Attributive Adjectives

Attributive adjectives are adjectives that describe a noun’s attributes directly. They are generally found close to the noun they modify, usually before it.

The red car didn’t sell for years.

The attributive adjective here is red. It modifies the subject car by describing its color.

The big, ugly, and generally disagreeable cat avoided the guests and took a nap.

It is not uncommon for a list of attributive adjectives to describe the same word. Big, ugly, and disagreeable all describe cat in the example above. Also notice that some adjectives may be separated from the noun they modify by other words and phrases. In this case, the conjunction and, the adverb generally, and even their fellow adjective disagreeable put a considerable distance between big and ugly and the noun they are modifying.

It is important to understand that, although a select few adjectives can only be predicative, most adjectives can be either attributive or predicative.

Mike needs a new backpack.

New is an attributive adjective describing backpack.

Mike’s backpack is new.

Now new is a predicative adjective connected to the subject by the linking verb is. Keep in mind that adjectives are not generally determined to be attributive or predicative in and of themselves; they are rather categorized by how they are used. The only adjectives that must be predicative are as follows:

afloataloneaware
afraidasleepupset
alikeawakewell
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