Language Arts Canadian Lead Primary School

Adjectives: Descriptive Noun Servants

In grammar, we talk about subjects and objects. Have you heard those terms?

The base of those words is -ject-, which comes from a Latin word meaning throw. What has any of that got to do with grammar?

Using the analogy of nouns being royalty, consider that verbs too have equal status, in that without them, complete communication cannot take place. So if we were to hold verbs up as powerful citizens in this town (prime ministers or presidents perhaps), we can get closer to the original meaning of the subject of a verb: that which is thrown beneath the verb, subjected to its power. Not only that, but verbs can exert power over two nouns in a sentence: the subject and the object. The meaning of object here being something thrown in the path of the verb.

It’s no coincidence that adjectives, then, also contain the base -ject-. This time, with the prefix ad-, meaning towards. When we throw information towards the subject or object, we have adjectives. They are the exclusive servants of nouns, born to modify them in countless ways. There are other modifiers, but they are not for nouns. Only adjectives modify nouns and only nouns are modified by adjectives.

So yes, you can teach “an adjective is a describing word”, but you lose a whole lot of richness if you don’t mention they’re exclusively for nouns.

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