More about adjectives

rogersgeorge on December 10th, 2011

The last post addressed single-word adjectives, but adjectives can be a little more complicated than that.

For one thing, you can use nouns as adjectives. This is called an attributive construction, and in some circles it’s considered bad form. I’m not sure why—perhaps when you have a perfectly good related adjective lying about. I deliberately used a noun as an adjective in the last post, and you didn’t even notice, did you? (The word is “literature,” as in “literature book.”)

The other thing is that you can also have adjective phrases and clauses. (Remember—a clause has a verb in it; a phrase does not.) Adjectival phrases and clauses generally go after the word they refer to. Hence the literature book that my teacher assigned mentioned in the last post. It’s a good idea to keep your phrases and clauses together, too. Here’s an example of not doing so. It’s from the book

Better than a picture of St. Thomas, I think

The sentence makes fairly good sense, but look at it more closely. What does “to mine” go with? It goes with “similar.” And “path”? “Path” is the direct object—goes with “traveled.” In fact, the article is where it belongs, right after the verb and right before where “path” should be. Untangled, the sentence looks like this:

It turns out that he was a physicist who had traveled a path similar to mine, and he helped me see that doubt is part of the faith journey.

The original sentence was spoken, not written, and the speaker’s desire to emphasize similarity led him to move the word forward in the sentence. Perfectly normal use of emphasis. But when you write, don’t interrupt your phrases. They’ll come out clearer.

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