In Persian, adjectives do not agree neither in gender nor in number with the noun they modify. Therefore, adjectives have only one form as opposed to adjectives in languages like French and Spanish. As in German and Dutch, Persian adjectives can also function as an adverb. Generally speaking, English adjectives cannot play the role of adverbs. However, there are some instances: “fast” is an adjective in “a fast car” and an adverb in “he drives fast”.

Predicative Adjectives

Regarding Persian, it is important to know the difference between “predicative” and “attributive” adjectives. “happy” in “He is happy” is called a predicative adjective. This contrasts with “He is a happy boy”, where “happy” is called an attributive adjective. Adjectives in the following examples are predicative.

آب سرد است
⟨âb sard ast⟩
The water is cold
این پیراهن گران است
⟨in pirâhan gerân ast⟩
This shirt is expensive
آن پسرها خوشحال به نظر می‌آيند
⟨ân pesarhâ xošhâl be nazar miâyand⟩
Those boys seem happy

Attributive Adjectives

In Persian, attributive adjectives come after the noun they modify and are related to it with the genitive marker “e” (“-ye” after vowels to resolve vowel hiatus). In English, attributive adjectives come before nouns. In Spanish, French and Italian they typically come after the noun they modify.

دوست خوب
⟨dust-e xub
good friend
دوستان خوب
⟨dustân-e xub
good friends
اتاق ارزان
⟨otâǧ-e arzân⟩
cheap room
اتاقهای ارزان
⟨otâǧhâ-ye arzân⟩
cheap rooms
غذای خوشمزه
⟨ǧazâ-ye xošmazze
delicious food
غذاهای خوشمزه
⟨ǧazâhâ-ye xošmazze
delicious foods
خانه‌ی بزرگ
⟨xâne-ye bozorg
big house
هوای سرد
⟨havâ-ye sard
cold weather

Nominalized Adjectives

Adjectives can function as nouns as well. This is technically called nominalization. Adjectives do not agree in number with the noun they modify but a nominalized adjective is like a noun and can have plural form. The phrase “the good, the bad, and the ugly” is a good example for nominalized adjectives in English. Nominalized adjectives do not have plural forms in English: “the good” can mean both “the one that/who/which is good” and “the ones that/who/which are good”. Persian differentiates between singular and plural nominalized adjectives and also, between animate or inanimate plurals.

the good (singular)
the good (plural, animate or inanimate)
the good (plural, animate)
مبصر نام خوبها و بدها را بر روی تخته نوشته بود
⟨Mobser nâm-e xubhâ vo badhâ râ bar ru-ye taxte nevešte bud⟩
The monitor had written the names of the good and the bad on the board
برگزیدگان دوسالانه‌ی خوشنویسی اعلام شدند
⟨bargozidegân-e dosâlâne-ye xošnevisi eølâm šodand⟩
The winners of the biennial of calligraphy were announced
میوه‌های رسیده را بچین
⟨mivehâ-ye reside râ bečin⟩
Pick the ripe fruits
رسیده‌ها را بچین
⟨residehâ râ bečin⟩
Pick the ripe ones
(Pick the ones, which are ripe)

Order of Adjectives

A noun can be modified by more than one adjective. In “big white dog”, the noun “dog” is modified by the adjectives “big” and “white”. It can be said that at first, “white” modifies “dog” to make the group “white dog”. This group is technically called a noun phrase. Then, the adjective “big” modifies the noun phrase “white dog” to make “big white dog”. In Persian, attributive adjectives are related to nouns using the genitive case marker “-e”. Therefore, to modify a noun with two adjective, the genitive case is used twice. First, “sefid” (white) modifies “sag” (dog) to make the noun phrase “sag-e sefid” (white dog) and then, “bozorg” modifies the noun phrase “sag-e sefid” to make “sag-e sefid-e bozorg”.

سگ سفید بزرگ
[sag-e sefid]-e bozorg
big [white dog]

In English, when several adjectives modify a noun, they occur in a fixed order. For example, “size” comes before “age” and “age” comes before “shape”:

Correct Incorrect
a thin old dog an old thin dog
a small round black leather handbag a leather black round small handbag

Persian does not have such limitation and adjectives can occur in any order depending on the intended emphasis. Adjectives that are more distant from the noun, can indicate more emphasis:

سگ لاغر پیر
sag-e lâǧar-e pir
thin old dog
سگ پیر لاغر
sag-e pir-e lâǧar
thin old dog

In English, adjectives of the same rank are connected with “and” e.g. “old and new books”. In Persian, adjectives do not have order and can be always connected with “و” (and):

سگ لاغر و پیر
sag-e lâǧar o pir
thin old dog
سگ پیر و لاغر
sag-e pir o lâǧar
thin old dog

Practice Examples

Some basic examples: