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Latin 112/113: The Latin Adjective

Adjectives can be used in either an attributive sense or a predicative sense.

An attributive adjective presents an attribute of the noun that, from a grammatical point of view, is simply assumed to be true. For example: if I say, "The purple cow ate the grass," I merely specify which cow did the eating, taking it for granted that a cow can be purple. An attributive adjective qualifies its noun directly, without the intervention of a verb or participle (expressed or implied):

uir bonusa good man
multae puellaemany girls

All other adjectives are predicate adjectives. Predicate adjectives make some form of assertion concerning the noun. Common instances of predicate adjectives are:

  1. as a complement after a copulative verb (e.g. the verbs "to be" and "to become"), expressed or implied:
    senex pauper est.The old man is poor.
  2. as a predicate accusative after verbs of calling, naming, making, choosing, appointing, esteeming, judging, showing:
    te miseram facio.I make you wretched.
    Nouns also will be used as a predicate accusative in this way:
    te consulem facio.I make you consul.
  3. in apposition:
    Marcus defessus humi cecidit.Marcus sank, exhausted, to the ground.
    Marcum uiuum uidi.I saw Marcus (while he was still) living.
    In the above examples, defessus and uiuum are predicate adjectives: in each instance, they add a further assertion concerning Marcus, the noun that they modify.

Adjectives often will be employed in apposition as predicate nominatives where in English we use an adverb:

uir miser abit.The man is departing unhappily (lit. "(being) unhappy").
Note that, where English employs an adverb to describe the manner in which the action was performed, Latin prefers to use an adjective to describe the person's state while performing it.

Nouns will be used in a similar way as predicate accusatives or (as in the example below) as predicate nominatives:

multa puer didici.I learned many things (while I was) a child.

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