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.

 Image Courtesy:

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.

Related pages

oxymoron meaning in hindiwhat is the difference between baking and roastingwhat is adjective phrase with examplesname some cereals and pulsesdifference between pernicious anemia and b12 deficiencycapacitive reactance definitionsn1 or sn2is barley a starchethyl alcohol chemical formuladifference between pollination and fertilizationwhat is the difference between primary succession and secondary successionhunan vs szechuan chickenhow to find the area of the regular polygontraditional absorption costing exampleauxiliary nurse definitionshinkansen maglev traindifference between pending and impendingrelish chutney differencedifference between pollination and fertilisationrelationship between dewpoint and humiditypeasants and serfs in the middle agesdifference between american bulldog and pitbulldefinition of deception in psychologyaunt spellingdifferentiate accuracy from precisiondotson dachshundluminescence fluorescence differenceligand field splittingdifference between porifera and cnidariaconfessional poetry definitionwhat is the difference between minerals and rocksdeclarative imperativealpha helix beta sheet differencehow to measure centripetal forcedeceleration in physicsprokaryotic translationproperties of aliphatic hydrocarbonsgolden labrador vs golden retrieverchemical properties of alkanes alkenes and alkyneswhat is a closed syllable worddelhi to udhampur trainwhat is the difference between polar and nonpolar bondsdifference between chloroplast and chlorophylldifference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic replicationtuff wordsanalyses pluralacute and chronic hepatitis ci wonder as i wander poemshape of bacillihomophonic pun examplesadjective clause and adverb clausemalamute vs husky puppiespure substance chemistryfairy pixiesenglish mastiff life spandifference between fable and parableb6 vs b12harbour meaning in hindiexample of confessional poetryfacetiousness definitiondifferent types of adverbsdefine dominant recessivebuild in past tensewhat is the difference between horsepower and torquedifference between finite verb and non finite verbstructure isopropyl alcoholzener breakdownrelation between inflation and unemploymentdelusion and hallucinationminiature dotsondifference between overweight and obesedifference between structuralism and functionalism psychologydefine dysentarydefine moan