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What is a predicative adjective?

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Quick Answer

Adjectives in the predicative or postnominal position occur after forms of "to be" and other copular or linking verbs. They describe a quality of the subject noun. In contrast, attributive adjectives usually come directly before the noun they describe or qualify.

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Full Answer

Predicative adjectives, sometimes known as predicate adjectives or subject complements, usually but not always follow a copular or linking verb. Examples of these verbs include forms of "to be" and common linking verbs such as "become," "seem" and "feel." Sometimes the verb is implied but not directly stated as in, "They believed him [to be] insane" or "The report [that was] broadcast tonight was upsetting." Most adjectives can be both predicative or attributive depending on their position in relation to the noun they modify. For example, "beautiful" is predicative in the sentence, "The woman is beautiful" and attributive in the sentence, "The beautiful woman is an actress." Some adjectives can only be predicative. These include adjectives that begin with the a- prefix such as "asleep," health adjectives such as "well" or "faint" and adjectives that must be followed by a prepositional phrase or infinitive such as "inclined to disagree." Predicative adjectives also appear in front of a subject noun when used as appositives, as in the sentence, "Slender and graceful, the ballerina seemed to float across the stage."

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