When you describe the subject of a sentence with an adjective, you're using a predicate adjective. Like other adjectives, predicate adjectives modify nouns — but they're used a little bit differently in the sentence. Keep reading to learn what a predicate adjective is and how it works in various sentences.
Predicate Adjective: What It Is and How It Works
What Is a Predicate Adjective?
A predicate adjective is a type of subject complement. To understand what a subject complement is and how it works, you need to know about the two main parts of a sentence: the subject and the predicate.
- The subject of a sentence performs the action.
For example: The dog barked at the cat.
- The predicate of a sentence shows what the subject is doing.
For example: The dog barked at the cat.
You probably already know that an adjective modifies or describes a noun. When an adjective modifies the subject but is found in the predicate of the sentence, it's a predicate adjective. Examples of predicate adjectives include:
- The dog is cute.
- The dog appears happy.
- The dog looks sick.
Anything that follows the linking verb is a subject complement. In these sentences, cute, happy and sick are adjectives that describe the subject of the sentence (the dog). That makes them predicate adjectives.
Using Linking Verbs for Predicate Adjectives
In order to use a predicate adjective, you need to connect it to the subject with a linking verb. Linking verbs include all versions of the verb "to be," as well as:
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.
Examples of Predicate Adjectives
Once you understand more about predicate adjectives, you'll find that they're easy to spot in a sentence. Take a look at several example sentences that use the linking verbs above.
- Elizabeth is hungry.
- Grapes become shriveled in the sun.
- You seem tired today.
- The boy grows older each day.
- The mood ring turns purple in the sun.
- The homework proves difficult for her.
- The painting looks beautiful.
- My blanket feels soft.
- The pizza smells delicious.
- It tastes better.
- The music sounds quiet.
- The weather appears nice.
- The mood stayed relaxed and happy all night.
- The family kept calm.
- The judge remains steadfast in his decision.
You can also use adjective phrases as predicate adjectives if you include linking verbs. For example, in the sentence "Elizabeth is extremely hungry," extremely hungry is a verb phrase linked to the subject (Elizabeth) with the helping verb "is."
Participles as Predicate Adjectives
Predicate adjectives don't always have to be adjectives! Participles (also known as participial adjectives) are verbs that function as adjectives by describing more about a noun. You can use both past participles and present participles as predicate adjectives.
Examples of participles as predicate adjectives include:
- My cousin is annoying.
- That cake looks tempting.
- Skyler felt disappointed.
- The restaurant seems closed.
- Our cat is missing.
It's also effective to use participial phrases as predicate adjectives. In the sentence "Skyler felt disappointed about losing the race," the participial phrase is disappointed about losing the race. It describes even more about what the subject (Skyler) is doing in the sentence.
Predicate Adjectives vs. Predicate Nominatives
Nouns can also follow linking verbs, but they function a little differently from predicate adjectives. When you use a linking verb between a subject and a noun, you've created a predicate nominative, or predicate noun. These nouns rename the subject rather than describe more about it.
- My sister is a florist.
- Mr. Patel was a millionaire.
- I have been a barista for many years.
- Your talent is a gift.
- This investment could be a risk.
Notice that the subject complements here are nouns, not adjectives. While they tell us more about the subject, they are effectively renaming those nouns, not describing them.
Predicate Adjectives vs. Attributive Adjectives
Now you know that 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.
- predicate adjective - My car is black.
- attributive adjective - My black car is parked around the corner.
- predicate adjective - This soup tastes delicious.
- attributive adjective - This delicious soup would be perfect for lunch.
- predicate adjective - Your brother has been so helpful today.
- attributive adjective - Your helpful brother filed all my paperwork for me.
Both types of adjectives are grammatically correct. As you can see, it depends on what you're trying to say in your sentence. Using predicate adjectives helps you describe more about the subject, but using attributive adjectives allows you to convey more information in a sentence.
Complementing the Subject
Some might argue 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. Using predicate adjectives help you vary your sentence structure, making your writing more satisfying to read.