A modifier is a word or a group of words that describes or limits another word or group of words. It gives more details about the words it modifies. There are various types of modifier as mentioned above.
1. Adjectives and Adverbs (and their phrases)
An adjective modifies a noun or pronouns. An adverb modifies a verb, adjective, or another adverb. Both these adjectives and adverbs can also be used to show their comparatives and superlatives. By adding –er, comparison can be made of two people or things, and by adding –est, more than two persons, things or places can be compared. Modifiers are usually placed next to the words they modify.
v An adjective modifies a noun
EXAMPLE: There was a red kite high up in the cloudless sky.
In the sentence, red is an adjective modifying the noun kite, and cloudless is an adjective modifying the noun sky. The word red tells us more about the kite, that is it is red in colour while cloudless describes the sky as having no cloud. Other examples of adjectives preceding the nouns they modify: small monkey, tall man, thick book.
v An adjective modifies a pronoun
EXAMPLE: I was happy with the way things went.
In this example, happy is an adjective modifying the pronoun I
EXAMPLE: She smiled broadly at me.
In this example, broadly modifies the verb smiled. It answers the question "How did she smile?"
v An adverb modifies an adjective.
EXAMPLE: They agree she is a very intelligent woman.
In this example, the adverb very modifies the adjective intelligent.
v An adverb modifies an adverb.
EXAMPLE: Her pulse seemed exceptionally fast.
This example shows an adverb modifying another adverb. Exceptionally is an adverb, so is fast.
Note: Adverbs commonly end in –ly but not all. Examples are fast, here, there, etc. Some adjectives end in –ly, examples of which are: friendly, heavenly, etc.
Functions of adverbs
Adverb tells us:
EXAMPLE: I always have a glass of milk before I go to bed.
EXAMPLE: She speaks loudly.
EXAMPLE: My bunch of car keys is on the table.
EXAMPLE: Yesterday we went to the cinema.
EXAMPLE: The patient is breathing very heavily.
Adjectival and adverbial phrases
An adjectival phrase is a phrase that is comprised of more than one word, and is used to modify a noun or pronoun. This modifier usually is placed next to the noun it modifies as follow:
EXAMPLE: The meal in the restaurant was really delicious.
The phrase in the restaurant modifies the meal. It tells us about the meal and where it is available.
Adverbial phrases are used as modifiers. They must be easily identifiable with the word they modify.
EXAMPLE: They were highly delighted at the court's decision.
This example tells about their feeling which arose from the court's decision. The adverb modifier is highly which describes how they felt. This word modifies the adjective delighted in the sentence. The adverbial phrase at the court's decision tells us more about the legal process.
2. Comparatives and Superlatives
Comparatives can be either adjectives or adverbs. They are used to compare two persons, things or places. Comparatives are created by adding –er to either an adjective or adverb. Superlatives are used to compare more than two people, things or places, and mostly created by adding –est to adjectives or some adverbs. However, if the word ends in –y, make the comparative by changing the y to i and then add –er or -est
The common mistake made is adding more to comparative or most to superlative.
3. Emphasis Words
Emphasis words are used to emphasize an adjective or adverb. They do not make use of comparatives or superlatives when making comparison of adjectives or adverbs. Often, grammatical mistakes are made when adjectives are used instead of adverbs, and vice versa.
Real is an adjective, really is an adverb.
Certain is adjective; certainly is adverb.
4. Misplaced Modifiers and Dangling Particles
These are modifiers that are not clearly identified with the words they modify. The closer a modifier is to the word it modifies, the clearer a sentence will be.
I sitting on the couch, watching television. (INCORRECT)
Sitting on the couch, I watch television. (CORRECT)
Having seen the movie once, there is no reason to see it again. (INCORRECT)
Having seen the movie once, I have no reason to see it again. (CORRECT)
Looking at the neighbour, the telephone rang. (INCORRECT – it appears the telephone was looking at the neighbour.)
I was looking at the neighbour when the telephone rang. (CORRECT)
5. Nouns as Modifiers
Chicken/tomato/vegetable + soup – We had a warm tomato soup as a starter.
Cargo/enemy/container/pirate + ship – It took an hour for the dockers to load the cargo ship.
Language/business/village + school – She's a language school teacher.
Gift/shoe + shop – The gift shop also offers a large selection of leather goods at reasonable prices.
Police/sheep/family/farm + dog – The police dog was sniffing round his heels.
Brick/concrete/stone/wooden/airport/church/factory/farm/office + building – We are renovating the old farm buildings after they were gutted by fire.
Hospital + bed – He lay in the hospital bed, reading his book.
University + laboratory – They are simulating the effects of weathering in the university laboratory.
Farm/country/council/mansion/tree/summer + house – They rented a council house when they got married.
Half-timbered house – They build their own half-timbered house overlooking the river.
One-man – He does a one-man show in an open-air theatre. OR His one-man business is expanding fast.
Two-seater aircraft – The pilot overshot the runway and crashed his two-seater aircraft.
Three-day event – The three-day horse riding event will take place next week.
Four-bed house – They lived in a four-bedroom house in the suburbs.
Five-month contract – He has got a five-month contract to work on an offshore oil rig.
Six-year sentence – He will have to serve a six-year sentence for burglary.
Seven-girl band – She plays in a seven-girl rock band.
Eight-room mansion – The historic eight-room mansion stands in 60 acres of parkland.
100-year-old – The 100-year-old mansion stands in 60 acres of parkland.