An adjective comes either before or after the noun that it modifies. (She is a tall girl. She is quite tall for her age.) Most adjectives appear before a noun and they are called the attributive adjectives. Adjectives that come after the noun must follow a linking verb, and they are known as the predicative adjectives. Most adjectives can be in either position, but some adjectives use only one of these positions, either before the noun or after the noun.
Those adjectives that come immediately after the noun that they modify are called postpositive adjectives.
(1) Adjective that comes before a noun is called an attributive adjective
The attributive adjective modifies the noun that follows it. There can be more than one attributive adjective appearing side-by-side to modify the same noun.
Attributive adjectives (in bold) that come before a noun.
More than one adjective can appear side-by-side to modify the same noun.
Some adjectives however are only attributive adjectives, which can only come immediately before a noun and not anywhere else in the sentence. These adjectives include the following: chief, elder, former, indoor, inner, main, mere, only, outdoor, outer, particular, principal, sole and upper. Using attributive adjectives as predicative adjectives will result in ungrammatical sentences.
(2) Adjective that comes after a noun is called a predicative adjective
A predicative adjective in a sentence appears after a noun which is also the subject. The predicative adjective modifies the noun that comes before it. It acts as a predicate as it completes the meaning of the predicate in the sentence. The predicative adjective says something about the subject of the sentence. It may also be referred to as a predicate adjective. The predicative adjective does not appear immediately after the noun. The noun is usually followed by a linking verb be (am, is, are, was, were, appear, look, taste, etc). The predicative adjective comes after the linking verb and also acts as a complement.
· The girl looks happy.
In the sentence, looks is a linking verb. The word happy is an adjective which is also a complement. The adjective happy together with the verb looks completes the predicate of the sentence, and not surprisingly is called predicative adjective. A predicative adjective modifies the subject of the sentence.
We can make use of a predicative adjective when we do not want to place the adjective, which describes a noun, before the noun. We can say or write “The girl is happy”, instead of “The happy girl …….” In such arrangement, we use the linking verb (is) to join the predicative adjective (happy) to the subject (the girl).
The following examples show in bold the predicative adjectives and the preceding auxiliary verbs
There are adjectives that can be used only as predicative adjectives. A group of these adjectives begins with the alphabet a (ablaze, adrift, afloat, afraid, aghast, alert, alike, alive, alone, aloof, ashamed, asleep, averse, aware, awake) and they usually come after a linking verb. Other examples of predicative adjective that cannot appear before a noun are content, far, fine, glad, ill, near, pleased, poorly, ready, sorry, unwell, upset, well, etc.
(3) Adjective that comes before and after the noun
Most adjectives can come before and after a noun that it modifies in a sentence without affecting its meaning.
For example, we can say, “The blue sky …” or “The sky is blue.” This indicates that the adjective blue can be used as an attributive adjective or a predicative adjective. Either way, the adjective modifies the same subject sky. When changing an attributive adjective to a predicative adjective, we use a linking verb which in this example is is.
(4) Attributive and predicative adjectives in same sentence
An adjective can take up any position in a sentence, preferably close to the noun that it describes. More than one adjective can appear in a sentence, describing the same noun. The adjectives are in bold in the following sentences.
(5) Postpositive adjective
Adjectives coming immediately after noun or pronoun are called postpositive adjectives.
Adjectives and determiners
An adjective usually comes between a determiner and the noun, making the adjective easy to identify. The determiners are the definite article (the) and the indefinite articles (a, an).