Questions? Feedback? powered by Olark live chat software
  Previous Topic Complete and continue  

  Position of adjectives

Attributive and predicate adjectives

In all the examples we've seen so far, the adjectives have come directly before the noun that they described. Let's have a look at one of these again to remind ourselves:

Sally has an expensive computer.
The adjective (expensive) comes directly before the noun that it describes (computer). An adjective in this position is called an attributive adjective. Here are some more examples of adjectives in the attributive position:
I live in a big house.
What's that strange noise?
But is this the only place we can put an adjective? Let's change the sentence around a bit and see what happens.
Sally's computer is expensive.
What have we done here? Well, we've used a linking verb (is), and we've put the adjective (expensive) after it. If you think back to the unit on verbs you'll remember that linking verbs link a subject with a subject complement. In this case the subject is "Sally's computer" and the subject complement is "expensive". Subject complements are very often adjectives, and that's the case here - the adjective "expensive" is the subject complement.
An adjective in this position is called a predicate adjective. Here are some more examples of predicate adjectives following linking verbs:
She seems tired.
The floor looks clean.

Postpositive adjectives

There's a third possible position for adjectives too. Have a look at these sentences:
Everyone present must vote.
The map will show you the quickest route possible.
There were no rooms available for the Attorney General.
In these sentences you can see that the adjective comes directly after the noun or pronoun that it's describing. Adjectives in this position are called postpositive adjectives . If the adjective is describing a pronoun, like in the first sentence, then in fact this is the only position it can be in. We can't say "Present everyone must vote."
In the second sentence the adjective "possible" is in this position because it follows a combination of a superlative adjective (quickest) and a noun (route). With this combination it's very common to put the adjective in the postpositive position. We'll be learning a lot more about superlative adjectives very shortly.
In the third sentence "rooms available" is a set phrase (a culturally accepted way of saying something). "The body politic" and "proof positive" are some other examples of set phrases with a postpositive adjective. There are also many names and titles that use this position - "Attorney General" is an example of this.