Predicate Adjectives

Predicate adjectives are adjectives located in the predicate of a sentence or clause. Predicate adjectives as we most often think of them are connected to the subject by a linking verb, in which case they are subject complements, but they can also function as an objective complement by modifying the direct object of a verb. Predicate adjectives may also be called predicative adjectives.

Predicate Adjectives as Subject Complements

Predicate adjectives functioning as subject complements are always connected to the subject they modify by a linking verb.

John was ecstatic about his test score.

Ecstatic modifies the subject John, which it is connected to by the linking verb was.

Percy is loyal and trustworthy.

Remember that predicate adjectives, like so many other things in grammar, may be compound. Loyal and trustworthy both describe the same subject through the same linking verb.

The apple pie smelled delicious.

It is important to be familiar with the complete list of linking verbs when looking for predicate adjectives (and predicate nominatives), as some verbs, such as smell, are sometimes linking verbs and sometimes not. In this example, smelled functions as a linking verb connecting the predicate adjective delicious to the subject pie.

Predicate Adjectives as Object Complements

As object complements, predicate adjectives closely follow and describe the direct object of a verb.

Sarah made her sister angry.

In this example, sister is the direct object of the verb made, and angry is a predicate adjective modifying sister. However, this does not mean that every adjective modifying a direct object is a predicate adjective. Let’s add another adjective and see.

Sarah made her little sister angry.

The adjective little also describes the direct object sister now, but it is only an attributive adjective adding a grammatically unimportant description. Without an attributive adjective like little here, the meaning of the sentence stays the same. However, if we take away a predicate adjective like angry, the meaning of the sentence changes drastically.

The police officer’s quick response and first-aid skills kept the injured civilian alive.

The direct object here is civilian, and it is being modified by the predicate adjective alive. Again, notice the difference between the alive and the attributive adjective injured. While injured does add detail and context, it does not change or detract from the overall meaning of the sentence if left out. Removing the predicate adjective alive, however, would ruin the meaning of the sentence.

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