Predicative Adjectives

What are Predicative Adjectives?

Descriptive adjectives are used to provide further details to nouns in clauses and sentences. But unlike other types of adjectives, descriptive ones make sentences more interesting as they create more solid imagery. They describe what you think about a subject and give information about its shape, color, origin, material, purpose, etc. The term “predicative” refers to the placement of these descriptive adjectives. Predicative or predicate adjectives appear after their antecedents (the nouns or pronouns they modify) and commonly follow linking verbs. Let’s look at the following sentences (predicative adjectives are in bold, while their antecedents are in italics):

  • Rickie’s dog looks humungous.
  • We felt so relaxed because the hotel we stayed in was awesome.
  • Jin’s manners have always been polite, which is why everyone likes him.
  • The weather feels strange in the city today.
  • Belinda wanted to buy the painting but it wasn’t available when she called.

A predicative adjective’s counterpart is called an attributive adjective. An attributive adjective sometimes appears postpositively or after the verb, which can be confusing to English language learners. The trick to distinguish one from the other is that postpositive adjectives appear immediately after their antecedents, which means there are no other words in between them. Here are some examples of postpositive adjectives with the whole adjective phrase in italics and the postpositive adjective in bold:

  • Mari was thinking about something else during the meeting.
  • He’s the smartest man alive in my book.
  • I don’t want anyone frowning at the photoshoot. 
  • Feya likes anything pink so looking for a gift won’t be hard.
  • This is the biggest dollhouse available at the store.

Predicative Adjectives Rules

ComparativeDescriptive adjectives can be used to compare two nouns or pronouns. They end with the suffix -er or use the words more or less. They are considered predicative or predicate adjectives if they follow linking verbs.– This lecture is more interesting than the last one.
– Henrick is smarter than his predecessor.
– A lighter shade of orange is more appealing
SuperlativeWe use the superlative form of adjectives when comparing more than two nouns or pronouns. It ends with the suffixes -st, -est, or -ist or uses the words most or least. The word “the” also appears before them. – Her restaurant’s opening is the most successful.
– I am the happiest in the world because of you.
– This font is the least attractive of the bunch.
IrregularThere are a few adjectives that change spelling in their comparative and superlative forms. Study the examples and use the appropriate spelling when making comparisons.bad:

– worse (comparative)
– worst (superlative)


– better (comparative)
– best (superlative)


– farther (comparative)
– farthest (superlative)
Attributive-only AdjectivesSome adjectives can only be used attributively and will always appear before their antecedents.– It was the main reason that we came here. (never “the reason was main“)
– She is Ryland’s eldest daughter. (never “daughter eldest“)
– Willie is the former manager of the branch. (never “manager former“)
OrderMultiple adjectives can be used to modify a single noun or pronoun. If the adjectives describe different aspects of a subject (e.g. size, shape, origin, etc.), they must follow a grammatical order.– His house’s back wall has many unusual stencil markings. (not “many stencil unusual markings…”)
– We made seven colorful lanterns for the party. (not “colorful seven lanterns…”)
– These are expensive dinner plates. (not “dinner expensive plates…”)
Predicative Adjectives Rules Table
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Examples of Predicative Adjectives

Here are more examples of predicative adjectives in sentences:  

1. A new English grammatical category is always confusing for old learners.

2. The construction guys look exhausted after a whole day of scaffolding.

3.  John looks healthier than the last time we saw him.

4. Their agreement seems solid but they need to put it in writing.

5. Blackwell Hospital has several round brick ponds on its grounds.

6. Your numbers are still good but this quarter is the least productive so far.

7. Phoebe’s writing in her advice column has been uncharacteristic lately.

8. My professor agreed that the essay’s overall sentence structure seems careless.

9. Lilljana is knowledgeable in the so-called biology of language.

10. It is dark and gloomy today so we decided to stay in and binge-watch a TV show.

Predicative Adjectives Exercises with Answers

Exercise on Predicative Adjectives

Decide whether the adjectives in bold are attributive or predicative:

1. Delia was applying exfoliating toner on Sandra’s pimply face.

2. My sister was exasperated as she told her side of the story.

3. This might be a dumb idea but why don’t you just try to be honest with him?

4. Is there supposed to be a hidden message somewhere inside this room?

5. His voice was astonishing, even more so because we didn’t know he could sing.

6. Very few people think Jackson is humorous and I’m one of them.

7. Miyaki wanted everybody to hang out by the backyard pool.

8. Gian thought the bougainvillea was dying so he watered it more than usual.

9. Tim looked touched when he realized I made his birthday present by hand.

10. A huge tree was blocking our view of the vineyard outside the villa we rented.


1. attributive

2. predicative

3. attributive

4. attributive

5. predicative

6. attributive

7. predicative

8. predicative

9. attributive

10. predicative

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Predicative Adjectives List

Below is a table of adjectives listed by category. In instances when two or more adjectives describe a single noun or pronoun, use the numbered sequence as a guide to their correct grammatical order. 

1quantitytwo, whole, half, a third, many
2opinionheavenly, astounding, regrettable, scorching, famished
3sizebig, massive, gigantic, small, medium
4physical qualitygood-looking, heavyset, lanky, withered, sinewy
5shapespherical, round, angular, geometric, curved
6age/conditionvintage, old, odd, modern, new
7colormagenta, orange, auburn, ochre, aqua
8origin/ethnicity/subjectKorean, Filipino, Buddhist, African American, Inuit
9materialstone, fur, leather, clay, jade
10purposeprimary, boiling, main, scientific, technical
Predicative Adjective Categories Table

Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

Using descriptive adjectives in sentences makes your language clearer and more exact. It will allow you to express thoughts in a much more articulate way and help people to understand them better. Adjectives can be incredibly persuasive and effective; they can make ordinary sentences become evocative and memorable.

Additionally, with a vast diversity of synonyms coordinating each adjective, the ability to utilize them will make the different levels or intensity of ideas much easier to share. For instance, someone who is “lonely” may not be as sad as one who feels “disheartened.” Similarly, a “breathtaking” view is very different from one that’s simply “nice.”

Adjectives can be applied to any subject of conversation using the English language. This great selection of words can be intimidating for English language learners, so recognizing each type of adjective and becoming familiar with them is necessary in order to use them properly. Taking time to look through various sources and practice regularly would greatly improve your English proficiency. With that in mind, making mistakes is inevitable and natural.

The following sections will go over common mistakes made by English students when using adjectives and suitable learning approaches for mastering them effectively. Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand Appositive Adjectives and Attributive Adjectives.

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Common Errors Made by English Learners

There are more than a dozen types and sub-types of adjectives. Being confused while learning them can be expected. In order to keep yourself from making the same mistakes over and over again, you must be aware of the usual errors. Study the table below that details such pitfalls regarding descriptive and predicative adjectives so you can avoid them and use adjectives correctly.

Common ErrorsExplanation
Postpositive vs Predicative AdjectivesPostpositive adjectives go directly after the nouns they modify with no other words in between them. These instances are usually rare. For example “I need someone else to organize the picnic.”

On the other hand, predicative adjectives go after linking verbs, which separate them from their antecedents. The modified word appears before the verb while the predicative adjective follows the verb. Linking verbs include forms of -be and “sense” verbs such as sound and feel. For example, “They seem eager this morning.”
Attributives and PredicativesMost adjectives can be used both attributively and predicatively, but there are some that are attributive-only or predicative-only. An “alone man” and a “wife future” are both wrong grammatically.
Recognizing Word FunctionsSeveral adjectives and adverbs have identical forms. So you need to check their antecedents to make sure that you’ve correctly identified your modifiers. Words describing nouns and pronouns are always adjectives. And words modifying verbs, adjectives, or adverbs are adverbs.

For example, in the sentence “They studied hard.” the word “hard” is an adverb because it’s modifying the verb “studied.”

In the clause “a hard subject,” the word “hard” is an adjective because it’s describing the noun “subject.” 
Linking VerbsDescriptive adjectives (NOT adverbs) follow verbs such as the forms of -be, appear, become, get, and seem.

– The dog is fluffy.

The adjective fluffydirectly follows the form of “to be” (is, in this case).

Descriptive adjectives (again, NOT adverbs) also follow verbs that express senses like ‘feel, look, sound, smell, and taste:

– Carrie felt nervous!
– This fabric feels amazing!
– Taejin looks great in his country’s native attire.
Predicative Adjectives Common Errors Table
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Learning Strategies and Best Practices with Predicative Adjectives

To establish a strong foundation when learning about predicative adjectives and adjectives in general, you must:

  • study the different types of adjectives.
  • familiarize yourself with the correct position of attributive and predicative adjectives in sentences.
  • learn the grammatical sequence when multiple adjectives are modifying a single noun.
Learning StrategiesExplanation
Language ListsSelf-directed studying is necessary when learning any language. Grammar lists, tables, and charts are very useful resources. They can describe any grammatical concept in a comprehensive way. The best ones contain all the rules plus useful sentence examples that make any grammatical concept easy to compare with each other and simple to remember.
Language ExposureListening to podcasts, binge-watching your favorite TV shows, scrolling through social media posts, using interactive learning software, and so on establishes a strong familiarity with how native English speakers communicate in different contexts. This method increases your linguistic instincts when you begin to use the same expressions when similar contexts happen in your daily life.  Moreover, learning adjectives opens you up to a robust and extensive vocabulary, which later on will boost your communication skills.
Language ExchangeUse the things you learn in English classes and self-study sessions in the real world. This is the only sure way to reach a high aptitude in English communication. Organize study groups or use your time well by talking regularly to friends who also study and speak English, both native and non-native alike. In time, your proficiency will develop organically and you’ll achieve a great balance between academic learning and practical language use. 
Predicative Adjectives Learning Strategies Table
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Predicative Adjectives Frequently Asked Questions

You can only identify whether an adjective is predicative or attributive by using it in a sentence. Predicative adjectives are separated from their antecedent by linking verbs, after which they are placed.

Here are 5 examples of predicative adjectives:

1. Your dog looks happy during the bath.
2. He seems scared of crossing the river.
3. Mona’s neighbors are Chinese and they get along well.
4. Maria Elena’s kitchen smells divine on Sundays.
5. Lim’s summer cabin looks even more amazing in the spring.

Attributive adjectives can go before or after a verb. The identifying mark is that they appear directly before or after their antecedents. Here are 5 examples:

1. Have you ever heard the whines of a thirsty man?
2. The best cake imaginable can be found at this little bakery.
3. The old quarter is bustling with activity this afternoon.
4. Their family is looking for someone else to do their landscaping.
5. It’s a clandestine meeting under surveillance by the police.

They’re not the same, but they can be, with one describing how the adjective is formed and the other describing where the adjective is placed in a sentence. Note that the term “predicative” refers to the position of the adjective in a sentence.

A predicative adjective comes after its antecedent and follows a linking verb. The term “participial,” on the other hand, describes a kind of adjective that’s taken from the present and past participle forms of verbs. For example, “The teacher is boring.” The word “boring” is a participial adjective placed predicatively.

Here are the other types of adjectives, excluding descriptive, attributive, and predicative adjectives:

1. articles – a, an, the
2. possessive adjectives – my, your, his, her, its, our, their
3. demonstrative adjectives – these, those, this, that
4. distributive adjectives – any, both, each, every, either, neither
5. interrogative adjectives – which, what, whose (used in questions)
6. number adjectives – anything that answers the question “how many”?
7. indefinite adjectives – no, many, any, few, several
8. appositive adjectives – adjective or adjectives that function like appositive nouns
9. absolute adjectives – entire, minor, fatal, unique, unanimous
10. proper adjectives – Shakespearean, Thai, French, Martian, Lovecraftian
11. cumulative adjectives – a series of adjectives from different categories describing the same noun
12. coordinate adjectives – a series of adjectives from the same categories describing the same noun
13. compound adjectives – twenty-fifth, non-native, up-to-date, line-by-line, well-defined
14. participial adjectives – satisfying, shocked, annoyed, falling, breaking
15. denominal adjectives – mathematical, Russian, woolen, Jewish, Rubenesque
16. nominal or substantive adjectives – the strongest, the few, the French, the rich, the poor.

The following are the complete adjective categories and their grammatical sequence:

1. quantity
2. opinion
3. size
4. physical quality
5. shape
6. age/condition
7. color
8. origin/ethnicity/subject
9. material
10. purpose

Remember that to avoid wordiness or confusing sentences, try not to use more than three adjectives to describe a single subject. Using four can be done under proper circumstances and requires a certain amount of expertise. 

The terms attributive and predicative are used to identify the placement of adjectives in a sentence. As covered in this article, attributive adjectives go immediately before or after the words they modify and may appear before or after the sentence’s main verb, while predicative adjectives come after their antecedents and following verbs.

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