What Is a Predicate Adjective? | Examples & Definition

Adverbs updated on  January 29, 2024 3 min read
Complete sentences usually have a subject and a predicate. The predicate contains the verb and tells us what the subject is doing or what it is.

A predicate adjective describes the subject within the predicate and is used with linking verbs. Linking verbs, such as “be,” indicate conditions or states of being rather than actions.

Predicate adjective examples
The singer’s smile was captivating.
Lucia seems very efficient and reliable.
Spicy food is delicious.

What is a predicate adjective?

A predicate adjective is an adjective that describes the subject of the sentence within the predicate.

The subject is the person or thing that the sentence is about. It is often being described, performing an action, or receiving an action (in sentences using the passive voice).

The predicate is the part of the sentence containing the verb and any objects or subject complements, and it tells us what the subject does or is.

Examples: Subjects, predicates, and predicate adjectives
The children seemed hungry.
That house looks very expensive.
Creatures that live in the depths of the ocean are difficult to study.

Predicate adjectives can be a single word, a string of adjectives, or an adjectival phrase.

Predicate adjectives examples
Your sweater feels soft.
The bridge looked old, rickety, and unsafe.
Spot was more intelligent than most dogs.

Note
While the usual sentence structure is “subject + linking verb + predicate adjective,” other structures where the predicate adjective doesn’t follow the linking verb are possible.

You look tired.
How tired you look.

Subject complements and linking verbs

A predicate adjective is a type of subject complement. To complement something means to improve it or make it complete, and linking verbs (e.g., “be,” “become,” “seem”) require subject complements to be complete.

In other words, linking verbs are always accompanied by subject complements.

Linking verbs and subject complements describe or redefine the subject, while an action verb describes something the subject does or has done to it.

Note
Some verbs, such as sense verbs (e.g., “sound,” “taste,” “smell”), can be either linking verbs or action verbs depending on the context. To determine whether a verb is a linking verb, you can replace it with a conjugated form of “be” to see if it still makes sense. If so, even if the meaning is slightly different, it’s probably a linking verb.

Mariya looked beautiful. → Mariya was beautiful.
Mariya looked up. → Mariya was up.

Predicate nominatives are another type of subject complement. Prepositional phrases and adverbs of place or time can also function as subject complements, usually only following “be.”

Examples: Other types of subject complement
That dog is a labradoodle.
The keys are in the door.
My anniversary was yesterday.

Note
Adverbs of manner (e.g., “loudly,” “quickly”) cannot be used as a subject complement. Use the adjective form instead (e.g., “loud,” “quick”).

Tara felt badly about what she’d said.
Tara felt bad about what she’d said.

Only use adverbs of manner following action verbs and some stative verbs to describe the action or state rather than the subject.

Tara played badly because she had hurt her ankle.

The QuillBot Grammar checker can help ensure you use adjectives and adverbs correctly.

Predicate nominatives vs predicate adjectives

Predicate nominatives (aka predicate nouns) are another type of subject complement; they are nouns or pronouns that follow linking verbs and identify or redefine the subject.

Predicate adjectives, however, are adjectives or adjectival phrases that follow linking verbs and describe the subject.

Examples: Other types of subject complement
The salad was a healthy and filling meal.
The salad was healthy and filling.

The journey will be a long one.
The journey will be long.

Predicative adjective quiz

Test your understanding of predicate adjectives by answering these practice quiz questions.

Do you want to know more about common mistakes, commonly confused words, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.


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Parts of speech

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Diamond in the rough

Irregular verb

Slippery slope fallacy

Idioms

Gerund

Sunk cost fallacy

Piece of cake

Infinitive phrase

Red herring fallacy

Better late than never

Infinitive

Appeal to authority fallacy

Salt of the earth

Adverb

Circular reasoning fallacy


Frequently asked questions about predicate adjective

What’s the difference between a predicate noun and a predicate adjective?

Predicate nouns are also known as predicate nominatives. They are a type of subject complement—they follow linking verbs to identify or redefine the subject. They are always nouns or pronouns (e.g., “Winston is a plumber”).

Predicate adjectives are also subject complements, but they are adjectives or adjectival phrases that describe the subject (e.g., “Winston is funny”).

What’s the difference between a predicate adjective and an attributive adjective?

An attributive adjective is an adjective that comes directly before or after the noun it modifies (e.g., “a tall person could reach that for you,” “someone tall could reach that for you”).

Predicate adjectives are adjectives or adjectival phrases that follow linking verbs and describe the subject within the predicate. They are almost always separated from the noun they modify by a linking verb (e.g., “that person is tall”).

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Sophie Shores

Sophie has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Publishing, and a passion for great writing. She’s taught English overseas and has experience editing both business and academic writing.

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