Scots Learners’ Grammar

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6. Adjectives 


Suffixes and prefixes

Scots often use -lik(e) added to simple adjectives sometimes equivalent to English ‘-ish’ or-ly’ but often with added metaphorical or poetic undertones e.g. blecklike (blackish, darkly etc), bairnlike (childish, childlike, juvenile etc), doucelike (sweetly, respectfully etc), shilpitlike (starved-looking), wicelike (sensible, proper, good-looking). Like is also used for emphasis Thon jeelie is sweet-like and colloquially has often become a  meaningless tag, Are ye comin the morn, like?

Other Scots endings are -some meaning ‘full of’ e.g. lichtsome (carefree, cheerful), forritsome (forward, impudent), scunnersome (disgusting), waesome (sorrowful); -ie e.g. creeshie (greasy), reekie (smoky), stoorie (dusty); and -fu meaning ‘full’ e.g. fearfu, thochtfu, mensefu (polite, respectable), awfu or awfie.

Prefixes are less common, e.g.  is un- or its equivalent wan-‘ e.g. wanchancie or unchancie (unlucky, unfortunate), unbraw (unattractive).

No is also used independently to create negative adjectives e.g. no wicelike.

Comparatives

Comparatives and superlatives are formed in the same way as English, by adding -er or -est e.g. bonnie, bonnier, bonniest or using mair, the maist. Note wee, wee-er, wee-est and like, liker, maist like.

There are always irregulars

guid, better, best

bad/ill, waur/warse, warst

faur, forder, fordest

awfie, mair awfie, awfie-est.

Double comparisons using maist are sometimes used for effect e.g. The maist brawest sicht A ivver seen. Maist can also be used as a suffix e.g. doonmaist (at the very bottom), hinnermaist (at the very end).

When there is a second part to the comparison, use nor

Jock is mair glaikit nor Tam (more foolish)

Mair siller nor sense (More money than sense).

Note the whit in the construction

As guid as whit she is, she’ll no win.

Demonstratives (This, that etc)

Used to specify the distance or location of something in relation to the speaker. This and that are used as in English and Scots has two extra forms thon and yon to refer to things more distant from both speakers. Thon seems to be between that and yon both spatially and linguistically. These can be used as pronouns yon’s awfie (that’s awful). There is some dialectical variation. e.g. in Nothern Scots this and that can be used with plurals.

singular this lad tha(t) lad thon lad yon lad
plural these/thir lads thae lads thon lads yon lads

In some dialects the th sound often disappears from that and this, and the demonstratives are sometimes written as at and is. That one is that ane/yin/wan depending on dialect.

Note the idioms A tellt ye that (I told you so) and this wee while (for a short time).

Distributives (Each and every)

In written Scots ‘each’ and ‘every’ are both often translated as ilka, but in spoken Scots each and ivverie are more usual. Aither (either) and naither are used as in English.

‘Each one’ is ilk/each ane and ‘each other’ is ilk/each ither. A(w) kin o is sometimes used for ‘every’ as in A(w) kin o fowk wis therr (Every type of person was there).

Possessives

The possessive adjectives are

ma (me in Insular Scots)yer [your]hir/hur

his

wir [oor]

their

Examples: wir school, ma freens (friends), yer faither.

While the possessive its is used, it can be replace by o it or o’t. There are a number of idioms different from English

A’m awa tae ma bed

Whit did ye get for yer Christmas?

Whit are yea haein for yer tea?

As we have seen in Scots ‘the’ is sometimes used where English would use the possessive pronoun

The wife’s oot daein the messages (My wife is out doing the shopping)

Dinna loss the heid (Don’t get angry/crazy).

Compound adjectives

As with nouns there is a tendency in Scots to form compounds such as crabbit-luikin (of cantankerous appearance), guid-gaun (lively), thrawn-luikin (of disobliging appearance), weill-daein (respectable), greetin-faced (tearful), doon-hertit (dejected).