I came across these two sentences:

He was standing there proud."

"He is growing up rich."

I think I can understand what each sentence means, but grammatically they don't make sense to me. My understanding about adjectives are that they can only be before the noun or with "be". I see these kinds of sentences sometimes and have always wondered why. My first question is that in the first sentence, if I say, "He was standing there, being proud." is the meaning the same? And in the second one, can I say, "He is growing up to be rich."? My second question is whether these ways of using adjectives are common or not.


1 Answer 1


Some people call this type of construction a secondary predicate. Secondary predication is sometimes divided into two types:

  • Resultative: I punched him silly.
  • Depictive: I drove home drunk.

In both examples, the secondary predicate describes the subject. In the former, it describes the result of the primary predicate--in other words, the state the subject is in after the primary predicate is complete. In the latter, it depicts the current state of the subject.

To put it another way:

  • Resultative: state of the subject after the primary predication, as a result
  • Depictive: state of the subject during the primary predication

In both of your examples, the secondary predication appears to be depictive, meaning it describes the state of the subject:

"He was standing there proud." → "He was standing there, being proud."
"He is growing up rich." → "He's being raised in a rich family."

Are they common? Relatively. Secondary predication of both types is productive in English, which means people use it to create new sentences with some regularity.

Unfortunately, there's usually no way to tell which interpretation is intended from the grammar alone. You have to tell from context whether you're looking at a resultative or depictive construction, and in some sentences both interpretations are possible.

  • Then I was reminded of the sentence I've heard before. " He came back tipsy." Now I understand this sentence well. Thank you so much for the clarification. Commented May 11, 2013 at 11:19
  • @snailplane Can we always construct such sentences by any (lexical) verbs? I asked almost similar question here: ell.stackexchange.com/questions/94723/…
    – Cardinal
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 17:57
  • Have you an example that is clearly ambiguous (?!)? Commented Dec 12, 2019 at 13:13

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