the example: The people "responsible" for these feats were called Sumerians.

Is "responsible" used correctly in this context?

Are there any exceptions to the rule that would permit the use of adjectives after nouns?

3 Answers 3


The people "responsible" for these feats were called Sumerians.

Yes, it's fine. The adjective "responsible" modifies "people".

By no means all adjectives can be used postpostively. Clearly "responsible" can, as can "useful" (everything useful), “elect” (the president elect), "rich" (somebody rich), and a few others.

But the vast majority of adjectives are restricted to either attributive or predicative use, or both, so you need to be aware of that. You may be able to Google up a list of adjectives that can be used postpostively.

  • They were not "responsible people", they were people who were responsible for the feats. Not the same thing at all. A responsible person would be not a person who is responsible for a crime....
    – Lambie
    Feb 19, 2019 at 3:28
  • @Lambie "Responsible" is an adjective modifying "people". What else could it possibly be? The clausal equivalent "the people who were responsible", is just a different way of saying the same thing, and even then the word "responsible" would still be an adjective, though a predicative one, not a postmodifying one. See here: link, and here: link. How much clearer can it be?
    – BillJ
    Feb 19, 2019 at 16:26
  • I have already said and will repeat: "people who are responsible for some x" is not "responsible people". In the question here, the word responsible is part of an adjectival phrase. It is not the adjective responsible as in: responsible people. "The people amenable to the project" are not necessarily "amenable people"at all! The phrase modifies people, not the single word.
    – Lambie
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:32
  • You've got it all wrong, yet again. Postpositive vs predicative. Look at the links I supplied. There is no clause in "the people responsible", it's a simple NP consisting of head + modifier.
    – BillJ
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:35
  • No, I will not look at the links when every bone in my body tells me that: "responsible people" in this example is not "people responsible FOR something". Here, "[who are] responsible for these feats" is a restrictive clause. And it functions adjectivally. But: "[who are]responsible for these feats" is simply not "an adjective".
    – Lambie
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:38

The people responsible for these feats were called Sumerians.

This is not an adjective used to modify a noun.

It is an adjective used in a clause:

The people [who were] responsible for these feats were called Sumerians.

This is a restrictive clause: the entire phrase "[who were] responsible for these feats" is adjectival and describes the people.

  • So the use "of who were" is optional in this context?
    – Rare
    Feb 18, 2019 at 17:26
  • @Rare Yes, it can be left out. It often can in these types of clauses. The man [who was] amenable to the solution was my brother.
    – Lambie
    Feb 18, 2019 at 17:29
  • Thanks for answering me so quickly. Good day to you sir/mam.
    – Rare
    Feb 18, 2019 at 17:36
  • There's no clause involved. The adjective "responsible" modifies the noun "people". "The people responsible" is a simple noun phrase consisting of noun+adjectival modifier.
    – BillJ
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:42
  • @BillJ That is an incorrect parse. The correct parse is the phrase: "people responsible for these feats". The [who were] is implied and can be left out.
    – Lambie
    Feb 19, 2019 at 19:09

To say The people responsible for these feats... is a short way of saying The people who were/had been responsible for these feats. We use this shortcut all the time in English because people understand that the verb has been elided.

However, while it's the normal practice in English to place adjectives before nouns, it's not an iron rule.

It's common, especially in poetic or theatrical texts and with double adjectives, to say things like: A man tall and strong entered the castle at dusk or A sword sharp and gleaming was handed to him.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .