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The word additive can serve as either a noun or an adjective.

As a noun, an additive is something that is added to a substance to “enhance” it. The word “enhance” is in quotes because enhancement is in the eye of the beholder. For example, some people, think that food additives generally don’t enhance the food. In fact, they often consider additives to be one step up, if that, from poison. On the other hand, other people, usually the people selling the product or selling the additive, but sometimes even the people using the substance, think the additive is a jolly good idea.

Additives can serve a number of purposes, but they are often used to preserve products, such as foodstuffs. Not having foods go bad before we take them home is a good thing. However, if a normally highly perishable food product lists its best-before date as being a century or two out, you might want to reconsider that purchase. The product is probably more plastic or metallic than organic.

An additive is usually added in only small amounts relative to the volume and/or weight of the substance it is added to. Otherwise, the additive would be the substance and the substance would be the additive. I’m not sure if that made any sense. I just had a glass of wine. The wine might have had an additive to increase its mood-enhancing, brain-deadening qualities.

As an adjective, additive describes something that is characterized or related to addition. For example, as I drink an additional glass of wine, the effect of the alcohol is additive. I’d better stop now; writing, that is, not the wine.

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