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 '20 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 – Old Brixtonian May 9 '20 at 4:39
  • @OldBrixtonian But how to know which adjective is predicative ? – ramteja guthikonda May 9 '20 at 4:56
  • @Cardinal How to know which adjective is attributive and which adjective is predicative? – ramteja guthikonda May 9 '20 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 – Old Brixtonian May 9 '20 at 11:18

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”? – ramteja guthikonda May 9 '20 at 6:35
  • @ ramteja guthikond Please read the very simple and helpful guide at the link I provided. – Old Brixtonian May 9 '20 at 10:25

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