These are some thoughts on different cases involving the placement of
adjectives before and after nouns. My focus is on talking about
placement of adjective within the subject part of the sentence. Lots of
adjectives can modify subjects from the predicate if they’re connected
by a linking verb, but that’s beyond the scope of what I am talking
Case 1: Adjective only before noun
The default is that adjectives must come before nouns if they are to
modify that noun from within the subject part of the sentence.
The red ball is pretty. (“red” modifies “ball”, comes before
The cheesy pizza was hot. (“cheesy” modifies “pizza”, comes
Note: You can rewrite the sentences above to put the adjective in a
clause that comes after the noun, but it needs to be an explicit
relative clause, meaning that the adjective can never modify the noun
directly when it comes after the noun but is still in the subject part
of the sentence.
Example: The ball that is red is pretty. (“red” is modifying
“that”, not “ball” directly; only “that is red” as a whole
NOT: The ball red is pretty.
Case 2: Adjective only after noun
There are cases when adjectives can only come after the nouns they
modify. These cases include when an adjective modifies a pronoun, and in
certain expressions related to titles, food and various other examples.
When an adjective modifies a pronoun
Example: Everyone present voted for the bill.
NOT: Present everyone voted for the bill.
Note: You can think of the adjective here as being part of an
implied relative clause.
Example: Everyone present voted for the bill. (You can read this as:
“Everyone [who was] present voted for the bill.”)
Certain things related to titles, law, military, feudal stuff,
names of food and particular families
the Brothers Grimm
Case 3: Adjective placement optional
There are cases when the adjective can appear either before or after the
noun being modified. If the adjective appears before, it’s a standard
modifier. If it appears after, my theory is that it is part of an
omitted relative clause.
Before the noun: The present Senators voted on the bill.
After the noun: The Senators present voted on the bill. (You can read
this as “The Senators [who were] present voted on the bill.”)