Difference Between Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

Main Difference – Attributive vs Predicative Adjectives

Adjectives can be divided into two categories based on their position in a sentence. Adjectives can occur both before and after a noun. These two positions are called attributive position and predicative position. When an adjective occurs before a noun, it is in the attributive position and that adjective is called an attributive adjective. When an adjective occurs after a noun, it is in the predicative position and the adjective is called a predicative adjective. Therefore, the main difference between attributive and predicative adjectives is that attributive adjectives occur before the noun whereas predicative adjectives occur after the noun. Most adjectives in the English language can be used as both attributive and predicative adjectives.

In this article, we’ll look at,

1. What are Attributive Adjectives? – Position, Usage, and Examples

2. What are Predicative Adjectives? –  Position, Usage, and Examples

3. Difference Between Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

Difference Between Attributive and Predicative Adjectives - infographic

What are Attributive Adjectives

When an adjective occurs before the noun it describes, it is called an attributive adjective. Attributive adjectives are modifiers of nouns. For example,

The pretty girl smiled at me.

He opened the wooden door.

She was carrying a heavy suitcase.

Marian was the tenth applicant.

This vicious, horrible crime was committed by a mad man.

Most adjectives can be used in the attributive and predicative positions.

Pretty girl – the girl is pretty

Mad man – the man is mad

Heavy suitcase – the suitcase looks heavy

However, some adjectives can only be used in the attributive position. Adjectives such as live, mere, elder, little, and sheer are some examples for this type of adjectives.

This shop doesn’t sell live animals.  (Animals that are still alive)

He lives in a little house. (A house that is small)

I met his elder sister. (Sister who is older)

Difference Between Attributive and Predicative Adjectives

The pink boots and pink umbrella

What are Predicative Adjectives

Predicative adjectives are the adjectives that occur after the noun. Predicative adjectives always follow a linking verb. Predicative adjectives also act as a subject complement.  For example,

He is sad.

This apple is red.

My mother looks tired.

Our music teacher was very angry.

This area is dangerous.

As seen from the above examples, predicative adjectives always follow a verb, but this verb is not an action verb. Predicative adjectives always follow linking verbs. 

Some adjectives only occur in the predicative position; they can never occur in the attributive position. Given below are some examples of non-attributive adjectives.

The house was ablaze.

She was alone.

He felt that something was amiss.

She was utterly bereft.

Main Difference - Attributive vs Predicative Adjectives

The apples are green.

Difference Between Attributive and Predicative Adjectives


Attributive Adjectives precede the noun they modify.

Predicative Adjectives follow the noun they modify.


Attributive Adjectives can be used with both action and linking verbs.

Predicative Adjectives occur immediately after a linking verb.

Subject Complement

Attributive Adjectives do not act as subject complements. 

Predicative Adjectives can act as subject complements.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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