why is 'late' adjective in the below sentence ? I didn't understand why. It is like a verb or adverb.

I was late.
or I was shocked.
or Children get bored very quickly

I found those sentences from end of this website and in this site late mentioned as an adjective.

  • 1
    What makes you so sure late is an adjective in that sentence? The word late can function as both an adjective and an adverb.
    – J.R.
    Oct 19, 2018 at 20:20
  • I found those sentences from end of this site englisch-hilfen.de/en/grammar/adjectives.htm and in this site late mentioned as an adjective. Oct 19, 2018 at 20:25
  • 1
    In your example, "late" can be modified by "very" and hence can only be an adjective. Further, predicative complements are normally noun phrases or adjective phrases, but not adverb phrases. "Shocked" is ambiguous -- it may be adjectival ("very shocked"), or a verbal passive. "Bored" is also ambiguous -- an adjective in "very bored", otherwise a verbal passive.
    – BillJ
    Oct 20, 2018 at 7:50
  • All three of those words can be modified by very.
    – TimR
    Oct 20, 2018 at 9:36

2 Answers 2


An adjective can be put after a form the verb to be. This is called predicative position. "Was" is a past tense form of to be. In the sentence "I was late" the word late functions as an adjective in predicative position. It describes the subject of the sentence.

In "I was shocked" the word shocked can be analysed as either an adjective or a past participle, in the passive voice construction. Both are possible. Similarly in "I get bored", the word "bored" is a past participle, used in the "get passive".

  • What do you think about this sentence "Children get bored very quickly" get is not "to be" but bored is an adjective. @James K Oct 19, 2018 at 21:08
  • It is a past participle, the "get passive" construction.
    – James K
    Oct 19, 2018 at 21:24

The past participle of transitive verbs, verbs which refer to a process or event that affects an object, can be used in a predicate, and in such predicates they refer to what happened to the object, that is, to the event and its effect. In such predicates the affected object becomes the subject of the predicate:

The bullfighter's thigh was gored.

The past participle can refer to the act of goring by the bull's horn, that is, to the action that produced the result; or it can refer to the resulting state, the condition of the thigh. Or both. We cannot really say which it is in such a simple predicate using "is" or "was".

But there is no need to pigeonhole the word because we understand the past participle of a transitive verb to refer to the effect of an action upon an object.

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