Monday, September 24, 2012

Attributive/Predicate Adjectives

Most English adjectives can be used in two positions- before a noun and following a noun.  When adjectives occur before a noun, they are in attributive position.  Following a noun, they are in predicate position.  For example, the phrase the happy man has the adjective happy in attributive position and the sentence He is happy has the adjective happy in predicate position.

A number of English adjectives can only occur in attributive or predicate position.  The adjective live only occurs in attributive position and alive only in predicate position.  However, live can occur in both positions if the noun modified is inanimate.  Consider the examples This is a live concert and The concert is live.

With animate nouns, however, live must occur before the noun it modifies.  The adjective alive must follow the noun it modifies.  Consider the following examples:

The live insects are in the laboratory.
The insects in the laboratory are alive.

Certain adjectives can only be used in attributive position.  These include sole, mere and maiden.  The following sentences are grammatical:

My sole intention is to delegate responsibilities.
The mere mention of his name made her angry.
Her maiden name is Edwards.

Other adjectives can only be used in predicate position.  These include afraid, alone and asleep.  The following sentences are grammatical:

The child was afraid.
He is alone.
Now the children are asleep.

A few adjectives can be used in both attributive and predicate position but the meaning is different.  Consider the following examples:

The secretary was present.
The present secretary is Linda O'Connor.

Robert Turner was late.
The late Robert Turner loved poetry.

English adjectives usually occur in both attributive and predicate position.  However, many adjectives are an exception.  A number only occur in one position- either in attributive or predicate.  Also, certain adjectives can occur in both positions but the meaning varies depending on the position in which they occur.


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