What are "powerful adjectives"?

(65 Posts)
Hathor Tue 14-Oct-08 15:11:55

I know that adjectives are describing words, but what exactly are "powerful adjectives"?
I am sure we never had them when I was at school.

a very good descriptive word?

Moomin Tue 14-Oct-08 15:14:30

describing words that are a bit more inventive I would imagine. It's not a technical term, as such; it's a suggestion for more effective language.

e.g. instead of the "blue sea" it might be described as the "unruly sea", etc.

findtheriver Tue 14-Oct-08 15:14:37

fucking? As in 'I'm fucking pissed off?'

findtheriver Tue 14-Oct-08 15:15:13

Aah, I see we're talking homework. Maybe not appropriate...

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 15:15:40

the bath was hot
or the bath was scalding,

This cake is nice or this cake is delicious, scrumptious, delectable etc etc

sort of thing

childrenofthecornsilk Tue 14-Oct-08 15:15:50

Instead of 'the cat' it would be 'the bloody cat.'

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 15:16:24

so you could say happy, but powerful would be ecstatic, delighted, overjoyed etc

Hathor Tue 14-Oct-08 15:21:43

So, for example if I say "a big house"
"a big, cold house"
"an enormous, freezing cold house"
"a drafty, chilly house"
aren't these just different adjectives.

What makes an adjective "powerful" - or does it actually mean one that is less common? (e.g not "nice" but "delightful").
So it actually means "unusual adjectives"?

Am <*ing> confused.

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 15:27:02

well, it's just that some adjectives are more powerful than others. It's an attempt to get children to use their imagination and increase their vocab.
Nice is a great example. Nice is a perfectly nice adjective, but it's not that it is common, just weak as an adjective. If someones says I had a nice party, it doesn't tell us much.
There wouldn't be a 'wrong' powerful adjective to use instead of nice, it would just make it more interesting to read, wouldn't it?
I had a stupendous party, a thrilling party, an exciting party, a glorious party, all tell us more and engage us as the reader.

Hathor Tue 14-Oct-08 15:29:16

Thank you for all your nice replies smile

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 15:30:18

None of them are particularly exciting. The way to make writing powerful is often to make better use of verbs. But I have given up explaining this to teachers. And I do 'get' that teachers have to teach children what adjectives are.

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 15:33:53

how old is your child Hathor?

Hathor Tue 14-Oct-08 15:35:32

9 in Y4

Moomin Tue 14-Oct-08 15:38:04

Are you Queen of the Teacher-Teachers then Bride1? grin

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 15:40:43

No, I'm a professional writer. And have taught creative writing.

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 15:41:54

well why don't you explain to poor Hathor then, so she can help her 9-year-old?

Moomin Tue 14-Oct-08 15:44:34

If you explain this to teachers in the same tone as you've used here then they're probably ignoring you wink. For Hathor's purposes I think our explanations will probably suffice.

Hathor Tue 14-Oct-08 15:45:34


Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 15:50:30

I didn't mean that YOUR adjectives in your post weren't exciting, fumf! I was responding to the OP. Sorry if that wasn't clear. Your examples are good ones.

I think, from talking to teachers I have worked with in schools, they want to get away from big,small, nice, etc. (Not saying that the OP's child was using these.)

A boy I was working with used 'squelchy' when describing a monster. I liked that. It was more informative than the generic 'scary'.

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 15:53:40

oh bride, I didn't think you were dissing my adjectives grin, but I did think you sounded a little dismissive. As I am neither a professional writer or a teacher, I wondered if you had some constructive help for Hathor (and I am a little envy if I am honest....)

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 16:03:19

It's a bit of a bete noire with me, sorry. Especially adverbs. But I do appreciate that children have to know the parts of speech.

Here are some more I liked when I was working with a Year 2 class:

The princess had 'silky' hair (not just blonde).

The car was nippy and zippy (not just fast).

The dinner was scrumptious (not just nice or even delicious). I think she spelled it scrumshus but we could work on that.

The giant was grotesk. I gave that a big tick despite the spelling!

childrenofthecornsilk Tue 14-Oct-08 16:21:11

I think even a teacher might get that those are good choices though bride. hmm

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:03:29

Did I say otherwise, childrenofthecornsilk? I was responding to a post asking what I thought and I have done that.

childrenofthecornsilk Tue 14-Oct-08 17:17:22

'The way to make writing powerful is often to make better use of verbs. But I have given up explaining this to teachers.'
Yes you did.

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:22:22

But that's not what you claimed I said in your 16.21 message. You were referring to my list of adjectives, not verbs. I never claimed that teachers wouldn't know powerful nouns.

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:24:11

"I never claimed that teachers wouldn't know powerful ADJECTIVES", that should read.

childrenofthecornsilk Tue 14-Oct-08 17:25:27

Are you for real?

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:26:18

Yes. You seem to be accusing me of something I haven't ever said.

soapbox Tue 14-Oct-08 17:31:18

I think you are being a bit mean to Bride here.

She has said nothing at all that is terribly controversial. Merely said that as a writer she feels using 'better' verbs should be more of a focus than adjectives.

Then when someone suggested that that wasn't helpful to the OP, she then provided a list of examples.

Why is that in anyway deserving of the derision you seem to be directing her way?

nooka Tue 14-Oct-08 17:32:23

My ds loves this sort of thing. He can't spell for toffee but has great vocab. I like squelchy and grotesk too grin. It's all about creating interesting images of things in your head IMO.

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:32:32

Thank you, soapbox. I would like to apologise again for any offence I caused.

I do feel strongly about the verbs, though. That's my job: feeling passionate about my subject. I do appreciate that children need to learn all the parts of speech, though.

childrenofthecornsilk Tue 14-Oct-08 17:33:09

because of the phrase 'I have given up explaining this to teachers.' It is patronising.

childrenofthecornsilk Tue 14-Oct-08 17:34:17

I agree that chn need to learn all parts of speech BTW. It is also part of my job.

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:35:20

Well I'm glad we can agree on one thing.

sadbarratthomeowner Tue 14-Oct-08 17:37:44

But is this phrase "powerful adjectives" part of the curriculum? I find it so amusing because dd1's teacher last year was so OTT about it - leaping round the classroom waving his arms about and shouting "POWERFUL ADJECTIVES"!! It certainly made dd laugh and she hasn't forgotten it!

MrsWeasley Tue 14-Oct-08 17:39:14

The teacher asks for powerful adjectives to avoid everything being described as the big bike, the big house, the big horse, the big cake, etc etc the teacher wants to read things like the rusty broken bike, the large haunted spooky house, the enormous grey horse, the gigantic yummy chocolate cake grin

We did this with a group of year 3's and everthing was described as blue or brown. The brown horse, the blue bike etc etc

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 17:40:52

I can remember a lesson about adverbs when I was eight which involved the teacher walking across the classroom 'in the manner of..' for adverbs. I never forgot that lesson, or what an adverb was.

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 17:59:22

that sounds like great teaching!
My ds is dyslexic so can never remember the difference between verbs, adverbs, adjectives etc. He can do it if you say ''a desribing word, or a doing word.''.

He would definitely remember a lesson like that though

soapbox Tue 14-Oct-08 18:10:45

Cornsilk - I didn't read it as patronising at all - I read it as someone who was rather frustrated about the focus on adjectives in teaching. It is certainly what they bang on about at my DCs school with nary a word about good adverbs or verbs indeed!

Moomin Tue 14-Oct-08 18:21:16

Unless you're doing the actual job of teaching children for a job, I don't think it's very fair to claim that you are frustrated with the way parts of speech are taught - unless it's a particular teacher against whom you have evidence and a valid point. To tar all teachers is a bit harsh, and I agree it sounded patronising, even if you didn't intend it to be.

It's like you coming in to teach one aspect of writing for an afternoon, snatching the class off the regular teacher and saying in an exasperated voice "Here, let me do it - properly" with a hmm on your face.

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 18:24:25

I have now apologised twice. How many more times would you like me to do it?

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 18:47:23

tell you what Bride, see if you can do using lots of powerful adjectives...grin wink

Bride1 Tue 14-Oct-08 18:49:21

My apology is great, heart-felt, sincere, total, complete.

ScummyMummy Tue 14-Oct-08 18:51:05

Don't apologise any more bride1. Lighten up all you offended ones, ffs. Touchy touchy. I think I'm going to start spelling "scrumptious" "scrumshus". That is cool.

slayerette Tue 14-Oct-08 18:52:08

I am an English teacher who encourages powerful adjectives.

I have also played 'In the manner of the adverb' with many a class.

I have also devoted whole lessons to drawing huge posters with all the alternatives we can come up with to the verb 'to say' or 'to walk' and so on.

Do I get a big tick and possibly a gold star too? grin

slayerette Tue 14-Oct-08 18:52:59

That was a nice apology, Bride grin

fumf Tue 14-Oct-08 18:53:54

grin That'll do for me..
I am now going to find some scrumshus biscuits and brave the hell which is watching my ds trying to write his own homework

Bride1 Wed 15-Oct-08 11:11:48

Litchick Wed 15-Oct-08 11:25:59

Bride - i'm a writer too and it is also thing with me.
When I see all those adjectives I imagine my editor's big red pen wink.

Litchick Wed 15-Oct-08 11:26:54

Or should that be huge, crimson pen??

singersgirl Wed 15-Oct-08 11:34:23

This is so true. I was at Parent-Teacher sessions yesterday looking at my boys' work. DS2, who's 7 and in Y3, has been doing scene setting and descriptive writing. I thought it was rather good, full of stuff like "The sky seemed like death to me" and "The blue light shone out brave and true like a hero". And his teacher's put on the bottom: "Remember those adjectives!"

Seriously, when I was about 14 I remember an English teacher writing on a piece of work, "Well done, but be a trifle less enthusiastic. Does every noun have to have an adjective?" I've never forgotten that.

Meanwhile, DS1 in Y6 has to check his work to add extra brackets, semi-colons and parenthetic commas so that he can get more marks in his SATS. I told the teacher it was writing by numbers.

Bride1 Wed 15-Oct-08 11:48:04

Mammoth, blood-red, carmine-hewed, expensively-manufactured, Mont Blanc, Litchick! Editors seem to dislike adverbs even more, don't they? She says, inquiringly.

Those are great sentences for a seven-year old, singersgirl! I wouldn't want to take or add anything to them. He must be a bit of a reader, no?

Jux Wed 15-Oct-08 11:53:05

Can I just ask those of you know? By a powerful adjective, do you mean a more accurate one? Or should I say one which is more closely descriptive? That's what I see in the examples given.

Bride1 Wed 15-Oct-08 12:20:57

I think teachers are (rightly) encouraging children to go for more interesting (and often accurate) adjectives than, say: nice, good, big, little, old, etc.

A gigantic tree rather than a big tree
A wrinkled man instead of an old man

I'm not feeling inspired this morning!

Bride1 Wed 15-Oct-08 12:21:12

I think teachers are (rightly) encouraging children to go for more interesting (and often accurate) adjectives than, say: nice, good, big, little, old, etc.

A gigantic tree rather than a big tree
A wrinkled man instead of an old man

I'm not feeling inspired this morning!

Litchick Wed 15-Oct-08 13:45:32

Ah adverbs...yes indeed they are the devil no? And to be fair a stronger verb is ofetn so much better.
And don't get me started on muttered, murmered, whispered etc after speech. Grrrrr.

Bride1 Wed 15-Oct-08 13:51:42

I agree, she croaked.

singersgirl Wed 15-Oct-08 14:41:27

Yes, he does read quite a lot, and I was surprised he had written anything like that. Not enough adjectives though. grin

Litchick, do you mean you don't like the whole 'muttered', 'murmured', 'don't say said' business?

I'm astonished at how commoditised children's writing seems to have to be. Surely an energetic, coherent piece with its own rhythm and style is better than lots of laboured stuck-on adjectives and punctuation?

Her pallid fingers, icy after so long in the frozen attic, pecked hungrily at the keyboard like famished chickens; wearily, she realised that she had finally squeezed the parenthetic commas and the semi-colon into her work, though she was perilously close to forgetting the tricky brackets (oh, how tricky they were!) Her tedious post was almost done, but wait...

bigTillyMint Wed 15-Oct-08 16:32:54

Ha, just done this on a course! You have to put two adjectives infront of the noun - like organic wholemeal loaf. Most adverts contain good examples! It gets you more points in your SAT's as does starting a sentence with an adverb. And that's what we're all aiming for, isn't itgrin

Litchick Wed 15-Oct-08 16:57:16

Two adjectives!!! My editor would have to lie down.

slayerette Wed 15-Oct-08 17:49:37

Don't be too dismissive of punctuation! It has its place!

The inspector said the teacher was an idiot.

'The inspector', said the teacher, 'was an idiot.'


singersgirl Wed 15-Oct-08 17:56:28


Punctuation is all very well in its proper place, of course!

pointygravedogger Wed 15-Oct-08 18:09:21

powerful just means having more impact.

Bubbychums12 Tue 20-Mar-12 22:26:31

Hi, Im Maisie and im pregnant with twins blush can i have some advice?

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