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Derived Adjectives – Words That Function As Adjectives

Nouns and some forms of verbs forms that function as adjectives are derived adjectives.

Though most of adjectives, such as clever, dangerous, etc. are ‘born’ adjectives, some words that function as adjectives are not innately adjectives. We may need to develop describing words that are related to actions or to nouns. Nouns and ing forms as well as ed forms (third forms) of verbs can function as adjectives.

Look at the following examples.

  • A computer is an invaluable tool for research. (In this sentence, the word computer is used as a noun.)
  • A computer program is a sequence of instructions written to perform a specific task for a computer. (In this sentence, the word computer in the first instance is used to describe another noun program. Thus, it functions as an adjective.)
  • Interesting stories, running water, boring lesson – in these phrases, ing forms of verbs are functioning as adjectives to describe the nouns that follow them.
  • Endangered species, written document, painted wall – in these phrases, the third forms of verbs are functioning as adjectives to describe the noun.

There is difference between ing and ed adjectives in the meaning. When an ing adjective describes a noun, the noun is active, i.e., doing the action. If an –ed adjective is used to describe a noun, the noun receives the action. look at the following examples to understand this concept.

  • An interesting student … (=the student causes interest in others.)
  • An interested student … (=something has caused interest in the students)
  • A frightening experience … (= the experience causes fear in others.)

You should be careful in using these adjectives because if you say a bored picture, frightened experience, or painted brush, you are being illogical. These derived adjectives, especially verbal adjectives (ing/ed adjectives) are quite important in phrasal modification, which we will study in detail in the next chapter.

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