Attributive adjective masterclass

This lesson helps us understand what an attributive adjective is, where it comes in a sentence, and how we identify it.

What is an attributive adjective in English?

Attributive adjective definition: An adjective that comes before the noun it modifies is called an attributive adjective. It is always a part of a noun phrase where it modifies the head of the noun phrase (noun/pronoun).

Attributive adjective

A smart man knows how to make things work.

The word ‘smart’ is an attributive adjective, coming before the noun ‘man‘ in the noun phrase ‘a smart man’ and modifying the noun ‘man’.

We are giving you a good offer. 

In the example, the word ‘good’ is an attributive adjective. It is a part of the noun phrase ‘a good offer’ and is modifying the noun ‘offer’.

The company is looking for some smart dedicated professionals.

We have two attributive adjectives in the sentence. They both are a part of the noun phrase ‘some smart dedicated professionals’ and modify the same noun ‘professionals’.

A noun can have one or more attributive adjectives in it.

  • They needed a young dancer. (one)
  • They needed a young Indian dancer. (two)
  • They needed a young talented Indian dancer. (three)

When there is more than one adjective from different classes, modifying a noun in a noun phrase, use the following order:

  1. Opinion or observation 
  2. Size
  3. Age 
  4. Shape
  5. Color
  6. Origin/nationality 
  7. Material
  8. Purpose


  • What a beautiful white car it is.
  • A nice black American man teaches me how to fight.
  • I don’t like anyone touching my cool brown leather shoes.

More examples of an attributive adjective in a sentence:

  • A motivated person can do anything in life.
  • The black car belongs to one of my good friends.
  • That was a blunt lie.
  • She is not an arrogant person; she sometimes fails to control her anger and calls a spade a spade.
  • The last fight was as good as advertised.
  • His younger sister works for an American company and takes care of the entire house.
  • Give me something nice to eat.
  • The man in the black hat was trying the steal the blue bike.
  • What a stupid thing you have done.
  • Going there alone is not a smart thing to do.

An attributive adjective doesn’t always come before the noun it modifies 

Attributive adjectives usually come before the noun they modify in a noun phrase, but it is possible for them to come after the noun they modify.

But it is pertinent to note that an attributive adjective doesn’t sit out of a noun phrase. It is always inside a noun phrase, before or after the noun it modifies in the noun phrase, almost always before it.

  • Say something nice about me

In this example, the word ‘nice’ is an attributive adjective. It is a part of the noun phrase ‘something nice’. Notice that it comes after the pronoun ‘something’ that it modifies, which usually doesn’t happen. But it is still a part of the phrase and is not sitting outside of it.

  • Nothing extraordinary has ever been achieved without facing fears and challenges.

The word ‘extraordinary’ is an attributive adjective. It is a part of the phrase ‘nothing extraordinary’, modifying the pronoun ‘nothing’ in it. 

Note that an attributive adjective modifies an indefinite pronoun when it doesn’t come before the noun/pronoun in a noun phrase. The words ‘something‘ and ‘nothing‘ used in the above examples are indefinite pronouns.

It does not always have to be an indefinite pronoun though. Study the following examples:

  • He is the best coder known to the company.
  • This is the best route available at the moment.
  • There are not many people fit for the job.

The adjective we see after the noun is a result of the reduction of an adjective clause. Let’s see how these sentences would look without the reduction.

  • He is the best coder that is known to the company.
  • This is the best route that is available at the moment.
  • There are not many people who are fit for the job.

Click here to learn how to reduce an adjective clause.

Attributive adjective vs predicate adjective 

A predicate adjective, unlike an attributive adjective, comes after the noun it modifies. It sits next to a linking verb and modifies the subject of the sentence. 

Please note when an attributive adjective comes after the noun/pronoun, it is a part of the noun phrase. Also, it does not come next to a linking verb. 

Attributive adjectives, on the other hand, always are a part of the noun phrase where they modify the headword of the noun phrase (noun/pronoun). The noun/pronoun an attributive adjective modifies often comes after the adjective but can also come before it, as we have seen in the above sentences.

Attributive adjectivesPredicate adjectives
You are a great teacher. You are talented.
The next lecture is going to be interesting.The class will be over shortly.
Our father is a wonderful singer.The students were rude to the teacher.
I know some good places to eat at. This place is good.

How to identify an attributive adjective in a sentence?

To identify an attributive adjective in a sentence, first, find out all nouns in the sentence. Half of our job is done here. Once a noun is identified, see if has an adjective sitting before it. If an adjective or many adjectives sit before a noun and give information about it, they fall into the category of an attributive adjective.

Use the following steps to identify an attributive adjective in a sentence:

a) Find out a noun phrase
b) check for an adjective that sits before the noun in the noun phrase

Find the attributive adjectives in the following sentences:

  1. Just give him some cold milk to drink.
  2. That was an interesting story.
  3. None of us knows where he hid the stolen money.
  4. I am looking for a vacant place to live in.
  5. Are you having a good day?


  1. cold
  2. interesting
  3. stolen
  4. vacant
  5. good


What is an example of an attributive adjective?

Examples of attributive adjectives:
1. She is a sweet girl.
2. Some unknown people came to my house last night.
3. He has a huge pool in his house.

What is an example of attributive and predicative adjectives?

Attributive adjective: That was an interesting story.
Predicate adjective: The story was interesting.

What is the rule for attributive adjectives?

An attributive is used in a noun phrase to modify the headword of the noun phrase: a noun. It often comes before the noun but may also come after it in a few cases. But it is always a part of the noun phrase whose headword (noun/pronoun) it modifies. 1. You are an amazing teacher. (noun phrase = an amazing teacher) 2. We need smart people for this. (noun phrase = smart people) 3. Indian movies are getting popular. (noun phrase = Indian movies) 4. I want to eat something tasty. (noun phrase = something tasty)

Now, we know what an attributive pronoun is and everything about it. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.

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Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

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