1. I found a boy asleep.

  2. I found a asleep boy.

Which is correct? My grammar book says sentence one is correct and sentence two is wrong. Why so?

  • "asleep" is not an attributive adjective, (but predicative?).
    – Cardinal
    May 9, 2020 at 4:29
  • Asleep is a predicative adjective. Predicative adverbs can't be used in the attributive position. lexico.com/grammar/attributive-and-predicative-adjectives May 9, 2020 at 4:39
  • @OldBrixtonian But how to know which adjective is predicative ? May 9, 2020 at 4:56
  • @Cardinal How to know which adjective is attributive and which adjective is predicative? May 9, 2020 at 4:58
  • @ramteja guthikond Most adjectives can be used attributively AND predicatively: the tall man/the man is tall. But some can only be used before a noun, and others only after a copular verb (he IS asleep, they are alike) or a perception verb (he doesn't look well; he seems afraid)ablaze abreast afire afloat afraid aghast aglow alert alike alive alone aloof ashamed (Note that some Englishes allow for attributive use of ashamed.) asleep awake aware May 9, 2020 at 11:18

2 Answers 2


Most adjectives can be used attributively AND predicatively:

the tall man/the man is tall

But some can only be used attributively (ie before a noun)

that is the main reason [Not 'that reason is main']

Others can only be used after a copular verb

he was asleep, they are alike

or a perception verb

he doesn't look well, he seems afraid

It might be easiest to learn those adjectives which can only be used predicatively.

Many of them have an a-suffix: ablaze, abreast, afloat, afraid, aghast, alike, alive, alone, aloof, ashamed, asleep, awake, aware


Asleep is slightly unusual, most adjectives can go before a noun or after a linking verb:

He is a happy boy / The boy is happy.

Asleep always goes after the verb, and also after any direct objects of that verb

The boy is asleep / I found the boy asleep.

You know it is a predicative adjective because the dictionary tells you.

  • What is the difference between “The navigable roads” and “The roads naviable”? May 9, 2020 at 6:35
  • @ ramteja guthikond Please read the very simple and helpful guide at the link I provided. May 9, 2020 at 10:25

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