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Denominal adjectives

What are denominal adjectives?

Denominal adjectives (sometimes called denominal adjectives) are adjectives derived from nouns. For example:

  1. A mathematical puzzle. (a puzzle based on mathematics)
  2. A biological experiment. (an experiment in biology)
  3. A wooden boat. (a boat made of wood)

Proper adjectives are derived from proper nouns. They commonly describe something in terms of nationality, religious affiliation, or culture. Like proper nouns, proper adjectives have their first letter capitalized. For example:

  1. I married a Russian woman.
  2. The Jewish community in NY is very large.

Adjectives of this type should be carefully distinguished from adjectives denoting nationalities (nominal adjectives). For example:

  1. Denominal Adjective: The French people are noted for their wines.
  2. Nominal Adjective: The French are noted for their wines.


  1. Denominal Adjective: The poor people are more vulnerable.
  2. Nominal Adjective: The poor are getting poorer.

Examples of denominal adjectives

  1. A mathematical puzzle.
  2. A biological experiment.
  3. A wooden boat.
  4. I married an American woman.
  5. The Jewish community in NY is very big.
  6. Mary has a collection of expensive Russian dolls.
  7. In the winter you must wear heavy woolen clothes.
  8. The polar bear is listed as threatened.

Denominal adjective exercises

1. Choose the sentence containing the denominal adjective:

  1. We worked on our homework all evening.
  2. We spent the evening working on our English homework.
  3. We felt sad about using the evening to do our homework.

Answer: B. We spent the evening working on our English homework.

2. A or B? Which of the following sentences contain denominal adjectives?

  1. London is noted for its many museums and monuments.
  2. London is noted for its art museums and monuments.
  1. The Japanese embassy is nearby.
  2. The embassy of Japan is nearby.
  1. I gave him a wooden walking stick.
  2. He needs to use a walking stick.

Answers: B,A,A

3. A, B, or C? Which phrase contains the denominal adjective?

  1. tidal wave
  2. screen door
  3. 10-month-old baby
  1. bunny rabbit
  2. junior high
  3. wooden boat
  1. killer bees
  2. weird science
  3. oh, fudge!

Answers: A, C, A

4. Choose the correct denominal adjective for each sentence:

  1. The sun had a cold, _____________ gleam.
    • metallic
    • strange
    • constant
  2. We walked along at a ________________ pace.
    • quick
    • leisurely
    • fast
  3. He does an _______________ check of his email.
    • interest
    • hourly
    • scanning

Answers: metallic, leisurely, hourly

5. Which sentences contain proper denominal adjectives?

  1. The Japanese are noted for their sushi.
  2. The Japanese people are noted for their sushi.
  1. He is English, but he married a Russian.
  2. He is an Englishman, but he married a Russian woman.
  1. New York is home to many nationalities; for example, there are many Puerto Ricans living there.
  2. New York is a melting pot of nationalities; for example, there are many Puerto Rican people living there.

Answers: B,B,B

6. Which group of words contains only denominal adjectives?

  1. orderly, order, port
  2. masterly, orderly, cowardly
  3. cowardly, orderly, order

Answer: B

7. Which of the following sentences does not contain a denominal adjective?

  1. The dining room was comfortably appointed.
  2. She rowed across the Atlantic in a wooden dinghy.
  3. His grandfather was a carpenter of talent.

Answer: C

8. Which group of words contains no denominal adjectives?

  1. Armenian, Indian, American
  2. museum, clothing, party
  3. restaurant, wooden, shindig

Answer: B

9. Find the proper denominal adjective in each of the following sentences:

  1. His favorite dessert is German chocolate cake.
  2. She is a long-standing member of the Democratic party.
  3. We met some interesting Romanian people on the train.

Answer: A: German B: Democratic C: Romanian

10. Proper or not? Identify the denominal adjectives in the following sentences and state whether they are proper.

  1. The Queen had rosy cheeks.
  2. We enjoyed the finest Greek goat cheese available.
  3. They lived in a brick house.
  4. We went to Paris for our yearly vacation.
  5. My grandfather is a member of the British parliament.


  1. rosy, not proper
  2. Greek, proper
  3. brick, not proper
  4. yearly, not proper
  5. British, proper

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