Distributive Adjectives: Definition, Uses, and Examples

by Laura C. Jones
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Do you know what adjectives are?

Putting it simply, they’re words used to describe or modify nouns. When you describe something as beautiful or sweet, these are adjectives.

So, what are distributive adjectives? They’re used to modify nouns too, but in a different way. Here’s everything you need to know about them.

What Are Distributive Adjectives?

Distributive adjectives are adjectives used to refer to specific individuals out of a group. They’re used for either nouns or pronouns, and they serve to separate things that belong in a group.

So, for example, when you say that each dog got a treat, you explain what’s happening to a member in a group. In this case, the group is the dogs.

Okay, so what’s the difference between ‘Each dog got a treat.’ and ‘The dogs got treats’?

In the first sentence, you’ll say that every dog in the group got a treat. But, in the second sentence, you’re only saying that the dogs got treats without assuring that every single dog got one. Plus, in the second sentence, you don’t necessarily say that the treats got distributed equally.

So, all in all, distributive adjectives are used to express precisely how a group’s members are treated.

List of Distributive Adjectives

Luckily for you, there aren’t a lot of distributive adjectives in the English language, so you don’t have a lot of words to memorize. Here’s a rundown of the most common ones:

  • Every
  • Each
  • Any
  • Neither
  • Either
  • Both

Every and each are used to pinpoint individuals out of a group. Meanwhile, neither, either, and both are used in situations that have two options or two possible outcomes. Finally, any refers to all members of a particular group.

Common Examples of Distributive Adjectives

If you still can’t grasp distributive adjectives, it may help to see examples. Here are some examples of all the adjectives I listed.

Every

  • Every child got their lunch meal
  • Every cat got a vaccination
  • I exercise every day
  • You don’t know every fact

Each

  • Each kid got to ride the roller coaster
  • We gave each dog two treats
  • Each member of the group delivered the assignment

Any

  • Any woman can participate in the marathon
  • You shouldn’t eat any candy
  • I didn’t see any signs on the way

Neither

  • Neither box had a lock on
  • Neither woman knew how to react
  • You should go for neither options

Either

  • Either direction will get you where you want
  • It’s either this box or the other one
  • There may be a wallet in either bag

Both

  • Both of you were wrong
  • I saw both of my friends yesterday
  • We didn’t know both gifts were ours

Closing Thoughts

Distributive adjectives are used to refer to members out of a group or to a whole group. As you saw in the examples, they can refer to an individual, two members, or the entire group. They’re generally limited and easy to understand, so they should be easy enough to use.

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