Now we are going to talk about modifiers. Although their usage is quite similar to the one in Portuguese, you have to pay attention…
Modifiers, or descriptive words or phrases, can add a great deal of interest to a sentence. They are an important tool for writing descriptive, engaging content. However, when used improperly, modifiers can be confusing or distort the meaning of a sentence.
A modifier is a word or phrase that is used to add additional detail. Modifiers have to modify, or describe, something in the sentence. They usually describe a subject, verb or objective.
- The excited girl ran quickly to the yellow house.
Excited is an adjective modifying girl, quickly is an adverb modifying ran, and yellow is an adjective modifying house.
A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause which describes a word or make its meaning more specific. Modifiers can be adjectives, adverbs, possessive pronouns, or phrases.
- The happy girl.
Happy is an adjective modifying girl.
- The boy slowly walked.
Slowly is an adverb modifying walked.
- That is his toy.
His is a possessive pronoun modifying toy.
- A refined painter, Alex was known for his art.
A refined painter is a phrase modifying Alex.
Where should modifiers be placed
Modifiers should be placed as closely as possible to the thing which they are modifying. Ideally, they should be directly next to the thing being modified, either before or after (with a helping verb in some circumstances).
- Adjectives go before the thing they are modifying or after, with a helping verb.
The happy girl.
The girl was happy.
- Adverbs can go before or after the thing they are modifying.
The boy walked slowly.
The boy slowly walked.
- Possessive pronouns go before the thing they are modifying, or after, with a helping verb.
That is his toy.
That toy is his.
- Phrases can go before or after the thing they are modifying.
Alex, a refined painter, is known for his work.
A refined painter, Alex is known for his work.
We can also use two nouns together to show that one thing is a part of something else:
- The village church;
- The car door;
- The kitchen window;
- The chair leg;
- My coat pocket;
- London residents.
We can use noun modifiers to show what something is made of:
- A gold watch;
- A leather purse;
- A metal box
We often use noun modifiers with nouns ending in –er and –ing:
- An office worker;
- A jewelry maker;
- A potato peeler;
- A shopping list;
- A swimming lesson;
- A walking holiday.
We use measurements, age or value as noun modifiers:
- A thirty kilogram suitcase;
- A two minute rest;
- A five thousand euro platinum watch;
- A fifty kilometer journey.
We often put two nouns together and readers/listeners have work out what they mean. So:
- An ice bucket = a bucket to keep ice in;
- An ice cube = a cube made of ice;
- An ice breaker = a ship which breaks ice.
- The ice age = the time when much of the Earth was covered in ice.
Sometimes we find more than two nouns together:
- London office workers;
- Grammar practice exercises.
Position of noun modifiers
Noun modifiers come after adjectives:
- The old newspaper seller;
- A tiring fifty kilometer journey.
Note that a modifier is different from an appositive. A modifier change or detail the meaning of the affected word, while an appositive just explain it.
- The tree, an oak, cast a long shadow at sunset.
- The tree, an old oak, cast a long shadow at sunset.
- The tree, an old knotted oak, cast a long shadow at sunset
- The old knotted oak tree cast a long shadow at sunset.
The appositive is a noun or noun phrase that explains another noun. The appositive follows directly after the noun, with a comma separating them. The modifier tends to come before the noun(s) they modify.
Beijo do pai!