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Attributive Adjective

An attributive adjective modifies a noun and normally comes before it, describing a particular attribute of the noun.

What is an attributive adjective? 

This glossary entry will focus on the attributive adjective. 

In fact, even the term "attributive adjective" itself contains an attributive adjective. This is because the word "attributive" is an adjective that comes before the noun "adjective"; and this is actually the definition of the term under consideration right here. 

All adjectives modify nouns. An attributive adjective is different from other kinds of adjectives because it all comes immediately before the noun it is meant to modify. In short, it's all about position. 

Correct use of attributive adjective

Here is an example of the attributive adjective being used correctly in a sentence. 

"The blue sky made the old man want to go on a fishing trip." 

Three examples of the attributive adjective can be found in this simple sentence: the first is "blue", the second is "old", and the third is "fishing" (as long as this is understood as modifying the generic noun "trip"). 

Incorrect use of attributive adjective

On the other hand, here's a sentence now where the attributive adjective is used incorrectly.

"The road main that led to the city gigantic led through the mountains highest."

The usage of "main", "gigantic", and "highest" are grammatically incorrect here because they are examples, of the attributive adjective and should thus be placed before the nouns they modify. 

In case greater clarification would help, here are a couple basic rules on the use of the attributive adjective. You can also browse our glossary for more help. 

  1. The attributive adjective always comes right before a noun. So, in order to find it, just look for the nouns in the sentence, and then check whether the words right before those nouns give you more specific information about the nouns. 
  2. There is actually little else that you need to keep in mind about the attributive adjective. All you need to do is pay attention to the position within a sentence that is occupied by the adjective, and then you will know whether it is an attributive adjective or not. 

Purpose in language

The attributive adjective is extremely useful because it allows you to give more information about a noun without disrupting the flow of your sentences. For example, suppose that you want to say that a beautiful dog went for a walk in the park. In order to convey all this information without using an attributive adjective, you would have to formulate a compound sentence: "The dog was beautiful, and he went for a walk in the park." By using an attributive adjective, though, you would simply be able to say: "The beautiful dog went for a walk in the park." 

Of course, one option isn't necessarily better than the other; it all depends on the kind of effect you want to achieve.  The point is that the attributive adjective gives more options about how you would like to structure your sentences. This can be very important for a writer not only because it can help you convey your ideas in a clearer way, but also because it can help improve the aesthetic appeal of your writing style. When you think about it this way, the attributive adjective becomes a quite important grammatical feature of the English language.

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