you want to be quite fluent in content-intensive speech, you
need a good command of adjectives. By content-intensive speech,
I mean speech in which you'll have to pack content more
densely than in everyday casual conversations. And here are
some typical situations in which you'll have to do this:
Serious discussions, arguments, debates, interviews, negotiations,
and professional & academic presentations.
how really important are adjectives to speech and writing?
The answer is this: Adjectives are very important to speech
as well as writing though they're not as frequently
required as nouns or verbs. And between speech and writing,
adjectives are used more frequently in writing than in speech.
In fact, the percentage of adjectives used in speech is only
about 25% of that used in writing.
this doesn't mean that you can hope to be fluent without
a mastery of adjectives. The fact is, you can't. You
simply can't. Of course, the percentage of adjectives
that is actually required in speech and writing is far less
than the percentages of nouns and verbs. But the percentage
(of adjectives) that is actually required is really crucial
to fluency even in everyday casual conversations.
as far as content-intensive speech is concerned, this is the
reality: If you don't have a good command of adjectives,
you simply won't be able to carry on a content-intensive
conversation or make a content-intensive speech effectively
one thing, adjectives are a convenient way of adding informational
content to noun phrases. And mind you, noun phrases are the
vehicles that carry a major percent of the serious content
in a long stretch of speech.
another, content-intensive speech, by its very nature, requires
you to identify or describe the qualities that somebody or
something has, classify something into the category it belongs
to, give personal evaluation of how good, useful or successful
something is, and emphasize your feelings about somebody or
something and to do all this as explicitly, and in
as graphically detailed a way, as the spoken medium would
permit. And adjectives are the type of words that help you
most in doing all this effectively and well.
fact, more than 75% of the adjectives used in speech are used
in the content-intensive variety.
Now what are adjectives? Adjectives are usually words of (a)
size, (b) dimension, (c) weight, (d) quantity, (e) extent,
(f) colour, (g) brightness, (i) quality, (j) chronology, (k)
frequency, (l) emotion, (m) personal evaluation, (n) physical
& mental states, and (o) emphasis & intensification.
definition, an adjective is a word like beautiful in
"a beautiful girl"as well as in "She was
beautiful" and quiet in "a quiet place"
as well as in "The whole place was quiet". It's a word
that you can add to a noun in order to describe a person or
thing more definitely or more fully or to classify,
define or identify them. Most adjectives are describers. Many
can use an adjective to modify a noun (= a word that stands
for a person or thing) by using it before that noun
or by using it after the auxiliary or link verb
that follows that noun (or a pronoun). You can use most adjectives
both before a noun as well as after it (that is, after the
auxiliary or link verb that follows the noun). For example,
as you've seen, you can use the adjectives beautiful
and quiet to modify nouns in two ways:
Before a noun: "a beautiful girl", "a quiet place".
b) After a noun/pronoun: "She was beautiful", "The
whole place was quiet".
before-the-noun use is known as the attributive use,
and the after-the-noun/pronoun use, the predicative
you can use most adjectives attributively as well as predicatively,
you can use some adjectives attributively only or predicatively
example, here are a few adjectives that are normally used
judicial, neighbouring, occasional, thankless, underlying.
here are a few adjectives that are normally used only predicatively:
alive, alone, apart, asleep, aware, unable, unwell, well.
content-intensive speech, almost 80% of the adjectives used
occur attributively (and only around 20%, predicatively).
In everyday casual conversations, attributive occurrences
and predicative occurrences happen almost equally, with the
attributive use having a slight edge over the predicative
use. But as I've already mentioned, in everyday casual
conversations, adjectives play only a far lesser role than
they do in content-intensive speech. Actually, the percentage
of adjectives that occur in everyday casual conversations
is normally less than 25% of that in content-intensive speech.
must have noticed one thing from the examples: The attributive
use of adjectives results in Adjective +Noun combinations
girl, quiet place.
are some more examples:
achievement, creative approach, interesting challenge, noble
gesture, smart idea, sweet smile, winning personality.
let me point out something important: Even if a given adjective
is an attributive adjective and can safely be used to pre-modify
a noun, that doesn't mean that you can safely use it before
any old noun. Mind you, you can't. You can't do that
because the two words may not be compatible with each
other at all. That is, they may not have the ability to go
together well and without sounding strange.
point is this: An A+N combination that you put together on
the spot may be grammatically perfect and may sound all right
from the point of view of the meaning you want to convey.
But the problem is, that combination may not be an
acceptable one, because it could turn out to be a combination
that has not gained acceptance among native speakers
are a few examples of unacceptable combinations that can happen
if you put words together randomly without a clear idea of
what nouns can comfortably occur together with a particular
adjective or what adjective can comfortably occur together
with a particular noun. (The combinations outside the brackets
are normally considered unacceptable, and those within
the brackets, acceptable):
advice (friendly advice), heavy depression (deep
depression), heavy wind (strong wind), hot hospitality
(warm hospitality), light cold (slight cold), merry
birthday (happy birthday), mild coffee (weak
coffee), powerful tea (strong tea), spoken contract
(oral contract), steady exercise (regular exercise),
strong car (powerful car), strong cold (heavy
cold), strong rain (heavy rain), strong smoker
(heavy smoker), wide accent (broad accent).
acceptable combinations have become acceptable mainly from
long or frequent use. They're combinations of words that
tend to occur together regularly in a set sequence
at a rate much greater than chance. Acceptable combinations
like these are called "collocations".
is it possible for anyone to list out all the unacceptable
combinations of words, with the right ones shown against them,
and learn the acceptable ones by heart? This simply is not
a workable idea. The only practical way of learning the right
combinations is to learn accepted combinations as single units
as though each combination were a single word rather
than a combination of two or more words. Ideally, this is
how vocabulary should be taught from the very first
lesson at school.
is where the Comprehensive Adjectival Fluency Dictionary
you have in your hands now can be of great help.
headwords in this book are all adjectives. Yes, adjectives,
and not nouns. I've indicated how relatively frequent
a headword is by marking the headwords AAA or AA or A or BBB
or BB or B the frequency decreasing from AAA-marked
words to B-marked words.
you should note this: While you can call the AAA-marked headwords
the most frequent of adjectives in the English language,
you can't call the B-marked headwords the least frequent
ones because they too are actually frequently-occurring
and frequently-useful adjectives, and there are, in the English
language, a number of other less frequent adjectives. (This
book does not cover these other adjectives that are
not as frequent as the B adjectives). Only, the B-marked headwords
are not as frequent as the AAA, AA A, BBB or BB headwords.
each headword, you'll find a comprehensive list of accepted
A+N combinations that are common in use. Browse through them
every now and then. First, go through all the headwords and
all the A+N combinations under them in a quick and general
way. Then start paying focused attention to a few of them
example, first choose about 10 or 15 headwords a day and say
aloud the A+N combinations under each several times
till you can say them with an easy flow and without sounding
addition, choose another 20 or 25 headwords a day and just
browse through the A+N combinations under them a few times.
may be a good idea to first concentrate on the headwords marked
AAA, AA and A and the word combinations listed under them.
These headwords are the most important adjectives in the English
this: When you get to see 2 or 3 words occurring together
as a single unit again and again, that very picture would
help build a kind of association among those words in your
mind, and this unconscious process would help you recall those
words together later as a single unit.
let me mention a related point: I do hope that you read books
regularly. Fiction, non-fiction, whatever. If you haven't
developed this habit already, or have given it up, you should
start/restart the habit now. Yes, today. Mind you, if you
do not get into the reading habit, you'll find it difficult
almost impossible to achieve true fluency. It
doesn't matter very much what you read, so long as they're
books written in the present-day English.
this is very important make sure that the books
you read are books written by native speakers of English or
by non-native authors who really have a good command of, and
are immersed in, genuine English. Otherwise, the kind of English
you read is not likely to be genuine or constructed
from acceptable collocations, phrases and idioms though
it may be grammatically perfect. And the consequence would
bad: You too are then likely to get into the habit
of picking up unacceptable word combinations and non-standard
is how your reading habit will help you: Your reading habit
will help you come across a large number of accepted collocations
at every reading. And you'll come across many of them
again and again.
the familiarity you get to have of acceptable combinations
from books like the Comprehensive Adjectival Fluency Dictionary
will help you spot and identify those collocations. This direct
experience of collocation-spotting would strengthen your mastery
of collocations. And so your fluency. Far more quickly and
easily than you think. Yes, far more quickly. And easily.