One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Attributive and predicative adjectives
Most adjectives can be used in two positions. When they are used before the noun they describe, they are called attributive:
a black cat
a gloomy outlook
a slow journey
a large suitcase
When they are used after a verb such as be, become, grow, look, or seem, they’re called predicative:
The cat was black.
The future looks gloomy.
The journey seemed slow.
They were growing tired.
There are some adjectives that can only be used in one position or the other. For example, these two sentences are grammatically correct:
✓ She was alone that evening. [‘alone’ = predicative ]
✓ It was a mere scratch. [‘mere’ = attributive]
These sentences, on the other hand, are not correct:
✗ I saw an alone woman. [‘alone’ cannot be used in the attributive position]
✗ The scratch was mere. [‘mere’ cannot be used in the predicative position]
Read more about adjectives:
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