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5.3  Attributive Usage of Adjectives

The Attributive Usage of Adjectives
When an adjective is used to directly modify a noun, it is said to be used attributively. A noun with an attributive adjective is said to comprise an adjective phrase (for example, good man, where the adjective good modifies the noun man and the two words comprise a phrase).

Attributive adjectives have the following properties:

  1. They follow the noun they modify
  2. They agree with the noun they modify in:
    • Gender (masc / fem)
    • Number (sing / pl)
    • Definiteness (if the noun is definite, the adjective must be, too)


Examples:

Attribute Adjective Example

The masculine singular noun bayit (“a house”) is modified by the masculine singular adjective gadol (“big”). Since both the noun and the adjective match in gender, number and definiteness, we translate the phrase as “a big house.”

 

 

Attribute Adjective Example

The definite noun habayit is modified by the definite adjective haggadol. Since both the noun and the adjective match in gender, number, and definiteness, we would translate the adjective phrase as “the big house.”

 

 

Attribute Adjective Example

This example again shows that the noun and adjective agree in gender, number, and definiteness.
Translation: “The big houses.”

The Standard Attribute Adjective Paradigm
We can use the adjective tov with melekh (a masculine noun) and melakhah (a feminine noun) for our paradigmatic examples.

The following table lists the adjective forms when these nouns are indefinite:

Attribute Adjective Paradigm


The following table lists the adjective forms when these nouns are definite (i.e., take the definite article):

Attribute Adjective Paradigm

In each case, notice how the adjective agrees with the noun’s gender, number, and definiteness.


Additional Examples:

Attribute Adjective Example

Note that the irregular masculine plural noun ha’avot takes the regular masculine plural adjective ha-chakhamim. Translation: “The wise fathers.”

 

 

Attribute Adjective Example

The proper noun David is masculine singular (and definite by definition), and the adjective hazzaken is likewise masculine singular and definite. We would translate this phrase as “old David.”

 

 

Attribute Adjective Example

The proper noun Egypt is a feminine singular noun, and the adjective here matches. We would translate this adjective phrase as “great Egypt.”


Section Exercises

  1. Memorize the standard attribute adjective patterns.
  2. Summarize the rules of attributive adjectives on a small flashcard (e.g., that they follow the noun and must agree in gender, number, and definiteness).
  3. From the vocabulary you already know, create simple adjective phrases, such as “a good woman,” “the good woman,” “good women,” and “the good women.” Do this for the following nouns:

    woman
    man
    city
    Jesus
    Moses
    land
    people

    Combine these nouns with the following adjectives:

    good
    great
    old
    new
    perfect
    holy



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