Descriptive Adjectives

An adjective is a word that describes a person, place, or thing. There are many different kinds of adjectives. There are limiting adjectives such as a, an, and the; demonstrative adjectives such as this, that, those, and these; and possessive adjectives such as his, her, their, our, its, your, and my.

Another form of adjective is a descriptive adjective, which describes a person, place, or thing. Sometimes it answers the question, "What kind?" Descriptive adjectives are italicized below.

noisy parrot
addition problem
tired, grumpy student
rusty nail
multiplication problem
heavy, leather briefcase
sea nymph 
lengthy siege
courageous, invincible warrior
democratic government
world leader
intelligent, influential official

Often the adjectives come before the person, place, or thing, as in the sentences below.

  • Curious kittens explore.
  • Pessimistic people expect bad news.
  • Shy puppies hide in corners.
  • African artwork gave Picasso new ideas.
  • The powerful, cordlike band of connective tissue behind the heel is known as the Achilles tendon.
  • Did that powerful, sensible speech appeal to the needy citizens as well as to the wealthy citizens?

Sometimes the adjectives come after the noun or pronoun, as in the examples below.

  • Katya, tall and elegant, came from Russia.
  • Boomer, gentle and beautiful, is a retriever.
  • Achilles, valiant and handsome, was dipped into the River Styx by the heel.
  • The writers of the Constitution, brilliant and cooperative, created a document that has stood the test of time.

Some descriptive adjectives end in suffixes like these:










comfortable, lovable, washable, believable, suitable, breakable, adaptable, teachable, amiable, amicable

unusual, natural, eventual, casual, gradual, final, mutual, historical, congressional, trial, medical

joyful, hopeful, graceful, thankful, helpful, tuneful, wishful, fanciful, peaceful, soulful

terrible, sensible, visible, possible, incredible, forcible, credible, contemptible, edible, divisible

anemic, emphatic, sarcastic, strategic, stoic, autocratic, heroic, terrific, magnetic

sensitive, creative, expensive, decorative, secretive, decisive, extensive, elusive, submissive, sportive, legislative, inactive, attractive

tireless, fearless, useless, careless, hopeless, defenseless, lawless, penniless, painless, ceaseless

enormous, poisonous, famous, curious, dangerous, horrendous, gorgeous, notorious, ambiguous, contemptuous, judicious

funny, tasty, cheery, windy, sunny, salty, shiny, hasty, witty, nosy, hilly, crazy, snooty, greedy

Example 1

Write each descriptive adjective in sentences 1-9.

  1. Thankful people make pleasant companions.
  2. Tireless settlers built stable communities.
  3. The ride, long and bumpy, ended abruptly.
  4. Are you familiar with prime numbers?
  5. We must protect defenseless children.
  6. Spectators enjoyed the sportive monkeys.
  7. Senators and Representatives need not take religious tests.
  8. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
  9. Federal law supersedes state law.


  1. Thankful describes "people," and pleasant describes "companions."
  2. Tireless describes "settlers," and stable describes "communities."
  3. Long and bumpy describe "ride."
  4. Prime describes "numbers."
  5. Defenseless describes "children."
  6. Sportive describes "monkeys."
  7. Religious describes "tests."
  8. Supreme describes "law."
  9. Federal and state describe "law."

Improving Our Writing

Descriptive adjectives help us to draw pictures using words. They make our writing more precise and more interesting. For example, clouds can be high, low, scattered, billowy, puffy, wispy, animal-shaped, ominous, gloomy, dark, white, gray, or crimson. Stars can be gleaming, faint, distant, twinkling, bright, or dim. A nose can be bulbous, straight, pug, thin, swollen, glossy, purple, or runny. Eyes can be bloodshot, clear, sparkling, healthy, sunken, round, protruding, slanted, squinting, glazed, hazel, or almond-shaped. Hair can be greasy, stringy, blonde, brunette, coarse, fine, thick, thin, curly, straight, wavy, poofy, matted, shiny, or dull. When we write, we can use descriptive adjectives to create more detailed pictures.

Example 2

For sentences 1-4, replace each blank with a descriptive adjective to add more detail:

  1. The boss has a ____________, ____________ personality.
  2. The news reporter had a ____________, ____________ smile.
  3. The villainous Uriah Heep answered David Copperfield in a ____________, ____________ voice.
  4. The ____________, ____________ President remained extremely popular with the American people.


  1. Our answers will vary. Here are some possibilities: gloomy, miserable, pessimistic, playful, happy, deceitful, haughty, sarcastic, friendly, pleasant, joyful, optimistic, and confident.
  2. happy, playful, phony,  friendly, broad, wicked, bright, joyful, sanctimonious, proud, arrogant, slight, tentative, and confident
  3. cackling, harsh, hoarse, screeching, piercing, gloating, gleeful, sarcastic, ominous, vengeful, arrogant, condescending, and obnoxious
  4. astute, intelligent, receptive, gregarious, compassionate, hospitable, optimistic, fair, competent, brilliant, honest, trustworthy, courageous, moral, upright, and honorable