When an adjective is placed right after a noun it's modifying without a comma between both, can it be thought to be functioning as a "restrictive modifier" as in "the attorney general", "a lion dormant" , or "the stars visible"?

I think they are practically similar to "the attorney who is general", "a lion that is dormant", "the stars that is visible".

On the other hand, if they are written as "the general attorney, "a dormant lion", "the Jones Emperor", "the visible stars", they seem to be similar to "the attorney, who is general", "a line, which is dormant", "the stars, which is visible".

Is my thinking correct?

  • "Jones" is not an adjective. You may want to remove that example, as it does not fit with the others.
    – Tashus
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:06
  • @Tashus edited :). Could you answer my question?
    – GKK
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:08
  • Additionally, I believe "attorney general" is a title, not simply a modification of "attorney".
    – imjared
    Commented Dec 20, 2018 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


Unfortunately the use of postpositive adjectives is not a straightforward as your conception. To use one of your examples, "the stars visible" likely means "the stars that can be seen from this current perspective" while "the visible stars" likely means "the stars that can be seen with the naked eye from Earth in general." However, "the visible stars" could also refer to the current perspective, so context is important.

There is a detailed discussion on Wikipedia.

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