Put Adjectives in Their Place
Where does an adjective go? It can appear virtually anywhere in a sentence, but the particular placement depends on its particular function.
The most common placement of an adjective — a word (or a phrase, known as a phrasal adjective or an adjectival phrase) that modifies a noun — is immediately before that noun: “I ordered a chocolate milk shake. It was my first one. It was the most delicious thing I’ve had in my life.”
However, the word order is sometimes reversed: “I left none untasted.” This reversal is typical of more lyrical content (“She left things unsaid”) but is appropriate for more functional text as well. (Thanks to the French influence on English, some standing phrases include what are called postpositive adjectives. Examples of these expressions are “body politic” and “heir apparent.”)
When the adjective describes a noun referred to as being a possession, it is inserted between the possessive noun and the noun identifying the possession: “He stole my friend’s strawberry milk shake! The culprit’s milk shake mustache gives him away.”
An adjective, as part of the predicate (the part of a sentence describing an action) can be the last word or phrase in a sentence: “He was sneaky. However, his guilt is obvious.”
It can also, as a participial adjective, begin a sentence: “Pink and frothy, it’s as obvious as (and just below) the nose on his face.” But writers must take care in matching the object of the sentence to the participial adjective: “Pink and frothy, I noticed it right away” is an example of this error, known as a dangling participle, so called because the participial adjective’s connection to the subject is tenuous. The subject of a sentence referring to the milk shake mustache should refer to that, not to the person noticing it: “Pink and frothy, the evidence was obvious right away.”
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