Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Verbal Adjectives (Not in the Traditional Sense)

Hey, world people: a question for you. Is there a term for words in English that function as both verbs and adjectives? I’m not talking about participial adjectives — “the pleasing puppy,” “the bloodied graduation cap” — but words like suspect, manifest and express, which all look like straightforward verbs but which can also function as adjectives without the addition of -ing or -ed. I’m fairly certain these adjectival forms aren’t participles since actual participial forms like suspected or manifesting already exist, but I’m curious how they ever would have come into use in English.

There are other examples, I’m sure, and please tell me if you think of any. Searching for those previous three hasn’t turned up anything but a longer list might.


  1. Anonymous8:47 PM

    If it's a verb being used as an adjective, it's always a participle. And another word to add to your list is circumspect.

  2. Yeah, I'm not sure that's right. And circumspect isn't like that.

  3. Anonymous11:42 AM

    perhaps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attributive_verb

  4. When a word changes grammatical category without changing form it's called functional shift. It happens a lot in English because English has so few inflections. For instance "clean" and "obsolete" were adjectives that were later verbed.

    But in the case of "suspect, manifest and express" it seems to be a coincidence: the noun, adjective and verb were borrowed from different Latin and French forms and just happen to look the same. At least that's the impression I get from a cursory look at the OED.