Adjectives: Limiting (more detail)

A limiting adjective, rather than describing a noun, defines it. To put it more simply, limiting adjectives either point out or set a numerical limit to the noun. These limiting adjectives are grouped into three classes of limiting adjectives:

1) Article Adjectives

THE, AN, and A define whether the noun is used indefinitely or definitely.

For the families of the miners killed in the accident, the settlement was justice denied.

  • In each case, “the” acts to limit by indicating a definite noun.

A third-party panel issued a harshly worded report.

  • Again, the article (in this case “A”) serves to limit the noun, “panel.”

The thing to keep in mind here though is that although the article is a limiting adjective, it really acts more as a signal that a limitation can be made rather than setting the limit itself.

For example:

The planned name change of the Miami Art Museum to the Jorge M. Pérez Art Museum of Miami-Dade County has offended some on the board.

With “[t]he planned name change,” the article “the” signals that a particular name change is being discussed. The writer will then go on to define (i.e. limit) what that name change is.

2) Numeral Adjectives

Just like it sounds, numeral adjectives limit the noun to a specific number or amount.

The panel tasted 2o single malts from Islay, smoky whiskies that demand a sense of wonder.

  • “20” is a numeral limiting adjective.

More than 2,300 Americans were killed in World War II.

  • “2,300” is a limiting adjective

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3) Pronominal Adjectives

These are adjectives that may be used as a pronoun. In other words, if they stood alone they would be pronouns, but when attached to a noun, they become limiting pronouns.

Good creative writing courses don’t just develop individual writers – they give those writers a sense of their place in the world.

  • When standing alone “those” operates as a demonstrative pronoun. In conjunction with the noun, it serves as a pronominal adjective.

Never really getting any solid chances, Norfolk couldn’t convert on either opportunity.

  • When standing alone “either” operates as a distributive pronoun. In conjunction with the noun, it serves as a pronominal adjective.

Pronominal adjectives may be further distinguished as:

  • Distributive pronouns or those which point out objects taken singly. The distributives include each, every, either, and neither.

It is the only campaign that has an organization in every state.

  • Demonstrative pronouns or those which point out objects definitely showing which is meant.

She and others conceded, however, that the bigger task for the government is enforcing or implementing these laws.

  • Indefinite pronouns or those that point out objects indefinitely. The indefinites are some, onenone, all, any, whole, such, other, and another.

Such an event, experts say, would undoubtedly send the American unemployment rate higher and possibly induce another recession.

We haven’t done any advertising.

  • Reciprocal pronouns or those that are reciprocally related. The reciprocals are each, other, and one another.

She enjoyed the intricate patterns, colors and symbols that made each example unique.

4) Possessive Adjectives

These adjectives indicate ownership: my, our, your, his, her, its, their

Babies could still drink the formula every day without any effect on their health.

When his battered body was found by the police, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, he was simply John Doe.

5) Interrogative Adjectives

These adjectives are used in asking a question (which, what)

They’ve still got the shortlist from last time, but which candidate can rescue the BBC?

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