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Attributive Adjectives &
Predicative Adjectives Lesson

When is an adjective attributive & when is it predicative?

Free English Grammar Lessons Online

* What is an adjective?
* What is an attributive adjective?
* What is a predicative adjective?
* Adjectives that are only attributive
* Adjectives that are only predicative




Adjectives are the parts of speech that are used to describe nouns and can turn a dull sentence into an engaging exchange. Let’s find out more about the types of adjectives you get.

Try the corresponding Attributive Adjectives and Predicative Adjectives Free Online Multiple Choice Test


* What is an adjective?

An adjective is one of the eight parts of speech.

An adjective is one of the eight parts of speech.

Adjectives describe and give us more information about nouns. For example, the sentence “There is a girl in a dress” becomes much more interesting and colorful if we use adjectives: “There is a vivacious, intelligent girl in a timeless, Victorian-style dress.” Now, doesn’t that sound more appealing to read?

There are two main types of adjectives: attributive and predicative.

There is a vivacious, intelligent girl in a timeless, Victorian-style dress.

* What is an attributive adjective?

An attributive adjective is an adjective that occurs before the noun. So for example, in our sentence above, ‘vivacious’ and ‘intelligent’ come before the noun ‘girl’ and are therefore attributive adjectives.



* What is a predicative adjective?

A predicative adjective is an adjective which occurs after a noun. For example, in the sentence “The ballerinas were beautiful” the adjective ‘beautiful’ comes after the noun ‘ballerinas’. You will also note that a predicative adjective will usually follow a linking verb such as ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘were’ and so forth.

The ballerinas were beautiful

Most adjectives can be used in the predicative and the attributive position, such as the word ‘spicy’. In the sentence “What spicy food!”, ‘spicy’ comes before the noun ‘food’ and is therefore an attributive adjective.

Spicy

In the sentence “That food was spicy!” the adjective ‘spicy’ comes after the linking verb ‘was’ and the noun ‘food’. It is, therefore, in this sentence, a predicative adjective.

Spicy food

But there are adjectives that don’t get to choose – some can only be either attributive or predicative.



*Adjectives which are only attributive

As we mentioned earlier, attributive adjectives are adjectives which occur before the noun. And some attributive adjectives can only occur before the noun. If we use this sentence as an example: “My boyfriend has such mind-boggling stories to tell because he is a former acrobat.” The adjective ‘former’ could never be used after a noun or linking verb to describe a noun. The sentence would then read “My boyfriend has such mind-boggling stories to tell because he is an acrobat former.” And as you can see, switching the adjective ‘former’ from an attributive position to a predicative position makes the sentences grammatically incorrect. But I’m sure his stories were still mind-boggling!

Former acrobat


* Adjectives which are only predicative

Predicative adjectives are adjectives that come after the noun, usually following a linking verb. Predicative-only adjectives are adjectives that can only come after the noun, even if in their hearts they really want to beat the noun and come first! For example, in the sentence “From the forest trail, I could see him sitting in the tree and he was alone”, there is no way you could swap the adjective ‘alone’ from the predicative position to the attributive position and still have a sentence that is grammatically correct. Sorry Mr. Alone! You will have to make peace with your position in life!

From the forest trail, I could see him sitting in the tree and he was alone


Now you have done the lesson...

Try the corresponding Attributive Adjectives and Predicative Adjectives Free Online Multiple Choice Test
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