Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

An attributive adjective is an adjective that appears before the noun or pronoun it describes. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Attributive and Predicative Adjectives in the English Grammar

Based on where an adjective appears in a sentence, we can have two main types of adjectives:

  • Attributive Adjective
  • Predicative Adjectives

What Are Attributive Adjectives?

An attributive adjective is an adjective that appears directly before the noun or pronoun it describes.

A linking verb does not come between an attributive adjective and the noun it modifies.

The old man was smoking a pipe.

You are my favorite person in the whole world.

using an attributive adjective in a noun phrase

Attributive Adjectives: Types

Based on whether they appear before or after the noun they are modifying, attributive adjectives can have two types:

  • Pre-positive Adjectives
  • Post-positive Adjectives

We need a powerful person. (pre-positive adjective)

We need someone powerful. (post-positive adjective)

What Are Predicative Adjectives?

A predicative adjective (also called predicate adjective) follows a linking verb. They can take an adjective complement after them or appear alone. For example:

That baby is cute.

I tried not to be afraid of the dark.

Predicative Adjectives: Functions

Predicative adjectives can be subject complement.

Difference & Similarity

Most adjectives can be either type: we can say a 'cute baby' and 'the baby was cute.' But some can only be one or the other.

Adjectives That Can Only Be Predicative

Some adjectives, such as 'afraid, asleep, glad, and alive,' are always predicative.

Many people are afraid of the dark. (Not 'afraid people')

Here is a list of predicative-only adjectives:

  • afire
  • afloat
  • afraid
  • alert
  • alive
  • alone
  • ashamed
  • aware
  • asleep
  • awake

Adjectives That Can Only Be Attributive

Some adjectives can only occur in the attributive position.

I have a little doll. (Not 'My doll is little.')

This is the main road. (Not 'This road is main.')

Here is a list of attributive-only adjectives:

  • elder/eldest
  • same/exact
  • live
  • main/prime/principal/chief
  • mere/sheer/utter
  • future/former
  • little
  • urban/southern/rural

Predicate Adjectives vs. Predicate Nominatives

After a linking verb, we can have a noun or a noun phrase or an adjective or an adjective phrase.

Sam is beautiful.

Sam is a teacher.


Do not use an adverb after a linking verb. A linking verb is completed only by a predicative adjective or a predicative nominative, never an adverb.

Your house looks nicely!

Your house looks nice!

This cake tastes badly.

This cake tastes bad.


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Types of Adjectives

Adjectives are the most used words in sentences. There are several types of adjectives according to their uses. Let's get to know them!

Descriptive Adjectives

Descriptive adjectives are adjectives that modify a noun or pronoun by showing its quality. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

Comparative adjectives are used to compare one noun to another noun. Superlative adjectives are used to compare three or more nouns.

Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives are used as one single adjective. They function as the head of the sentence. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.

Proper Adjectives

Proper adjectives are commonly used in English. They tend to modify nouns and pronouns. in this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Participle Adjectives

Participle adjectives are the same form as participles with the same characteristics with adjectives.
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