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Explaining Predicate and Attributive Adjectives

Attributive and predicate adjectives both characterize or describe nouns and pronouns. Yet each type of describing word has a different sentence structure. Before you learn the predicate adjective definition, you should begin by testing your knowledge about the structure of a sentence. Let’s review how to build sentences, so that you can discover how to use both kinds of describing words.

Two Parts of a Sentence: Subject and Predicate

There’s no question of how important sentences are. After all, sentences make up all our conversations and communication. But did you know that sentences have two parts? You call these sections of a sentence the subject and the predicate.

Do you know which part is which? Well, the subject comes first. It’s the part of a sentence that describes the person, place, or thing that’s completing an action, or being spoken about.

The second section of a sentence contains a predicate adjective (if the speaker or author includes one) and a verb to describe what action the subject is doing.

  • Wet surfaces are slippery.

The subject is wet surfaces, while slippery is the predicate adjective.

The second part of a sentence can not only describe action, but it can also describe a state of being. Now that you’re brushed up on the parts of a sentence, it’s time to define predicate adjective.

When’s the last time you studied the proper way to format an academic paper? Before you move on to the definition, look at MLA format instructions, and discover more styles of citing your work.

What is a Predicate Adjective?

A predicate adjective describes the subject of a sentence. This type of modifying word appears after the subject of the sentence, which is normally a noun or pronoun. The describing word will also connect to a sentence with a linking verb.

But What’s a Linking Verb?

A linking verb works to connect a verb with a describing word, noun, or pronoun. Examples include any form of the verb to be, sounds, tastes, looks, feels, smells, seems, becomes, grows, keeps, appears, and remains.

However, the verb to be and all its forms are the only “true” linking verbs, as you can use the other words on the list above as nouns. If you can replace either of the linking verbs above with a form of to be, then the verb works as a linking verb.

Let’s look at how it’s done, with the sample sentence:

  • Your shoe smells brand new.

If you replace smells with the correct form of to be, you get:

  • Your shoe is brand new.

The new sentence still makes sense, therefore smells is acting as a linking verb.

However, what happens when we do this test on a sentence that’s not using the verb to smell as a linking verb?

Well, take a sentence like:

  • He smells the fresh spring air.*

It would become:

  • He is the fresh spring air.

As the second statement isn’t true, you know that this form of to smell is acting as a transitive verb and not a linking verb. Understanding this distinction will help you tell whether a describing word is predicative or attributive.

Thus, if you find any of these linking verbs before a noun describer, then you have identified a predicate adjective.

To help you understand further, here are a few predicate adjective examples:

  • Arcade games are addicting.
  • My children are sound asleep.
  • Cheryl’s singing sounds incredible!

In addition to using a predicate adjective, you can use attributive words to describe nouns. This type of describing word sometimes follows a noun, but most of the time it precedes it.

Attributive words also are not connected with a linking verb in a sentence. Instead, an attributive word becomes part of the noun phrase. See this helpful article to learn more about this type of word.

What is a Noun Phrase?

A noun phrase is a word or group of words that act as the subject in a sentence. A noun phrase can include articles, possessive nouns, possessive pronouns, and participles. Here are a few examples of noun phrases:

  • Your friend’s puppy.
  • The large grocery store.
  • Her best friend Mike.
  • The well-behaved student.

If the describing words come before the noun, then you know the sentence is attributive. Be on the lookout for descriptive modifiers in a noun phrase, while determining whether a sentence is predicative or attributive.

Here are some examples of sentences with attributive words:

  • The tired student fell asleep.
  • brown dog hopped the fence.
  • His funny joke made me laugh.

So, what are predicate adjectives and how are they different from attributive words? In each of the above examples, the attributive word comes before the noun. These words make up the subject of the sentence. Predicative words on the other hand, appear after subject and connect to a sentence with a linking verb. Basically, it’s all about the placement of a describing word within a sentence.

Here are some additional predicate adjective examples:

  • Bobby becomes wiser each month on the job.
  • The children feel sick whenever they fly in a plane.
  • Your fitness instructor seems intimidating.
  • My son is afraid of that dog.
  • The beached whale looked dehydrated.
  • Tanya’s ankle became bruised after she fell.

Now, let’s see more examples and determine which one of the following sentences contain a predicate adjective and which ones include attributive words.

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Attributive and Predicate Adjective Examples:

Can you tell which one each sentence has?

  • The unpredictable carnival games.
  • These carnival games are unpredictable.
  • That movie was horrifying.
  • I can’t watch that horrifying movie.
  • Her costume is beautiful.
  • Her beautiful costume.
  • Their sweet-sounding words brought tears to my eyes.
  • Their words were sweet-sounding and brought tears to my eyes.
  • My homework is too easy for you.
  • My easy homework would make you fall asleep.

Were you able to tell how each describing word functions based on its location in the sentence? Double check your answer with a friend. For more info on predicative words and a short description, click to read more.

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