Adjective Sentence Patterns & Suffixes

English language learners study the Be verb early on, and they learn about adjectives soon afterward—adjectives usually appear in simple sentences with the Be verb (e.g., I am happy and That is a big house). This week’s featured lesson was on Adjectives that describe feelings, so I thought a blog post on the grammatical structure of adjectives would be useful for your students!

What do our students need to know about adjectives? First of all, we should explain that adjectives are used to describe nouns. Adjectives can describe the shape, color, age, details, etc. of a noun, and they can describe the emotions associated with a person or thing.

There are two things to “master” about adjectives: the sentence patterns and the suffixes. Once your students learn both, they’ll have adjectives in the bag!

1. Sentence Patterns:

In English, adjectives can come after the Be verb or before a noun. Make sure you point out that when adjectives come before a noun, the main verb can be any verb, not only the Be verb. Download the Adjective Sentence Patterns PDF.

2. Suffixes:

In English, many adjectives are formed by adding a common adjective suffix to a noun (e.g., danger (N) / dangerous (Adj), logic (N) / logical (Adj), etc.). Other adjectives are formed by adding -ed or -ing to a verb—these are called participial adjectives (e.g., excite (V) / excited (Adj) / exciting (Adj), inspire (V) / inspired (Adj) / inspiring (Adj), etc.). (See my post on our sister site for an complete explanation of how to teach participial adjectives.) Some adjectives have no suffixes, usually because they don’t come from nouns or verbs (e.g., common, large, big, cold, etc.).

I’ve found that giving students a list of common adjective endings helps them recognize the part of speech right away. Combined with their knowledge of sentence patterns, they should make far fewer mistakes involving adjectives and will easily recognize when they’re needed on a test like the TOEIC. Download the Adjective Suffixes PDF.


The English language is full of exceptions! A couple of confusing adjectives that don’t take a common adjective suffix are the words fast and hard, which have the same adjective form as their adverb form. There is a good list of other such words on edugroup’s website.

Other confusing adjectives are those that end in -ly (because -ly is the main adverb suffix). Fortunately, -ly adjectives are limited to a few common words that your students can memorize easily. These words include friendly, costly, and the time words daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, hourly, and early.

For more adjective information, check out my post on our sister site about adjective order and punctuation.

Find the Adjectives lesson in the Grammar School – Basic Grammar Structures.


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Tanya Trusler

Tanya is a freelance editor and writer with an extensive background as an ESL teacher. She edits lesson plans, creates new materials, and writes weekly blog posts for ESL-Library and Sprout English. Her company is Editing to a T. Follow her on Twitter (@tanyatrusler) and Google Plus.

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