I am confused with the notion of predicative adjective and attributive adjective.

I searched about two notions and found out that all adjectives can be used both predicative and attributive way.

However, I am still not able to distinguish two functions.

What is the major difference of them and which circumstances I can use them separately?

  • There are a few odd adjectives that can't swing both ways. Gala, for instance, must be attributive: a gala party, but not *the party was gala. As for usage, a predicate adjective acts like the verb in a clause (it follows the subject, in other words), and always shows up with an auxiliary be. An attributive adjective normally precedes the noun it modifies (predicate adjectives don't modify anything -- they're being verbs, not modifiers). If it's in a noun phrase, it's attributive; if it's in a verb phrase and not a noun phrase, it's predicative. – John Lawler May 23 '18 at 16:32
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    @JohnLawler Thanks! I really help me to understand the concept:) However, about adjective 'dead', you said predicate adjectives don't modify anything, but Isn't an adjective 'dead' can modify noun..? Like "He is dead" and "dead man". Or this adjective is used as both predicative and attributive in separate sentences? Like complementary distribution? – Belle May 24 '18 at 5:14
  • "Modify" is a grammatical term. It means one word in a constituent (like a noun phrase) is subordinate to another one. Attributive adjectives are like that -- the old man is a noun phrase, and old modifies man in it. But The man is old the old is not modifying anything -- as I said, it's acting like a verb and verbs don't modify their subjects. You may have been told that "modify" has to do with describing something; that's not true. Every word describes something, after all. That's not a test or a definition; better forget it. – John Lawler May 24 '18 at 14:57

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