An ELT Glossary : Adjectives / Attributive adjectives / Predicative adjectives


An adjective is a word which describes a thing, person, state, action, quality etc.  Some examples include large, Italian, cold, surprising, occasional etc.

The main uses of adjectives are to :

1. Premodify (ie come before) nouns -  It was an interesting lecture; She has a large house.

2. Act as subject complement after copulative verbs such as be, become, look, feel, seem etc. - He looked ill; It  was difficult.

3. Act as object complement after verbs such as consider, make, believe, find,  postmodifying (ie coming after) the noun/pronoun: It makes me angry; We thought the place expensive



Adjectives which premodify nouns (1 above) are known as attributive adjectives, while those which act as complements (2 and 3 above) are known as predicative adjectives. Most adjectives can be both attributive and predictive - for example : 

1. It was an easy exam.  (attributive)
2. The exam seemed easy.  (predicative)
3. She found the exam easy. (predicative)


However, some can only be either attributive or predicative :

a) Attributive only - eg mere : I was shocked by the mere idea but not *The idea was mere

b) Predictive only - eg afraid : He felt afraid  but not *an afraid man