When I began to read articles related to English adjectives, I often encountered these two names: "predicative adjectives" and "attributive adjectives". It seems that the author thought that all the readers can understand the terminology and they didn't provide any explanations. So, I'm wondering what is the definition of "predicative adjective" and "attributive adjective". Can anyone provide me with some examples?
"Predicative adjective" and "attributive adjective" are essentially syntactic terms, not semantic ones.
Attributive adjectives are ones that appear inside a noun phrase, modifying a head noun. Adjectives which appear as the complements of verbs are termed predicative adjectives.
There are other syntactic functions that adjectives can have. For example, they can post-modify nouns: the presidents elect, in which case they are postpositive adjectives. They can be predicative adjuncts: I ate the pizza naked, for example.
Some adjectives only occur in a subset of these functions. The adjective alive, for example, is never used attributively:
- *an alive elephant
And elect cannot be attributive or predicative:
- *the president was elect
- *the elect president
The adjective sole can only be used attributively:
- the sole reason
- *the reason sole
- *the reason was sole
Usually when people write of predicative or attributive adjectives they are referring to a particular use of an adjective in a given example. Sometimes they'll be referring to adjectives which only occur in one of these syntactic positions (or a subset of them).
Semantics makes a fundamental distinction between subjects and predicates: some thing (the subject, like "Tom" or "cows") 'does' something though it can be a state or an action – that is the predicate. Example: the sentence "Tom saw a cat" has the predicate "saw a cat" and says that Tom did that thing, or, it asserts that it is true that Tom does that thing (having a cat). An example of a predicative adjective is "Tom is tall". There is also "predicate nominative" where Tom "is" some noun, like "Tom is a teacher".
An attributive adjective is an adjective that is within an NP and modifies the head noun, for example "the tall man", "an old goat". It usually serves to narrow the scope of the head noun, thus not all men or goats, just the tall or old ones.