Are you familiar with our friend, the adjective? It’s a word that illustrates or modifies nouns. Since that’s a pretty big pair of shoes to fill, there are many different kinds of adjectives. You’ve got demonstrative adjectives, proper adjectives, comparative adjectives, superlative adjectives, and more.
Perhaps one of the most difficult to explain is the predicate adjective. Sometimes these adjectives are called subject complements. Let’s set aside the beefy terminology for a moment and get right down to the heart of the matter. It’s helpful to begin with a quick review of subjects and predicates, so that’s just what we’ll do.
A sentence expresses a complete thought, as opposed to a phrase or clause that, while informative, doesn’t complete the whole thought. All sentences have a subject and predicate.
The subject is the person, place, thing, or idea that the sentence is about. It can be a noun, a pronoun, or a noun phrase. The predicate explains something further about the subject, like what it did or how it looks.
A simple sentence with a noun for the subject and a verb for the predicate is “Mary jogs.” Mary is the noun and subject. “Jogs” explains something further about the subject.
All this means to say is that a predicate adjective modifies the subject of the sentence. In the sentence “The flowers are blue,” the subject is “the flowers” while “blue” modifies the subject. The two are connected by a linking verb. Easy enough, right? Ok, let’s take a look at linking verbs.
There are several linking verbs that have a special function when it comes to predicate adjectives. These verbs are unique because they connect the subject with the descriptive adjective. In addition to the verb “to be” these linking verbs include:
When you see one of these verbs in a sentence, it’ll help you spot the predicate adjective. Just remember, these verbs are only linking verbs when they’re followed by adjectives, nouns, or pronouns that rename the subject.
So, it’s pretty clear predicate adjectives come after the noun they’re modifying, but what about those adjectives you’ve seen before the noun? Those would be attributive adjectives.
Instead of saying, “My dog is black but we’re still going for a walk in the sun,” we can simply say, “My black dog and I are going for a walk in the sun.”
Both forms are grammatically correct. The first version, containing the predicate adjective, might be a bit “wordy” for some people, while the second version, containing the attribute adjective, gets to the point a little faster. However, neither version is wrong.
Let’s go through each of the linking verbs above and study examples of predicate adjectives. The amount of possibilities is nearly limitless, but the number of linking verbs is very limited.
For more practice, see if you can replace the predicate adjectives in each example with another predicate adjective that would also work.
In the examples below, the predicate adjective is in bold and the linking verb is in italics. Here goes:
Do you see how the linking verbs connect the subject of the sentence to the predicate adjectives? Would you have been able to replace any of the predicate adjectives above for another one? In many instances, yes. However, it would’ve changed the meaning of the sentence.
Some might argue that predicate adjectives are the trickiest members of the adjectival family, however, once you understand that they modify the subject of the sentence and always follow it, things should fall into place more easily.
Now, you’ve grasped the relationship between subject-linking verb-predicate adjective, coast for a little with a simpler study on Adjective Phrase Examples. These are simply phrases containing more than one adjective. Easy, right? Here’s to all the future adjective experts of the world!