What Are Coordinate Adjectives? Definition & Use Explained

Adjectives are a core element of the English language. There are a variety of them, and they both enrich the language and make it slightly confusing if it isn’t your native language. 

What’s more, there are ways that you can take your use of adjectives one step further. One way to do so is by using coordinate adjectives. But what are coordinate adjectives, and how do they work? Keep reading to find out and to see examples of coordinate adjectives in action.

The Basics: What Are Coordinate Adjectives?

teacher explaining how to create coordinate adjectives

Let’s start with a recap of what simple adjectives are.

An adjective is a word used to describe a noun or a pronoun. You can usually find an adjective before the noun, but sometimes the sentence structure calls for it to come after the noun. There are several types of adjectives, such as descriptive adjectives.

Take the following two sentences as examples of adjectives before and after the noun they’re describing:

  • That’s a tall building.
  • The building is tall.

While the placement of the adjective “tall” is different in the two sentences, the meaning of the two sentences remains the same.

There are several different types of adjectives, including: 

  • Descriptive adjective
  • Numeral adjective
  • Quantitative adjective

You can use these different types of adjectives to make coordinate adjectives. 

Coordinate adjectives are two or more adjectives that work together to modify the same noun. In other words, coordinate adjectives happen when you use two or more adjectives to describe a noun.

The defining factor of coordinate adjectives is that the two adjectives must be separated by either a comma or the word “and.” If not, you may make a grammatically incorrect sentence or change the meaning of the sentence entirely.

Why Use Coordinate Adjectives?

Sometimes you want to describe your nouns in more detail than a single adjective will allow, which is when you’d want to use coordinate adjectives. These adjectives will enable you to describe something in more detail in a concise manner.

Both adjectives used are of equal importance to the noun with coordinate adjectives. They can appear in any order in front of the noun. You might say “that is a great, thoughtful idea or ideal“.This rule contrasts other adjectives, namely cumulative adjectives, where the order of the adjectives matters and changes the sentence’s meaning.

Here is an example of cumulative adjectives:

  • You’re listening to loud metal music. 

Both “loud” and “metal” are adjectives in this sentence. They’re both describing “music.” However, they aren’t coordinative adjectives because they are not interchangeable. You can’t say, “You’re listening to metal loud music.” It makes no sense.

The same goes for these sentences:

  • There’s a new French restaurant that just opened up.
  • Sam has three beautiful daughters.

These examples show why it’s essential to understand the difference between cumulative adjectives and coordinate adjectives. Cumulative adjectives build on each other but can’t be rearranged.

Now that you know what coordinate adjectives are and why we use them, let’s look at some tips to take advantage of this type of adjective in your writing.

Tips for Using Coordinate Adjectives

Coordinate adjectives are a great grammatical tool in your writing, but you must know how to use them properly. With the knowledge of a few rules and tips, you’ll be able to integrate coordinate adjectives in your speech and writing seamlessly.

Here are a few additional tips to help you better understand how to use coordinate adjectives. 

Punctuation

One of the most critical aspects of coordinate adjectives is proper punctuation. As mentioned, without proper punctuation, your sentence may be grammatically incorrect or have a different meaning than you’re trying to convey. 

Getting the punctuation of coordinate adjectives can be tricky. Depending on the sentence, you can separate them by a comma or the word “and.” There are times when you can use a comma or the word “and” is interchangeable. 

Here are some examples of differently punctuated sentences with coordinate adjectives:

  • The warm, decadent, rich taste of french vanilla. 
  • The warm, decadent, and rich taste of french vanilla. 

Depending on the writing style, you may be required to use the Oxford comma, a comma between the final adjective and the word “and.” Make sure to double-check to ensure that you’re using the proper style.

Don’t Use Too Many Adjectives

Adjectives can be tricky. They describe nouns and you can even change adjectives into adverbs. However, this does not mean you can use too many of them.

Although by definition coordinate adjectives involve using more than one adjective to describe a noun, there’s such a thing as using too many adjectives. As a rule of thumb, you should avoid using more than three adjectives to describe a single noun.

Here’s an example of a sentence with too many coordinate adjectives:

  • It was a cold, dark, shady, lonely, and sleepless night. 

Although this sentence is very descriptive, and even though we used “and” in a grammatically correct way, the sentence is overwhelmed with adjectives that overshadow the subject — the night.

When you have too many adjectives in a sentence, it becomes so overwhelming that they may end up not coordinating at all, defeating the purpose of using those adjectives.

Only choose a couple of adjectives when possible, or try breaking the sentence into two or three parts.

Coordinate Adjectives for a Purpose

Lastly, you want to ensure each adjective you use serves a purpose. You never want to use a word just for the sake of using it.

For example, you should avoid using two adjectives that are synonyms of each other, such as in the following sentence:

  • Jayda is a quick and fast runner.

“Quick” and “fast” are synonyms, rendering this sentence redundant. In this case, it’s better just to use one adjective. You might also use adjectives like exoteric or esoteric depending on the context of your sentence.

FAQs – Coordinate Adjective Rules

What are opinion adjectives?

Opinion adjectives are used to express what the speaker thinks of something. For example, “That’s a terrible idea!” or “I think this room is too cold.”

What is the difference between coordinate and non coordinate adjectives?

Coordinate adjectives are adjectives that are equal in rank. They have a comma separating them and usually come before the noun they describe.

Is large a coordinate adjective?

Yes, large is often used as a coordinate adjective. For example, you might say “I have a large, magnificent kitchen”

What is the opposite of coordinate adjectives?

An adjective describes nouns. However, there are multiple types of adjectives. Non coordinate adjectives are adjectives that don’t agree with one another in terms of number (singular or plural) and case (nominative or objective). For example, the adjectives “red” and “big” are non coordinate because they don’t agree with each other.

The Takeaway: Use Coordinate Adjectives For More Detail

Using coordinate adjectives is a great way to be more descriptive by adding a word or two to your sentence. As long as you pick the right coordinate adjective, your writing will sound fine. Just be sure to use your adjectives accurately and purposefully, and don’t use too many! If you want helpful tips to improve your writing as you go, check out software tools Grammarly & QuillBot.