Humanities › English Classifying Adjectives: An Introduction Share Flipboard Email Print Getty Images / CaiaImage / Chris Ryan English English Grammar An Introduction to Punctuation Writing By Richard Nordquist English and Rhetoric Professor Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester B.A., English, State University of New York Dr. Richard Nordquist is professor emeritus of rhetoric and English at Georgia Southern University and the author of several university-level grammar and composition textbooks. our editorial process Richard Nordquist Updated July 25, 2019 In English grammar, a classifying adjective is a type of attributive adjective used to divide people or things into particular groups, types or classes. Unlike qualitative adjectives, classifying adjectives don't have comparative or superlative forms. Function and Position of Classifying Adjectives Geoff Reilly had this to say about classifying adjectives in his "Skills in Grammar and Style" (2004): "Sometimes attributive adjectives show that the noun they are describing is of a particular type or class. They put the noun into a particular group. They classify the noun as being of a certain type, so they are called classifying adjectives. For example: The soldier was driving a military vehicle. The soldier could have been driving any type of vehicle but, in this case, the vehicle was of the military class or type. The noun "vehicle" is modified by the classifying adjective "military," which describes the class or type of vehicle. Classifying adjectives normally come in front of the noun: Atomic physicsCubic centimetersDigital watchMedical carePhonetic alphabet The noun "physics" has the classifying adjective "atomic" in front. "Atomic" describes a particular type or class of the science of physics. Similarly, "watch" has the classifying adjective "digital" in front of it. Rather than being a traditional analog watch, this particular watch belongs to the type or class that is digital." Identifying Classifying Adjectives Gordon Winch, in 2005's "The Foundation Grammar Dictionary" said: "A classifying adjective is a describing word that tells us the class of the noun it describes, eucalyptus trees, Holden cars. You can pick out a classifying adjective because it will not take the word 'very' in front of it. You cannot say a very eucalyptus tree." Word Order With Classifying Adjectives "COBUILD English Usage" gives some good insight into the correct order of several adjectives in a sentence: "If there is more than one classifying adjective in front of a noun, the normal order is: Age — shape — Nationality — Material...a medieval French village....a rectangular plastic box....an Italian silk jacket. Other types of classifying adjectives usually come after a nationality adjective: ...the Chinese artistic tradition....the American political system." 'Unique' as a Classifying Adjective In "Oxford A-Z of Grammar and Punctuation" from 2013, John Seely had this to say about the usage of the word "unique": "[Unique] is a classifying adjective. Classifying adjectives put things into groups or classes so they cannot normally be modified by having adverbs such as 'very' placed in front of them. 'Unique' means 'of which there is only one,' so it is, strictly speaking, wrong to say, for example: He was a very unique person. ...On the other hand there are a small number of modifiers that can be used with 'unique.' The most obvious is 'almost': Britain is almost unique in continuing to charge almost all its domestic customers on an unmeasured basis. [for water] This can be justified because it means that Britain is not the only country to do this; there are a few others. There is, however, a looser meaning frequently given (especially in informal speech and writing) to 'unique': 'outstanding or remarkable.' When it is used in this sense it is often preceded by 'very' This use is best avoided in formal speech or writing." Examples of Classifying Adjectives Henry Winkler and Lin OliverThe video lasted seven minutes, which I know because Frankie was timing it on his digital watch.Mickey Sundgren-LothropI had a wooden coin that my future husband had given me.James BartlemanA giant flashing electronic sign high up on the side of a building displayed a happy family drinking Coca-Cola under the slogan 'Can't Beat the Real Thing.'David Hackett FischerOn the isle of Guernsey, a small French lad named Apollos Rivoire, twelve years old, was taken by his uncle to the harbor of St. Peter Port.Robert EngenFor the Germans in the Second World War, the ferocity of the British, American, and Canadian artillery fire was something altogether new, even for veterans of the Eastern Front.Howard S. SchiffmanIn 1955, Arco, Idaho, became the first town in the United States to be powered by nuclear energy, and today there are more than 100 nuclear power plants in the United States.Nathaniel WestAbout ten feet from where Homer was sitting grew a large eucalyptus tree and behind the trunk of the tree was a little boy.