Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt    

Lesson 7: Mr. Adjective Tried for Stealing

There was great excitement in the court the next day; and when everyone was assembled, except Adjective, the Judge called out: "Bring the prisoner in; "and poor Adjective was led in between two Critics, with his hands tied behind him, and placed before the Judge.
Mr. Adjective

Serjeant Parsing rose, and began to question him.

"Is your name Adjective?" he said. "It is," answered Adjective.

"And you possess all the adjectives in Grammar-land?"

"I do."

"What is an adjective?"

"A word used to qualify a noun."

"What is a noun?"

"Please, my lord, need I answer that?" asked Adjective.

"Certainly," replied the Judge.

"It is not fair," said Adjective; "nouns are not my words."

"But you must know what a noun is, in order that you may use your adjectives properly."

"Of course, I know what a noun is—it is a name, the name of anything."

"Then do you know the difference between a noun and an adjective?" asked Serjeant Parsing.

"Certainly. A noun is the name of a thing. An adjective tells you something about the thing the noun has named; whether it is large or small, or what color it is, or how much there is of it, or whether there are few things or many, or something of that sort."

"Quite so; but can you find out at once, without much thinking, whether a word is a noun or an adjective?"

"If you can put an article before a word, then it is a noun," answered Adjective; "as, a man, the dog."

"Then when I say, 'Pity the poor,' of course poor is a noun, is it?"

"No," said Adjective, quickly; "poor is my word, I know, for you can say poor child, a poor thing. 'Pity the poor' really means, 'Pity the poor people;' but Mr. Noun is so stingy, that when he thinks the sentence will be understood without his word, he just leaves it out, and then people say the noun is understood."

"Exactly so; but your way of finding out a noun does not answer, you see, for the first time I try it, you tell me the word I have found is an adjective."

"It always answers unless there happens to be a word understood," replied Adjective, "and then it answers if you use your reason; for anyone would know that you are not asked to pity a thing called a poor, but to pity poor people. But it is not fair, my lord," continued Adjective, turning to the Judge. "Here am I, a poor prisoner, unjustly accused of stealing, and Mr. Parsing is trying to puzzle me as much as he can."

"Not at all," replied Serjeant Parsing. "I only want you to be sure that you know clearly the difference between a noun and an adjective."

"I do," answered Adjective, "quite clearly."

"Well, then, answer this question. What is the word beauty?"

"Beauty?" repeated Adjective, getting rather red; "beauty is a noun."

"Yes," said Serjeant Parsing; "grace, and home, and duty?"

"They are all nouns," answered Adjective, looking uncomfortable.

"Yes; now another question. What is beautiful?"

"Beautiful?" repeated Adjective, looking very red now; "beautiful is an adjective."

"Very well. Now, Mr. Adjective," said Serjeant Parsing, "kindly tell me how you got the adjective beautiful?"

"I made it," answered Adjective, with his eyes on the ground.

"How did you make it?"

"I stuck ful on to beauty. When I want to say a thing is full of beauty I call it beautiful."

"And how did you get beauty, since it belongs to Mr. Noun?" asked Serjeant Parsing.

"I took it," replied Adjective, still looking down.

"Which means to say that you stole it. It is quite clear that you stole it, and that you did the same to grace, home, duty, and others, to make graceful, homely, dutiful, and the rest. My lord, I think I need say nothing more: the prisoner himself owns that he took these words; it only remains for you to give him his punishment."

The Judge looked very grave, and was beginning to say, "Mr. Adjective, I am very sorry" when Serjeant Parsing interrupted him, and said:

"Please, my lord, I am going to take the other side now. Will you order Mr. Noun to come forward to be questioned?"

"Certainly," said the Judge; and Mr. Noun approached.

"Mr. Noun?" said Serjeant Parsing.

"The same, sir," said Mr. Noun; "all nouns belong to me."

"You know a noun when you see it?"

"Of course, I know my own words."

"And you know an adjective?"

"Yes; an adjective is a word that tells something about one of my nouns."

"Very good. Now can you tell me whether happy is a noun?"

"Certainly not. It is an adjective. You can say a happy boy, a happy thing."

"Exactly so. Now will you tell me what happiness is?"

"Happiness," repeated Mr. Noun, getting suddenly very red, for he saw what was coming; "happiness is a noun, it is mine."

"Oh!" said Serjeant Parsing; "how did you get it?"

"I made it."


"I joined happy and ness together."

"H'm!" said Serjeant Parsing. "I will not ask you where you found such a silly word as ness, but happy you said just now belongs to Mr. Adjective, so of course you took it from him."

Mr. Noun did not answer, but looked down, exceedingly red and uncomfortable.

"My lord," said Serjeant Parsing to the Judge, "need I say any more. This Mr. Noun, who would have Adjective put in prison for stealing, has been doing the very same thing himself. Happiness, prettiness, silliness, cleverness, and almost all the words that end in ness, are nouns made from adjectives. If Mr. Noun would give them all up, I have no doubt Mr. Adjective would then give up his beautiful, useful, graceful, and other adjectives that are made from nouns."

"No, no," said the Judge; "I will have no giving up. When a word is once made it is made for good, and instead of blaming those who take their neighbor's words to make new ones for themselves, I consider that they are very much to be praised. Critics, untie Mr. Adjective's hands. Mr. Adjective, I am glad to hear you are so clever in making new words, and I give you full permission to make as many more as you can, by borrowing either from Mr. Noun or from any other Part-of-Speech. Have you any other ending to put on besides ful?"

"My lord," said Adjective, whose hands were now untied, and who was standing free and upright before the Judge, "my lord, I have a whole string of tails which I keep ready to make adjectives with. Here are some of them: ful, like, ly, y, ous, less, en, and ern I and this is the way I stick them on: beautiful, ladylike, manly, dirty, poisonous, careless, golden, western, and with your lordship's kind permission, I will make such words as often as I can."

"Do so," replied the Judge. "And you, Mr. Noun, remember, that you are to allow Adjective to take your words whenever he requires them, for you ought to know that words in Grammar-land are not like pennies in Matter-of-fact-land. There, if someone steals a penny from you, he has it and you have not; but here, in Grammar-land, when anyone takes your words to make new ones, it makes him richer, but you are none the poorer for it. You have beauty still, although Mr. Adjective has made beautiful; and you have lady, and man, and gold, although Mr. Adjective has made ladylike, and manly, and golden. You ought to have known this, Mr. Noun, and not to have accused Mr. Adjective of stealing. Therefore, as a punishment, I require you to send into Schoolroom-shire a list of nouns that may be made into adjectives by the addition of some of Mr. Adjective's tails."

The Judge then left the court. Find the list that Mr. Noun sent into Schoolroom-shire in the Lesson Guide.

    Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt Grammar-Land by M.L. Nesbitt    

Lesson 7: Mr. Adjective Tried for Stealing


Over the two weeks:

  • Read or review the lesson each week.
  • Complete the assigned enrichment activities for each week.


Poor Mr. Adjective is put on trial for stealing from Mr. Noun, but it is found that each Part-of-Speech steals from the other. An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or describes a noun’s referent. Examples include big, fast, cold, yellow, old, beautiful, more, that, this, these, two, both, and all. A noun is the name of an object. Nouns are words that can be used to refer to a person, animal, place, thing, phenomenon, substance, quality, or idea. For example, brother, mother, friend, dog, cat, ear, hand, bread, potato, desk, tree, and lamp are all examples of nouns.


Activity - Week 1: Help Mr. Adjective 'Steal' from Mr. Noun

Review the following endings that can added to nouns to make them adjectives.

Use the list of endings to convert the following nouns into adjectives.

Activity - Week 2: Help Mr. Noun 'Steal' from Mr. Adjective

Add 'ness' to end of the following adjectives to turn them into nouns.

  • Happy
  • Pretty
  • Silly
  • Clever
  • Red
  • Shy
  • Sad
  • Icy
  • Wet