§ 85. An attribute may be expressed by different parts of speech:
1. By (a) adjectives or (b) adjectival phrases, which characterize the person or non-person qualitatively or express the speaker’s attitude.
a) The sand glittered like fine white sugar in the sun.
I’ve never seen a better place.
There is nothing unusual about the letter.
Some composite adjectives may be derived from other parts of speech by means of the participle-forming suffix -ed, as in:
It was a low-ceilinged L-shaped room.
They sat on the pine-needled sand.
Some adjectives have developed from former participles II, as in;
Martin lived with his widowed mother.
He looked for his long-lost friend everywhere.
b) In any case it gave no clue to the thought then uppermost in Hercule Poirot’s mind.
He stood and raged within himself with sour despair, unable to move or say a word.
2. By pronouns or pronominal phrases, which help to identify or define persons or non-persons.
The woman by no change of face showed that his words meant anything to her.
Here’s some money for you.
Can you see those children of mine anywhere?
3. By numerals, ordinal or cardinal, which state the number or order, or serve to identify persons or non-persons, as in:
He arrived just three weeks ago.
Robert has always been the first boy in his class.
Is it part two of the book?
4. By (a) nouns in the common case singular or (b) prepositional nominal phrases, which characterize the person or non-person either qualitatively or from the point of view of its locative, temporal, or other features.
The nouns are always premodifying attributes, the prepositional nominal phrases are post modifying:
a) It happened on a December evening (December evening).
The boy started to eat a ham roll (ham roll).
The garden wall was almost ruined (garden wall).
There was a honeymoon couple among the passengers (honeymoon couple).
b) The new secretary, on promotion from the general office, was a widow of fifty.
He was a man of very regular habits.
Anything of interest this morning, Miss Lemon?
In some cases the attribute and its headword form a closely connected unit, such as the continent of Europe , the name of Brighton Kurby , the village of Crowie . Although the prepositional group is a subordinate and characterizing element, modifying the first word, its informative value is much greater than that of the first element.
In structures of this type the semantic roles of the elements may be reversed: the first (subordinating) element becomes a modifying word, the second (subordinated) – the modified one, as in:
his carrot of a nose (carrot nose; not a nose, but a carrot),
an angel of a girl (not a girl, but an angel),
a hell of a noise (hellish noise, noise like hell),
a jewel of a nature (gold character; not character, but gold).
Though logically his carrot of a nose means that the nose is characterized as resembling a carrot, syntactically it is the word carrot that is modified by the of-phrase of a nose, the indefinite article performing its usual classifying function. The modified word is not always semantically acceptable as part of the sentence without the of -phrase, which shows the semantic dependence of the modified element on the modifying one. This, together with the fact that logical and syntactic relations are reversed, accounts for the marked stylistic effect of these structures.
His left hand was holding a skyscraper of a silver cup.
High above the bank is another eagle’s nest of a castle.
Russian phrases of a similar kind – not a girl, but fire; not a child, but a real devil, unlike the parallel English phrases, are rarely included in extended sentences.
Phrases like sort of tired (I feel sort of tired), kind of tiresome (The situation becomes kind of tiresome), etc., form one syntactic whole and cannot be treated as free syntactic phrases consisting of a headword modified by a prepositional attribute. The first element expresses approximation – a moderate degree of the quality denoted.
5. By nouns or pronouns in the genitive case.
He caught the sound of the children’s voices.
The ocean’s vastness was so great that it held him spellbound.
Nelson had asked Mary’s father’s consent before proposing.
If the headword is omitted (when the sentence is elliptical) the modifying word should still be considered as an attribute.
Suppose those postcards are a lunatic’s?
She heard the voice of another man, perhaps it was the water-carrier’s and then a woman’s, shrill and
6. By statives, although these are rarely used as attributes. They usually postmodify the headword, though may occur as premodifying.
No man alive would ever think of such cruelty.
She gazed at us with an aloof air.
7. By (a) participles I and II and (b) participial phrases, characterizing the person or non-person through an action, process, or reaction.
a) He made his way down the creaking stairs.
The mild day died in a darkening flush of twilight.
They stood contemplating the suited dummies in the lighted windows of the shop.
They stood at the car being refueled and watched the meter.
b) Captain Nichols dragged Strickland, bleeding from a wound in his arm, into the street.
There was a tiny smile playing about the corners of his mouth.
Vincent glanced over at Christine knitting by the fire.
Beside her stood a straw basket stuffed with many towels and a pair of beach shoes.
8. By (a) gerunds, (b) gerundial phrases, or (c) gerundial complexes. Gerunds generally characterize non-persons from the point of view of their function or purpose.
a) Back at the hotel he slipped on a white rowing blazer (the blazer which the members of the boat-club
Her walking shoes were elegant (shoes which she wore when walking).
(Compare these with attributes expressed by participle I, in the sentences given above (7), which denote an action, process or reaction sometimes figuratively.)
b) He would not run the risk of being too late.
She showed no sign of having ever known me.
The young man had the most irritating habit of joking at the wrong moment.
c) The silence was interrupted by the sound of a door being banged.
There is no chance of seeing him again.
9. By (a) infinitives, (b) infinitivel phrases, or (c) complexes, which characterize a person or non-person through some real or hypothetical action in which this person or non-person is or may be involved. Owing to the hypothetical nature of the action, an infinitive as attribute often imparts a modal shade of meaning to the action.
a) You are the one to blame (who is to blame).
I haven’t any time to spare (which I could spare).
b) He looked around for a weapon to strike his insulter with.
He was not a man to experiment with acquaintance.
There was nothing in the look of him to show the courage of the man (nothing which could show
He was the last to tell of this extraordinary raid from the deeper sea (who could tell).
c) This is a problem for you to solve. (which you could/must solve).
10. By (a) adverbsor (b) adverbial phrases, which characterize a person or non-person through spatial or temporal characteristics, or through circumstances or facts concerning this person or non-person.
a) No sounds came from the quarters above.
The then Government did not respond to this just claim.
Somebody appeared on the upstairs balcony.
“I see that woman downstairs has a couple of sailors sitting there.”
An immense effort of imagination was needed to link himself now with himself then.
The most usual position of such attributes is to follow the headword.
b) Most people living in out of the way places expect the latest news from home with impatience.
11. By sentences used as a whole (the so-called “quotation nouns”). These are used mainly as hyphenated chains before the headword.
She looked at me with a kind of don’t-touch-me-or-I’ll-slap-you air.
It was a ‘ You-must-take-us-as-you-find-its’ attitude to things, and it saved me a lot of trouble… In this ‘ a-
place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place’ kitchen he felt ill at ease.
12. By a clause (then called an attributive clause) which makes the whole sentence a complex one.
Some called me by the name which no one here knew.