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Proper Adjective

When a person, place, or thing achieves such a level of fame that the noun has gathered an entire array of meanings itself, then that noun could be used to actually describe other nouns. For example, if a poem resembles something written by Shakespeare, then it can be called Shakespearean—and that would be a proper adjective. Read Shakespeare’s complete works for more examples. Fame is usually necessary for a proper adjective, because otherwise, the audience may not know what is supposed to be meant.

What is a Proper Adjective?

 

A proper adjective is just any adjective that is always capitalized as a result of having been derived from a proper noun. In this example, Ultius would be the proper noun, and "Ultian" would be the proper adjective that is derived from that noun. 

Using Proper Adjectives in Sentences

Here is an example of the proper adjective being used in a grammatically correct way:

"It has always been the American dream to create a better life for one's children than one has enjoyed oneself."

The proper adjective here is "American", and it is (of course) derived from the proper noun America. 

Now, here is an example of a sentence with ungrammatical usage of the proper adjective:

"She seemed so morally perfect at all times that people wondered whether she was some kind of Angelic being." 

"Angelic" here should not be capitalized, since "angel" is not a proper noun.

In case you are still a little confused, here are a couple basic rules that will surely help you make sure that you are using the proper adjective in the correct way. 

1. The proper adjective is always derived from a proper noun. In order to figure out whether an adjective is in fact proper, just think about whether the original noun is always capitalized or not. For example, "America" is always capitalized, so "American" is a proper adjective. 

2. Be careful that you don't confuse an adjective at the beginning of a sentence with a proper adjective. It could possibly be a proper adjective; or, it may just be capitalized because it is the first word of the sentence. So, the proper adjective is always capitalized; but not every capitalized adjective is necessarily always proper. 

Literary Usage

The proper adjective is a good example of how culture can play an important role in language development. For example, if you call a situation "Shakespearean", then everyone will know that what you mean is that it seems like the kind of situation that might have been created by Shakespeare. However, this only makes sense because Shakespeare is famous, and most educated people have some idea of what his plays are like. If you were to turn the name of a far less prolific figure into a proper adjective, though, people might just be confused: if they don't know anything about the name, they also won't know what the adjective is meant to express. 

This also means that effective use of the proper adjective may depend on the social context of usage. For example, if you were to write a philosophy paper, then it would be appropriate to speak of a "Kierkegaardian inversion": that is, a conceptual move done in the style of the philosopher Kierkegaard. However, if you were talking to people who had no idea who Kierkegaard was, then the use of the proper adjective would come across as meaningless—or even pretentious. Context is thus very important. 

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