Predicate adjectives modify the subject of a sentence. Unlike attributive adjectives, they appear after a linking verb in the predicate of the sentence.
She is blue.
In the example above, the word “blue” functions as a predicate adjective. The subject of the sentence is “she,” and the predicate consists of the phrase “is blue.” Since the word “blue” is an adjective and shows up in the predicate, then it stands to reason that “blue” is a predicate adjective.
Within this article, we will give you the tools to identify predicate adjectives whenever they occur. After learning about this part of speech and seeing examples in context, you’ll have the chance to test your knowledge with an interactive exercise.
What Is a Predicate Adjective?
A predicate adjective modifies the subject of a sentence. Unlike attributive adjectives, they appear after a linking verb. An attributive adjective also modifies the subject, but it appears in a different area of the sentence, as part of the complete subject.
Let’s explore the difference between the two types of adjectives.
The soup tastes spicy.
The spicy soup sits on the counter.
Both sentences use the word “spicy” to describe the subject of the sentence, the soup. In the first sentence, the adjective “spicy” comes after a linking verb in the predicate. In contrast, the second sentence includes the word “spicy” as part of the complete subject, “the spicy soup.” Therefore, “spicy” acts as an attributive adjective in the second sentence and a predicate adjective in the first sentence.
Predicate Adjectives and Linking Verbs
Since we know that predicate adjectives always appear after linking verbs, it can be useful to understand more about linking verbs and how to identify them.
Some of the most common linking verbs include:
Sometimes, these linking verbs combine with auxiliary verbs to form serial verbs, also called compound verbs, such as “shall taste” or “would remain.” Serial verbs often function as linking verbs when they include one of the linking verbs listed above.
Here’s a sample sentence:
Did the lesson seem dull?
In the sentence above,”the lesson” is the complete subject. “Did” is an auxiliary verb, and “seem” is a linking verb. “Dull” functions as a predicate adjective.
Some linking verbs operate as action verbs, as well, depending on their context. For example, someone can taste an object, smell an object, or become an object. Predicate adjectives do not appear after action verbs.
In the following sentences, notice how the word “become” functions as both a linking verb and an action verb.
Sarah becomes angry.
Sarah becomes a zombie.
Obviously, “zombie” is not a predicate adjective. First of all, “zombie” is not an adjective; it’s a noun. Plus, “becomes” functions as an action verb in the second sentence, so the noun phrase does not follow a linking verb. Neither criteria for a predicate adjective is met.
Predicate Adjective vs. Predicate Nominative
Now, let’s take one of the sentences above and alter it slightly.
Sarah is a zombie.
In the example above, we’ve traded the action verb for a linking verb, but we still have a problem. “A zombie” is still a noun phrase, not an adjective.
Here, “zombie” is a predicate nominative (noun) rather than a predicate adjective. Anytime a linking verb is followed by a person, place, thing, or idea, that noun or noun phrase functions as a predicate nominative. Both predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives are predicative words, meaning that they appear in the predicate.
When you see a noun in the predicate, it doesn’t always serve as a predicate nominative. In some cases, it is an object. Predicate nominatives always follow linking verbs. Since some verbs can be both action and linking verbs, try substituting the verb with “equals” to determine whether the noun that follows is a predicate nominative or an object.
Sam tastes the soup.
Does Sam equal soup? No. That quick test tells us that “soup” functions as an object here, not as a predicate nominative. In the sentence above, “tastes” is an action verb.
Let’s try the same test with a different sentence.
My homework remains a challenge.
Does homework equal a challenge? Yes. “Remains” functions as a linking verb and “challenge” is a predicate nominative in this example.
Compound Predicate Adjective
Sometimes, people list more than one predicate adjective along with a conjunction. We call this group of words a compound predicate adjective.
He grew tired, cranky, and sullen throughout the long day.
In the example above, the compound predicate adjective consists of the conjunction “and”, as well as three adjectives.
Depending who you ask, Latin exams can be tricky or impossible.
This compound predicate adjective consists of two adjectives, “impossible” and “tricky”, and a conjunction.
Predicate Adjectives Examples in Context
Below, we’ve pulled some sentences from contemporary news articles. Bold typeface should help you locate the predicate adjectives in each sentence.
“The encounter was captured on videos posted on social media where villagers said the orangutan looked hungry and weak.”
—Yahoo! News, “New friends: An orangutan makes itself at home in a village of humans”
“But I think it’s more fun and more interesting if it actually is a weird galaxy.”
—Gizmodo, “Hubble Space Telescope Takes Another Look at ‘Weird’ Galaxy That Seems to Lack Dark Matter”
“After recovering from the virus she was able to taste and smell again, but months later, everything tastes and smells rotten to her.”
—KCCI Des Moines, “Des Moines woman says everything tastes, smells rotten months after COVID-19 diagnosis”
“Cold emailing has become perfectly normal.”
—Fast Company, “How to branch out into a new industry without quitting your job”
“The aspects of motherhood that lower happiness are obvious and specific, from meltdowns in the supermarket to calls from the principal’s office.”
—The Atlantic, “How Adult Children Affect Their Mother’s Happiness”
Quiz: Predicate Adjectives vs. Attributive Adjectives
Look at the following sentences and decide whether the bolded adjective is an attributive adjective or a predicate adjective.
- Mom looked and felt angry.
- Are verb forms hard to remember?
- The most interesting topics had all been taken.
- The bosses sounded tired today on the conference call.
- Maya Angelou became famous as a writer.
- If you ask me, the blue blanket would make a nice gift.
- Important details remain missing from the brief.
- The costume proved uncomfortable after a few hours.
- In the Spanish language, pronouns don’t seem easy.
- The print ad featured a beautiful photograph.
Answers: 1) Predicate 2) Predicate 3) Attributive 4) Predicate 5) Predicate 6) Attributive 7) Attributive 8) Predicate 9) Predicate 10) Attributive
- More Examples of Predicate Adjectives | YourDictionary
- Verbs: types – English Grammar Today | Cambridge Dictionary
- Serial Verbs | Oxford Scholarship
- The Difference Between Predicate Nominative vs. Predicate Adjective | Thesaurus.com
- Action Verbs and Linking Verbs | Gallaudet University
- New friends: An orangutan makes itself at home in a village of humans | Yahoo!News
- Des Moines woman says nearly everything tastes and smells rotten months after COVID-19 diagnosis | KCCI
- Hubble Takes Another Look at Galaxy That Seems to Lack Dark Matter | Gizmodo
- 3 Ways to Make Your Mom Happier on Mother’s Day | The Atlantic