVE; as,—
Oh, what a revolution! and what a heart must I have, to contemplate without emotion that elevation and that fall!—Burke.
What a piece of work is man!—Shakespeare.
And yet, alas, the making of it right, what a business for long time to come!—Carlyle
Through what hardships it may attain to bear a sweet fruit!—Thoreau.
Exercise.—Find ten sentences containing pronominal adjectives.
INFLECTIONS OF ADJECTIVES.
153 .Adjectives have two inflections,—number and comparison.
History of this—these and that—those.
154.The only adjectives having a plural form are this and that (plural these, those).
This is the old demonstrative; that being borrowed from the forms of the definite article, which was fully inflected in Old English. The article that was used with neuter nouns.
In Middle English the plural of this was this or thise, which changed its spelling to the modern form these.
Those borrowed from this.
But this had also another plural, thās (modern those). The old plural of that was tha (Middle English tho or thow): consequentlytho (plural of that) and those (plural of this) became confused, and it was forgotten that those was really the plural of this; and in Modern English we speak of these as the plural of this, and those as the plural of that.
155.Comparison is an inflection not possessed by nouns and pronouns: it belongs to adjectives and adverbs.
Meaning of comparison.
When we place two objects side by side, we notice some differences between them as to size, weight, color, etc. Thus, it is said that a cow is larger than a sheep, gold is heavier than iron, a sapphire is bluer than the sky. All these have certain qualities; and when we compare the objects, we do so by means of their qualities,—cow and sheep by the quality of largeness, or size; gold and iron by the quality of heaviness, or weight, etc.,—but not the same degree, or amount, of the quality.
The degrees belong to any beings or ideas that may be known or conceived of as possessing quality; as, “untamed thought, great, giant-like, enormous;” “the commonest speech;” “It is a nobler valor;” “the largest soul.”
Also words of quantity may be compared: for example, “more matter, with less wit;” “no fewer than a hundred.”
Words that cannot be compared.
156.There are some descriptive words whose meaning is such as not to admit of comparison; for example,—
His company became very agreeable to the brave old professor of arms, whose favorite pupil he was.—Thackeray.
It was his business to administer the law in its final and closest application to the offender—Hawthorne.
Freedom is a perpetual, organic, universal institution, in harmony with the Constitution of the United States.—Seward.
So with the words sole, sufficient, infinite, immemorial, indefatigable, indomitable, supreme, and many others.
It is true that words of comparison are sometimes prefixed to them, but, strictly considered, they are not compared.
157.Comparison means the changes that words undergo to express degrees in quality, or amounts in quantity.
The two forms.
158.There are two forms for this inflection: the comparative, expressing a greater degree of quality; and the superlative, expressing the greatest degree of quality.
These are called degrees of comparison.
These are properly the only degrees, though the simple, uninflected form is usually called the positive degree.
159.The comparative is formed by adding -er, and the superlative by adding -est, to the simple form; as, red, redder, reddest; blue, bluer, bluest; easy, easier, easiest.
Substitute for inflection in comparison.
160.Side by side with these inflected forms are found comparative and superlative expressions making use of the adverbs more andmost. These are often useful as alternative with the inflected forms, but in most cases are used before adjectives that are never inflected.
Which rule,— -er and -est or moreand most?
161.The English is somewhat capricious in choosing between the inflected forms and those with more and most, so that no inflexible rule can be given as to the formation of the comparative and the superlative.
The general rule is, that monosyllables and easily pronounced words of two syllables add -er and -est; and other words are preceded by more and most.
But room must be left in such a rule for pleasantness of sound and for variety of expression.
To see how literary English overrides any rule that could be given, examine the following taken at random:—
From Thackeray: “The handsomest wives;” “the immensest quantity of thrashing;” “the wonderfulest little shoes;” “more odd, strange, and yet familiar;” “more austereand holy.”
From Ruskin: “The sharpest, finest chiseling, and patientest fusing;” “distantest relationships;” “sorrowfulest spectacles.”
Carlyle uses beautifulest, mournfulest, honestest, admirablest, indisputablest, peaceablest, most small, etc.
These long, harsh forms are usually avoided, but more and most are frequently used with monosyllables.
162.Expressions are often met with in which a superlative form does not carry the superlative meaning. These are equivalent usually to very with the positive degree; as,—
To this the Count offers a most wordy declaration of the benefits conferred by Spain.—The Nation, No 1507
In all formulas that Johnson could stand by, there needed to be a most genuine substance.—Carlyle
A gentleman, who, though born in no very high degree, was most finished, polished, witty, easy, quiet.—Thackeray
He had actually nothing else save a rope around his neck, which hung behind in the queerest way.—Id.
“So help me God, madam, I will,” said Henry Esmond, falling on his knees, and kissing the hand of his dearest mistress.—Id.
Adjectives irregularly compared.
163.Among the variously derived adjectives now in our language there are some which may always be recognized as native English. These are adjectives irregularly compared.
Most of them have worn down or become confused with similar words, but they are essentially the same forms that have lived for so many centuries.
The following lists include the majority of them:—
Good or well
Evil, bad, ill
Much or many
These have no adjective positive:—
A few of comparative form but not comparative meaning:—
Remarks on Irregular Adjectives.
164.(1) The word good has no comparative or superlative, but takes the place of a positive to better and best. There was an old comparative bet, which has gone out of use; as in the sentence (14th century), “Ich singe bet than thu dest” (I sing better than thou dost). The superlative I form was betst, which has softened to the modern best.
(2) In Old English, evil was the positive to worse, worst; but later bad and ill were borrowed from the Norse, and used as positives to the same comparative and superlative. Worser was once used, a double comparative; as in Shakespeare,—
O, throw away the worser part of it.—Hamlet.
(3) Little is used as positive to less, least, though from a different root. A double comparative, lesser, is often used; as,—
We have it in a much lesser degree.—Matthew Arnold.
Thrust the lesser half by main force into the fists of Ho-ti. —Lamb.
(4) The words much and many now express quantity; but in former times much was used in the sense of large, great, and was the same word that is found in the proverb, “Many a little makes a mickle.” Its spelling has been micel, muchel, moche, much, the parallel form mickle being rarely used.
The meanings greater, greatest, are shown in such phrases as,—
The more part being of one mind, to England we sailed.—Kingsley.
The most part kept a stolid indifference.—Id.
The latter, meaning the largest part, is quite common.
(5) The forms elder, eldest, are earlier than older, oldest. A few other words with the vowel o had similar change in the comparative and superlative, as long, strong, etc.; but these have followed old by keeping the same vowel o in all the forms, instead of lenger, strenger, etc., the old forms.
(6) and (7) Both nigh and near seem regular in Modern English, except the form next; but originally the comparison was nigh, near, next. In the same way the wordhigh had in Middle English the superlative hexte.
By and by the comparative near was regarded as a positive form, and on it were built a double comparative nearer, and the superlative nearest, which adds -est to what is really a comparative instead of a simple adjective.
(8) These words also show confusion and consequent modification, coming about as follows: further really belongs to another series,—forth, further, first. Firstbecame entirely detached from the series, and furthest began to be used to follow the comparative further; then these were used as comparative and superlative of far.
The word far had formerly the comparative and superlative farrer, farrest. In imitation of further, furthest, th came into the others, making the modern farther,farthest. Between the two sets as they now stand, there is scarcely any distinction, except perhaps further is more used than farther in the sense of additional; as, for example,—
When that evil principle was left with no further material to support it.—Hawthorne.
(9) Latter and last are the older forms. Since later, latest, came into use, a distinction has grown up between the two series. Later and latest have the true comparative and superlative force, and refer to time; latter and last are used in speaking of succession, or series, and are hardly thought of as connected in meaning with the word late.
(10) Hinder is comparative in form, but not in meaning. The form hindmost is really a double superlative, since the m is for -ma, an old superlative ending, to which is added -ost, doubling the inflection. Hind-er-m-ost presents the combination comparative + superlative + superlative.
165.In List II. (Sec. 163) the comparatives and superlatives are adjectives, but they have no adjective positives.
The comparatives are so in form, but not in their meaning.
The superlatives show examples again of double inflection, and of comparative added to double-superlative inflection.
Examples (from Carlyle) of the use of these adjectives: “revealing the inner splendor to him;” “a mind that has penetrated into the inmost heart of a thing;” “This of painting is one of the outermost developments of a man;” “The outer is of the day;” “far-seeing as the sun, the upper light of the world;” “the innermost moral soul;” “their utmost exertion.”
-Most added to other words.
166.The ending -most is added to some words that are not usually adjectives, or have no comparative forms.
There, on the very topmost twig, sits that ridiculous but sweet-singing bobolink.—H. W. Beecher.
Decidedly handsome, having such a skin as became a young woman of family in northernmost Spain.—De Quincey.
Highest and midmost, was descried The royal banner floating wide.—Scott.
167.The adjectives in List III. are like the comparative forms in List II. in having no adjective positives. They have no superlatives, and have no comparative force, being merely descriptive.
Her bows were deep in the water, but her after deck was still dry.—Kingsley.
Her, by the by, in after years I vainly endeavored to trace.—De Quincey.
The upper and the under side of the medal of Jove.—Emerson.
Have you ever considered what a deep under meaning there lies in our custom of strewing flowers?—Ruskin.
Perhaps he rose out of some nether region.—Hawthorne.
CAUTION FOR ANALYZING OR PARSING.
Think what each adjective belongs to.
168.Some care must be taken to decide what word is modified by an adjective. In a series of adjectives in the same sentence, all may belong to the same noun, or each may modify a different word or group of words.
For example, in this sentence, “The young pastor’s voice was tremulously sweet, rich, deep, and broken,” it is clear that all four adjectives after was modify the noun voice. But in this sentence, “She showed her usual prudence and her usual incomparable decision,” decision is modified by the adjective incomparable; usual modifies incomparable decision, not decision alone; and the pronoun her limits usual incomparable decision.
Adjectives modifying the same noun are said to be of the same rank; those modifying different words or word groups are said to be adjectives of different rank. This distinction is valuable in a study of punctuation.
In the following quotations, tell what each adjective modifies:—
1. Whenever that look appeared in her wild, bright, deeply black eyes, it invested them with a strange remoteness and intangibility.—Hawthorne.
2. It may still be argued, that in the present divided state of Christendom a college which is positively Christian must be controlled by some religious denomination.—Noah Porter.
3. Every quaking leaf and fluttering shadow sent the blood backward to her heart.—Mrs. Stowe.
4. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.—A. H. Stephens
5. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests?—Id.
6. A few improper jests and a volley of good, round, solid, satisfactory, and heaven-defying oaths.—Hawthorne.
7. It is well known that the announcement at any private rural entertainment that there is to be ice cream produces an immediate and profound impression.—Holmes.
ADVERBS USED AS ADJECTIVES.
169.By a convenient brevity, adverbs are sometimes used as adjectives; as, instead of saying, “the one who was then king,” in which then is an adverb, we may say “the thenking,” making then an adjective. Other instances are,—
My then favorite, in prose, Richard Hooker.—Ruskin.
Our sometime sister, now our queen.—Shakespeare
Messrs. Bradbury and Evans, the then and still owners. —Trollope.
The seldom use of it.—Trench.
For thy stomach’s sake, and thine often infirmities.—Bible.
HOW TO PARSE ADJECTIVES.
What to tell in parsing.
170.Since adjectives have no gender, person, or case, and very few have number, the method of parsing is simple.
In parsing an adjective, tell—
(1) The class and subclass to which it belongs.
(2) Its number, if it has number.
(3) Its degree of comparison, if it can be compared.
(4) What word or words it modifies.
These truths are not unfamiliar to your thoughts.
These points out what truths, therefore demonstrative; plural number, having a singular, this; cannot be compared; modifies the word truths.
Unfamiliar describes truths, therefore descriptive; not inflected for number; compared by prefixing more and most; positive degree; modifies truths.
Parse in full each adjective in these sentences:—
1. A thousand lives seemed concentrated in that one moment to Eliza.
2. The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked.
3. I ask nothing of you, then, but that you proceed to your end by a direct, frank, manly way.
4. She made no reply, and I waited for none.
5. A herd of thirty or forty tall ungainly figures took their way, with awkward but rapid pace, across the plain.
6. Gallantly did the lion struggle in the folds of his terrible enemy, whose grasp each moment grew more fierce and secure, and most astounding were those frightful yells.
7. This gave the young people entire freedom, and they enjoyed it to the fullest extent.
8. I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice.
9. To every Roman citizen he gives, To every several man, seventy-five drachmas.
10. Each member was permitted to entertain all the rest on his or her birthday, on which occasion the elders of the family were bound to be absent.
11. Instantly the mind inquires whether these fishes under the bridge, yonder oxen in the pasture, those dogs in the yard, are immutably fishes, oxen, and dogs.
12. I know not what course others may take.
13. With every third step, the tomahawk fell.
15. I was just emerging from that many-formed crystal country.
16. On what shore has not the prow of your ships dashed?
17. The laws and institutions of his country ought to have been more to him than all the men in his country.
18. Like most gifted men, he won affections with ease.
19. His letters aim to elicit the inmost experience and outward fortunes of those he loves, yet are remarkably self-forgetful.
20. Their name was the last word upon his lips.
21. The captain said it was the last stick he had seen.
22. Before sunrise the next morning they let us out again.
23. He was curious to know to what sect we belonged.
24. Two hours elapsed, during which time I waited.
25. In music especially, you will soon find what personal benefit there is in being serviceable.
26. To say what good of fashion we can, it rests on reality, and hates nothing so much as pretenders.
27. Here lay two great roads, not so much for travelers that were few, as for armies that were too many by half.
28. On whichever side of the border chance had thrown Joanna, the same love to France would have been nurtured.
29. What advantage was open to him above the English boy?
30. Nearer to our own times, and therefore more interesting to us, is the settlement of our own country.
31. Even the topmost branches spread out and drooped in all directions, and many poles supported the lower ones.
32. Most fruits depend entirely on our care.
33. Even the sourest and crabbedest apple, growing in the most unfavorable position, suggests such thoughts as these, it is so noble a fruit.
34. Let him live in what pomps and prosperities he like, he is no literary man.
35. Through what hardships it may bear a sweet fruit!
36. Whatsoever power exists will have itself organized.
37. A hard-struggling, weary-hearted man was he.