1. I woke up tired.
  2. I grew up rich.

Can someone explain the position and functions of the adjectives tired, rich, poor in these sentences? Aren't adjectives supposed to always precede or succeed a noun and affect the meaning of it, not verbs?

3 Answers 3


The adjectives following the phrasal verbs (linking verbs, specifically) in your two sentences are what are called subject complement in grammar: they describe the subject.

The definition of an adjective isn't confined to a POS modifying a noun phrase. Adjectives come in various avatars. When an adjective describes the object of a sentence, it is called an object complement. vain, an adjective for example, is the object complement of the sentence Success made him vain, where it describes the object of the sentence.

  • to wake up is an active verb.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:22
  • @Lambie But Macmillan dictionary doesn't agree with you google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://…
    – user126190
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:36
  • 1
    "Tired" and "rich" are optional depictives, and hence predicative adjuncts, not complements
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:51
  • 1
    @BillJ: In the heart of hearts I agree with most of your views as to why Pullum etal. make more sense than trad stuff. For example, I found this on some linguistics SE Q and this made me realise instantly that you're right: "The property that adjectives assign is not an intrinsic characteristic of the noun, but rather its applicability is transient. Adjectives that assign intrinsic properties cannot occur in this use, e.g. John died interesting. But it's hard to shun the old terminology most of us have been weaned on. It does suffice sometimes, but sometimes it appears outright absurd.
    – user126190
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 18:13

The verbs in your examples are acting as copular verbs, connecting the subjects to adjectives that are called subject complements.

The are analogous to simpler examples:

He is healthy.
They are ready.
The building seems beautiful.

In all these examples, an adjective is coupled to the subject by a verb acting as a copula. So, adjectives change the meaning of a noun, but they don't always have to be adjacent to them.

  • "Tired" and "rich" are optional depictives, and hence predicative adjuncts, not complements.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:49

Correct me if I'm wrong. But if I'm not mistaken, The Cambridge Grammar of The English Language (CGEL) calls these predicative adjuncts. Other examples are such as:

They look even more fantastic naked

They served us our coffee black

They are not predicative complements. A predicative complement is generally obligatory and has to be licensed by a verb, eg:

He talked himself hoarse

A predicative adjunct is optional and depictive.

  • Not quite: "hoarse" is obligatory and thus PC, not an adjunct.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:32
  • @BillJ Yes, I use that as an example of PC. Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:33
  • Yes, it's a resultative PC.
    – BillJ
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 14:35

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