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attributive adjective


attributive adjective

A series of attributive adjectives (from Analyzing the Grammar of English by R.V. Teschner and E.E. Evans, 2007)


An adjective that usually comes before the noun it modifies without a linking verb. Contrast with predicative adjective.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "There are two main kinds of adjectives: attributive ones normally come right before the noun they qualify, while predicative adjectives come after to be or similar verbs such as become and seem. Most adjectives can serve either purpose: we can speak of a 'happy family' and say 'the family appeared happy.' But some work only one way. Take the sentence 'Clergymen are answerable to a higher authority.' Answerable is exclusively a predicative; you could not refer to an 'answerable clergyman.' And higher is strictly attributive; you wouldn't normally say, 'The authority is higher.'

    "Attributive adjectives sometimes follow the model of French and come after the noun, as when we refer to accounts payable, something important, proof positive, matters philosophical, paradise lost, a battle royal, the heir apparent, stage left, time immemorial, or a Miller Lite."
    (Ben Yagoda, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It. Broadway Books, 2007)

  • "There are a significant number of adjectives which, either absolutely or with a certain meaning, are restricted to attributive function (e.g. mere, former, main) or excluded from it (e.g., alone, asleep, glad 'happy/please')."
    (Rodney Huddleston and Geoffrey K. Pullum, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2002)

  • "A beautiful form is better than a beautiful face; it gives a higher pleasure than statues or pictures; it is the finest of the fine arts.”
    (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

  • "Yes, as through this world I've wandered
    I've seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen."
    (Woody Guthrie, "Pretty Boy Floyd")
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