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She's a beautiful girl: "beautiful" is attribute of "girl". "We were lying on the hot sand": "hot" is attribute of "sand", etc...
Attributive adjectives are associated with "permanence", they state
As may be expected, there are a few exceptions. One of them is the position of the adjectives that modify an indefinite pronoun; these appear in predicative position. You say "I'd like to meet an interesting man" but "I'd like to meet someone interesting".
Predicative means 'of the predicate'. The predicate of a sentence is the part that describes the state of the subject. For example, in the sentence 'He is sporty', "He" is the subject, "is sporty" is the predicate. Therefore a predicative adjective describes, just like the word "sporty" here, what kind of subject we are talking about.
An attributive adjective modifies the noun that is it directly beside (usually in front of it, but, as Miriam pointed out with "I'd like to meet someone interesting", sometimes behind it.)
So: attributive adjectives modify only the noun they are right next to. Predicative adjectives modify the subject of the sentence.
The difference between attributive and predicative has nothing to do with the permanence or otherwise of a quality, or, for that matter, whether the adjective comes before or after the noun it modifies.
When it comes to permanence or otherwise, look at this by no means unusual sentence: "The little girl is very intelligent".
"little" is attributive, but in a few years she is not going to be little, but unless tragedy strikes she is going to continue being the predicative "intelligent". Therefore, here the attributive adjective is the more temporary of the two.
Or “The rusty safe was impregnable”. The rustiness of the safe is a far more transitory state that its impregnability, in spite of it being attributive.
When it comes to word order: In Miriam’s examples of ‘the beautiful girl’ (which she says is attributive) and ‘the stars visible’ (which she says is predicative), both ‘beautiful’ and ‘visible’ are actually attributive adjectives because they both modify the noun they are right next to.
If the sentence were like this “The visible stars were beautiful”, (or “The stars visible were beautiful”) then “visible” would attributive and “beautiful” would be predicative.
Here's a useful sentence frame to use to easily work out whether an adjective is attributive or predicative:
The (attributive) man is very (predicative).
Most adjectives can be both attributive and predicative, but a very few of them are only one or the other.
For example, exlusively attributive adjectives include:
entire ("The entire school was present." is OK. "The school was entire." is not OK.)
outright ("That's outright nonsense." is OK. "That nonsense is outright". is not OK.)
utter ("What an utter shambles!" is OK. "This shambles is utter!" is not OK.)
Exclusively predicative adjectives include:
aghast ("Her parents were aghast." is OK. "Her aghast parents were speechless" is not OK.)
alive ("Is that snake alive?" is OK. "Is that an alive snake?" is not OK.)
That is why this is such a dynamic forum. I consider many of you “authorities” of English, yet there obviously is a difference of opinions concerning certain aspects of the subject, which is completely understandable to me. We learned this language from different places and by different teachers who also had gone through the same experience. As a result, different interpretations may cause varying degree of understanding. Having said that, I enjoy and appreciate healthy discussions.
People are waiting to help.
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