Indefinite adjectives are described as grammatical articles and determiners. They are adjectives because they determine or qualify nouns. Some of them are a, an, the, many, some, few, several, all, every, etc. Indefinite adjectives can function in the positions of subject, object, or complement. Examine the following illustrations:
Determiners or Indefinite Adjectives
1. Indefinite adjectives, as well as they, qualify the positions of subjects, e.g.
(i.) A boy is here.
(ii) The students here are disciplined.
(iii) All doves are birds, not all birds are doves.
(iv) Few people attended my wedding ceremony yesterday.
(v) Some authors write from their experience.
In the sentences above, indefinite adjectives with the nouns they qualify occur in the positions of subjects and they perform the following functions:
The article a pre-modifies the noun boy.
The article the pre-modifies the noun students.
The determiner all pre-modifies the noun doves.
The determiner few pre-modifies the noun people.
The determiner some pre-modifies the noun authors.
2. Indefinite adjectives as well as the nouns they qualify in the positions of objects, e.g.
(i) I have an umbrella.
(ii) Jesus is the Lord.
(iii) I wrote a note.
(iv) That lady cheated many people there.
(v) She prepared little food.
In the positions of the objects which indefinite adjectives and nouns they qualify occur; they perform the following functions:
The article an pre-modifies the noun umbrella.
The article the pre-modifies the noun note.
The determiner many pre-modifies the noun people.
The determiner little pre-modifies the noun food.
3. Indefinite adjectives as well as the nouns they qualify in the positions of complements, e.g.
(i) Bola is a prostitute.
(ii) This is an egg.
(iii) There are few students here.
(iv) There are some examples below.
(v) These were other information.
In the sentences above, indefinite adjectives with the nouns they qualify appear in the positions of a complements and function as follows:
The article an pre-modifies the noun egg.
The article a pre-modifies the noun prostitute.
The determiner few pre-modifies the noun students.
The determiner some pre-modifies the noun examples.
The determiner other pre-modifies the noun information.
4. Indefinite adjectives serve as pre-modifiers of the headwords in phrases, e.g.
(i) An insult
(ii) The violin
(iii) A pen
(iv) Some ideas
(v) Many hooligans
As analysed above, a noun phrase can be realised when indefinite adjectives are used with nouns. Consider the following illustrations
(i) The article an pre-modifies the noun insult and becomes the noun phrase an insult.
(ii) The article the pre-modifies the noun violin and becomes the noun phrase the violin.
(iii) The article a pre-modifies the noun pen and becomes the noun phrase a pen.
(iv) The determiner some pre-modifies the noun ideas and becomes the noun phrase some ideas.
(v) The determiner many pre-modifies the noun hooligans and becomes the noun phrase many hooligans.
Important Issues to Note
(1) You should note that the article ‘a’ and ‘an’ are singular pre-modifiers. Therefore, they must be used by singular nouns. But the article ‘the’ can be used with both singular and plural nouns. For example:
(i) A boy, don’t say: A boys.
(ii) An egg. don’t say: An eggs.
As discussed earlier, it is possible to say either:
The boy or The boys
The pen or The pens
(2) Note that since the article ‘an’ and ‘a’ are singular pre-modifiers, they should be used with singular nouns and singular verbs. Consider the following examples:
(i) A boy is sitting here. Not A boy are sitting here.
(ii) An egg is good daily. Not An egg are good daily.
If article ‘the’, is followed by a singular noun, then the singular verb will follow it. If however, it is followed by a plural noun, the plural verb will follow it. Consider the examples below.
(i) The boy I said is here.
(ii) The boys I said are here.
(i) The boy I said are here.
(ii) The boys I said is here.
3. Remember also that the determiners which are plural pre-modifiers should be used with plural nouns. Consider the examples below.
(i) Some writers Not Some writer.
(ii) Many spectators Not many spectator.
Furthermore, the plural determiners followed by plural nouns must be used with plural verbs.
(i) Some writers have been here.
(ii) Many spectators thrill into joy.
(i) Some writers has been here.
(ii) Many spectators thrills with joy.
An identifying adjective is described as the adjective used to point or recognise a person, a thing, a place, an animal, etc. This adjective is used for the purpose of emphasis. It includes numerical adjectives and some other adjectives. Look at the following examples:
1. Identifying adjectives should be preceded by article ‘the’
(i) I am talking about the same girl.
(ii) It is the third one.
(iii) I love the English dress.
(iv) Can you, please, bring the second pen?
In the examples above, the adjective:
same emphasises the noun girl.
third emphasises the noun one.
English emphasises the noun dress.
second emphasises the noun pen.
The Hyphenated Adjectives
Hyphenated adjectives are described as the compound words joined by a hyphen (punctuation). This means that two or more words can be joined by a hyphen to function as adjectives.
Note that a hyphenated adjective must be preceded by an article especially the article ‘a’ or ‘an’ if it is a singular form. Consider the example below.
(i) A care-free attitude
(ii) A God-fearing man
If hyphenated adjectives qualify plural nouns, then there is no need for any article. Below are some examples.
(i) Bread-and-butter questions
(ii) Four-footed animals
(i) Your have care-free attitude.
(ii) He is God-fearing man.
(iii) They are a bread-and-butter questions.
(iv) They were a four-footed animals.
The correct expressions are as follows:
(i) You have a care-free attitude.
(ii) He is a God-fearing man.
(iii) They are bread-and-butter questions.
(iv) They were four-footed animals.
Features of Hyphenated Adjectives
1. Hyphenated adjectives may be phrases qualifying the nouns they precede. For example:
(i) Nigeria must do away with do-or-die politics.
(ii) Segun was a well-known author.
(iii) These are bread-and-butter suggestions
(iv) Muyiwa is a good-for-nothing boy.
(v)That protagonist performs well-acted scenes.
(vi) Please, I don’t want a wide-opened window.
In the sentences above, certain words are joined together with hyphens and they are also used as adjectives. For example:
(i) do-or-die qualifies the noun politics.
(ii) well-known qualifies the noun author.
(iii) bread-and-butter qualifies the noun suggestions.
(iv) good-for-nothing qualifies the noun boy.
(v) well-acted qualifies the noun scenes.
(vi) wide-opened qualifies the noun window.
2. Hyphenated adjectives may be clauses or sentences which qualify the nouns they precede. Below are some of the examples.
(i) It was just a give-and-take love.
(ii) Stop saying take-it-or-leave-it statement.
(iii) You have to do away with I-will-not-tolerate-nonsense attitude.
In the examples above, the hyphenated adjectives:
(i) give-and-take qualifies the noun love.
(ii) take-it-or-leave-it qualifies the noun statement.
(iii) I-will-not-tolerate-nonsense qualifies the noun attitude.
Whenever compound words are used as adjectives, they should be joined with a hyphen or hyphens. If not, they cannot be called adjectives. So, it is wrong to say:
(i) It was just a give and take love.
(ii) Muyiwa is a good for nothing boy.
‘give and take’ and ‘good for nothing’ in the sentences above do not function as adjectives qualifying the nouns (love and boy) respectively.
- Define pronominal adjectives. Classify pronominal adjectives into different types.
- Use the following in sentences as adjectives:
(i) Your (ii) Their (iii) Our (iv) Its (v) His (vi) Her (vii) My
- Explain demonstrative adjectives with relevant examples.
- With copious illustrations, discuss the rudiments of interrogative adjectives.
- (a) What is a numerical adjective?
(b) With adequate illustrations, how would you distinguish between cardinals and ordinals?
- (a) What is an indefinite adjective?
(b) Correct the following wrong expressions:
(i) Some author is here.
(ii) All spectator has arrived.
(iii) The girl I am talking about were around.
(iv) An umbrellas.
- (a) How would you describe hyphenated adjectives?
(b) Outline the features of hyphenated adjectives with illustrations.