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Definite and Indefinite Adjectives Lesson

Free English Grammar Lessons Online

* What is an adjective?
* What is an indefinite adjective?
* What is a definite adjective?



Adjectives are the parts of speech that are used to describe nouns and liven up any sentence. No more snoozing over that boring paragraph on nouns! Let’s find out more about the types of adjectives you get.

Try the corresponding Definite and Indefinite Adjectives Free Online Multiple Choice Test


* What is an adjective?

An adjective is one of the eight parts of speech.

An adjective is one of the eight parts of speech.

Adjectives describe and give us more information about nouns. They add style and pizazz. When reading the sentence: “The woman walked down the aisle”, you may fall asleep halfway through. But what if the sentence read: “The stylish, sassy woman walked down the curved aisle which was covered with a red carpet.” Feeling a bit more energized?   





We will be discussing two types of adjectives: definite and indefinite.

a an - indefinite adjectives

What is an indefinite adjective?

An indefinite adjective introduces a noun phrase in such a waythat the reader knows that the noun in the phrase is non-specific. The most common indefinite adjectives are ‘a’ and ‘an’.

For example: “My best friend bought me a gorgeous golden retriever puppy for my birthday.”

In that sentence ‘a’ refers to the puppy (which is the noun) but it doesn’t make reference to a specific puppy, for instance a specific litter or puppy with individual characteristics that the reader is already aware of.

What is an indefinite adjective? Grammar Lesson

Other examples are:

* The first time new information is introduced – I bought a book (new information to the receiver).

* To describe or introduce what we are discussing -  I bought a small, green car (It introduces the description of the car).

A small green car - indefinite adjective

‘A’ and ‘an’ can only be used with singular nouns, not plural.
For example: I saw a geese in flight is incorrect. It should be I saw geese in flight.



* What is a definite adjective?

A definite adjective is an adjective that introduces a noun phrase in such a way that the reader knows that the noun being talked about is common knowledge, has already been mentioned or, as the name implies, defines the noun. The most common definite adjective is ‘the’. (Interestingly, it is also the most common word in English.)

If we use the same sentence as above: “My best friend bought me the gorgeous golden retriever puppy for my birthday.” The word ‘the’ shows we are defining or identifying a specific puppy or that the readers already know about the puppy. Other examples are:

* If the noun is common knowledge because it is unique (only one): The president of the United States is coming.

* There is only one in that area or place - My friends stay in a small town next to the library (‘the’ library in that town).

* When something has already been mentioned: A dog ran into the road, but someone stopped their car and rescued the dog from oncoming traffic (“A” dog ran into the road, but because the dog had now been mentioned, it became “the” dog).

* To bundle information about a group of nouns: The lion lives in Africa (Lions live in Africa) or The French make spectacular bread (French people make spectacular bread).

This way of using the definite adjective also applies to musical instruments: She plays the flute like a pro (she can play any flute).





You do not use the definite adjective ‘the’ when speaking about a country or language:

* Australia has an amazing coastline for surfing (not ‘The Australia has an amazing coastline for surfing’).

Definite Adjectives - Australia has an amazing coastline for surfing

* Xhosa is a language spoken in South Africa (not ‘The Xhosa is a language spoken in South Africa’).

‘The’ can be used with both singular and plural nouns.

For example: I saw the goose in flight and I saw the geese in flight are both correct.


Now you have done the lesson...

Try the corresponding Definite and Indefinite Adjectives Free Online Multiple Choice Test
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