Adjectives: Advanced

Attributive and predicative adjectives:

  • When an adjective precedes a noun, it is in an attributive position; when it follows the noun it is in a predicative position.

    The red book - Attributive
    The book is red - Predicative

  • Some linguists suggest that the predicative position is more sophisticated as it gives more emphasis to the adjective. However, the attributive position uses fewer words, giving greater lexical density. It is worth looking at the use of adjectives to explore how and why writers have positioned their adjectives. For example, restaurant menus often make considerable use of attributive adjectives (including nominalised adjectives) to create supposedly mouth-watering meal descriptions.

    Pan-fried chicken breast with wild sorrel and red pepper sauce.
    Warm wild mushroom salad with deep-fried polenta and balsamic dressing


  • Some grammars classify numbers as adjectives, whereas as others class them as determiners (see section on Determiners). There is a logic to choosing to class them as determiners because their role is to specify and determine quantity.


  • Both present participles (the -ing ending) and past participles (usually an -ed ending except in irregular verbs) can often be adjectives. Where they precede a noun there is rarely any confusion, as in a burning flame or a hardened criminal. But when they follow a noun/pronoun there is often less certainty and a decision has to be made about whether the participle is functioning more as a verb or an adjective. Some linguists suggest that where there is ambiguity consider the participle as a verb - only class it as an adjective where it is evidently adjectival.

    The learning game. - Adjective
    We are learning about grammar. - Verb

Very: adjective or adverb?

  • The word very needs some consideration. In everyday English usage very is most likely to be an adverb, intensifying the qualities of an adjective, as in very fast, very full, and very strong. But when very precedes a noun, it is an adjective with the semantic meaning of true or genuine or actual, as in that very day or it's the very thing.

Adjectives subject mainpage      Teaching Implications      Test yourself online

You are currently here: Word Classes > Adjectives > Advanced. The next page in this section is Teaching Implications.