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Adjective phrases

Adjective phrases with nouns

One of the main functions of adjective phrases is that they go with nouns and change or add to their meaning.

Hair: black hair, brown hair, straight blonde hair, long red hair.

Adjective phrases before a noun are called attributive phrases.

Adjective phrases before a noun occur after determiners.

If the head of the noun phrase is one of the following pronouns, the adjective phrase occurs after the pronoun:

If an attributive adjective needs a word or phrase to complete its meaning (a complement), either the whole adjective phrase or just its complement must follow the head noun.


For a number of adjectives, the whole adjective phrase must follow the noun when a complement of the adjective is used. These include closed, eager, full, happy, keen, open, ready, responsible, (un)willing, worth.


Adjective phrases with verbs (Brenda is happy)

The second main function of an adjective phrase is to be a complement to a verb. It completes the meaning of verbs that describe what the subject is, does or experiences. These verbs include be, seem, become, feel, smell, taste (linking verbs). When adjective phrases complement verbs, this is called their predicative function.

Object complements

We also use adjective phrases to give more information about an object (underlined) so as to complete its meaning (object complement):

Sitting in traffic drives me crazy.

The fire has made the room much warmer.

Money doesn’t always make us happy.

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