Post-positive adjectives or postnominal adjectives are mainly placed immediately after the noun. In this lesson, we will learn all about them.
What Are Postpositive Adjectives?
Attributive adjectives are generally placed before the noun they modify (in which case, they are called prepositive adjectives). However, in some special cases, they are placed immediately after the noun. In these cases, they are called postpositive adjectives or postnominal adjectives. Postpositive adjectives contrast with prepositive adjectives which come before the noun or pronoun they modify and are also distinguished from predicative adjectives which are subject complements.
Postpositive Adjectives: Types
There are different kinds of postpositive adjectives:
Postpositive Attributive Adjectives
Attributive adjectives can be both prepositive and postpositive. The following are contexts in which attributive adjectives are used postpositively:
In English, when adjectives describe indefinite pronouns and the pronoun 'those', they must appear postpositively:
We need someone
I saw something
- In archaic and poetic contexts
I watched the demons
She had eyes, such beautiful eyes,
- In phrases borrowed from Latin or Roman languages
Translation: sea closed, sea free
- In certain fixed grammatical constructions such as:
(a) + noun + this/that/so + adjective
I need a box
- when we want to use 'enough' with adjectives, they appear postpositively
One of the criminals
the best choice
the only option
the best way
the tobacco companies
The meaning of some adjectives changes based on whether they are used postpositively or prepositively. Consider the following examples:
We need to bring the people
When used postpositively, 'responsible' has a negative connotation, it means 'at fault' or 'guilty'. But, in the first sentences, 'responsible' has a positive connotation. It means 'dedicated' or 'reliable'.
- In the titles of some books, movies, etc. we can use postpositive adjectives
Besides attributive adjectives, nouns can take other modifiers as well. For example, relative clauses come after the nouns they modify. Pay attention to the examples:
This is my father
Expletive clauses are a type of noun clause that is placed into a sentence to fulfill the basic meaning of the sentence.
They can act as a noun or adjectives in a sentence. When they act as adjectives, they appear postpositively:
They need me to make a decision
Participle clauses begin with a present participle, past participle, or perfect participle. When they act as adjectives in a sentence, they must appear after the noun they modify.
Look at the three old men
present participle clause as an adjective
I was left with my heart
past participle clause as an adjective
perfect participle clause as an adjective
Postpositive Adjectives: Plural Form
When we want to pluralize postpositive adjectives or modifiers, we must add the suffix '-s' or '-es' after the noun, not after the entire phrase. Consider the examples:
- surgeon general → surgeon
sgeneral (Not 'surgeon general s')
- battle royal → battle
sroyal (Not 'battle royal s')
- mother-to-be → mother
s-to-be (Not 'mother-to-be s')