What Is an Adjective Phrase? (with Examples)

What Is an Adjective Phrase? (with Examples)

An adjective phrase (or adjectival phrase) is a phrase that tells us something about the noun it is modifying. The head (principal) word in an adjective phrase will be an adjective. In the examples below, the adjective phrase is shaded and the head word (i.e., the adjective) is in bold:

  • The nearby motel offers cheap but comfortable rooms.
  • (In this example, the head adjective starts the adjective phrase.)

  • These are unbelievably expensive shoes.
  • (In this example, the head adjective ends the adjective phrase.)

  • Sarah was fairly bored with you.
  • (In this example, the head adjective is in the middle of the adjective phrase.)
Like a normal adjective, an adjective phrase can be used before the noun it is modifying (like in the first two examples above) or after the noun it is modifying (like in the last example).

More Examples of Adjective Phrases

Here are some more examples of adjective phrases (with the head adjectives in bold):

  • The extremely tired lioness is losing patience with her overly enthusiastic cub.

  • My mother was fairly unhappy with the service.

  • Her baking always smells very tempting.

  • The consequences of agreeing were far too serious.

  • The dog covered in mud looked pleased with himself.

Adjective Phrases Can Be Used Attributively or Predicatively

An adjective phrase can be an attributive adjective or a predicative adjective.

Attributive Adjective. An attributive adjective is one that sits inside the noun phrase of the noun it modifies. Look at these two examples:

  • The beautifully carved frames are worth more than the painting.
  • (This is an attributive adjective phrase. It sits inside the noun phrase The beautifully carved frames.)

  • The frames beautifully carved by monks are worth more than the painting.
  • (This is also an attributive adjective phrase. It sits inside the noun phrase The frames beautifully carved by monks.)
When an adjective appears before its noun, it is very likely to be an attributive adjective. However, an adjective that appears after its noun can also be attributive.

Predicative Adjective. A predicative adjective sits outside the noun phrase of the noun it modifies. Typically, a predicative adjective is linked to the noun it modifies with a linking verb. For example:

  • The curtains look far too long.
  • (This is a predicative adjective phrase. The linking verb is look.)
  • The frames were beautifully carved by monks.
  • (This is a predicative adjective phrase. The linking verb is were.)

Examples of Adjective Phrases Used Attributively and Predicatively

Let's look at the earlier examples:

  • The extremely tired lioness is losing patience with her overly enthusiastic cub.
  • (Both adjective phrases are used attributively. They appear inside the noun phrases The extremely tired lioness and her overly enthusiastic cub.)

  • My mother was fairly unhappy with the service.
  • (The adjective phrase is used predicatively. It appears outside the noun phrase My mother. The linking verb is was.)

  • Her baking always smells very tempting.
  • (The adjective phrase is used predicatively. It appears outside the noun phrase Her baking. The linking verb is smells.)

  • The consequences of agreeing were far too serious.
  • (The adjective phrase is used predicatively. It appears outside the noun phrase The consequences of agreeing. The linking verb is were.)

  • The dog covered in mud looked pleased with himself.
  • (In this example, the first adjective phrase is used attributively. It appears inside the noun phrase The dog covered in mud. The second is used predicatively. It appears outside the same noun phrase. The linking verb is looked.)



    See also:

    What is a phrase?
    What is an adjective?
    What are nouns?
    What are linking verbs?
    What does modify mean?
    What is a predicative adjective?
    What are adjective clauses?
    Glossary of grammatical terms
     
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