Adjective and Verb Placement: Grammar Rules

Adjectives are usually placed before the nouns they modify, but when used with linking verbs, such as forms of to be or “sense” verbs, they are placed after the verb. The latter type of adjective is called a predicative adjective.

In these simple sentences, the adjectives wild, long, and furious follow forms of the verb to be:

The rock star was wild.
The cat’s tail is long.
I am furious with my business partner.

“Sense” verbs, such as look, seem, appear, taste, sound, feel, or smell, also demand a verb + adjective word order:

The cookies smell awesome!
That shirt looks great on you.

When Verbs Become Adjectives: Participles

Perhaps you are feeling that the relationship between verbs and adjectives is complicated enough, but consider that verbs can also become adjectives by turning into participles. These are verb forms ending in ‑ing (present participles) or -ed or -en (past participles) that are used to modify nouns.

The smiling baby is really cute.

The present participle smiling is used as an adjective here, as is cute.

This is my new washing machine.

Washing is acting as an adjective for machine.

This is my broken washing machine.
This washing machine is broken.

In both these instances, broken is an adjective modifying washing machine.

I gave my boyfriend an engraved watch.

Here, the past participle engraved is acting as an adjective modifying watch.

For more information about adjectives, check out Adjectives: Definitions, Rules, and Examples in our Grammarly Blog.

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
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