What is Predicate Adjective in English Grammar?

English grammar is very fickle. Because English is an amalgam of various European languages, it has many distinct parts that are governed by different rules. Memorizing so many different rules can become really difficult. That is why it is a clever idea to take things slowly and learn the rules one at a time.

What is Predicate Adjective in English Grammar?

Today we are going to learn about a particular type of adjective that is called the Predicate adjective. Predicate adjectives are a little more complex than standard adjectives. In this article, we will unravel their complexities and make it clear to you how to use predicate adjectives.

Definition of Predicate Adjective

The definition of a predicate adjective is as follows:

“A type of adjective that follows after a linking verb and modifies the subject of the sentence.”

Now all adjectives modify the subject of a sentence, but the difference between standard adjectives and predicate adjectives is their location in a sentence. A standard adjective is written just before the subject that they modify.

Here is an example:

“The big cat was napping.”

Here “big” is the adjective that attaches a quality to the subject which is “cat.” This is how standard adjectives are typically used. Contrary to this logic, are the predicate adjectives. They do not come before the subject, instead, they are placed after the subject that they modify. They also do not follow directly after the subject, instead, there is a linking verb between them.

Here is an example of a predicate adjective being used.

“The cat was happy.”

Here, “cat” is the subject, “was” is the linking verb, and “happy” is the predicate adjective. This brings us to another definition of the predicate adjective which is given below:

“A predicate adjective is an adjective that occurs in the predicate part of the sentence.”

Simply put, a predicate of a sentence is one of the two components required to make a complete clause. The predicate is the part that depicts a verb, an object, and any modifiers.

Now that we know about predicate adjectives, let us see how they are used in English writing, and what common errors people make when using them.

How to Use Predicate Adjectives Correctly

To use predicate adjectives effectively, you need to understand some key rules of grammar. Some of the most important things you need to know are:

  • Components of a sentence
  • Past participle and how it can function as an adjective.
  • Adverbs and their rules of modification

Now, these are all things that you need to have prior knowledge about otherwise you will not be able to correctly identify when and how to use predicate adjectives.

Here are a few examples to help you understand some of the intricacies of predicate adjectives.

1.      Predicate Adjectives Only Follow after a Linking Verb

Now, this may sound easy and straightforward but in practice could be difficult. Here is a clear example to show you how confusion can arise.

Incorrect sentence:

“The dog barked loud.”

“Loud” is the predicate adjective here, but it is incorrectly used, why? Because “barked” is not a linking verb, it is a complete action in itself. So, predicate adjectives cannot be used here.

The correct way of writing this sentence is as follows.

Correct sentence:

“The dog barked loudly.

Where loudly is the adverb, not an adjective. Knowing the difference between linking verbs and non-linking verbs is key; otherwise, you will make the mistake of using adjectives in place of adverbs.

2.      Keep In Mind the Context of the Verb

Some verbs can function as both normal verbs and linking verbs depending on the context. That means that you can use both adverbs and predicated adjectives with them. However, depending on what you use, the meaning of the sentence may change completely.

Here is an example showing this.

As Normal Verb:

He makes happily.”

In this example, we used the adverb “happily” to end the sentence. The meaning of this sentence is that the man makes things while being happy.

As Linking Verb:

He makes happy.

However, in this example. We have used a predicate adjective, meaning that “makes is now a linking verb. The meaning of this sentence is that the man makes other people (objects) happy.

So, you see how using adverbs and predicate adjectives can change the meaning of the sentence.

How To Avoid Mistakes When Using Predicate Adjectives

If you are learning about predicate adjectives, then it is safe to say that you will have problems using them correctly early on. So, how can you avoid making mistakes? Well, the answer is you cannot avoid mistakes, but you can detect and correct them during proofreading.

As you know, any writer worth their salt proofreads their work for all kinds of mistakes, and chief among them are grammar errors. Since misusing predicate adjectives also counts as a grammar error, they should be caught in thorough proofreading sessions.

But of course, if you are learning English, you will not be able to proofread well. That’s where online grammar-checking tools such as Grammarly, EditPad, and GrammarCheck are your friends.

Grammar checkers like these can detect all kinds of mistakes including the misuse of predicate adjectives. Here is an example showing the correct detection of such an error.

oid Mistakes When Using Predicate Adjectives

As you can see, the grammar checker also shows the right correction as well. So, you can use such tools to check whether you are using predicate adjectives correctly or not. Over time, you will develop a sense of when to use predicate adjectives and avoid using them incorrectly.


And that was it about predicate adjectives. Hopefully, you have learned a lot about using them and where they should be used. We left one thing out to avoid making the article too confusing, and that was the use of predicate nominatives instead of adjectives. You can follow the link to learn more about them once you are comfortable with using predicate adjectives.


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