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In grammar, an attributive verb is a verb which modifies (gives the attributes of) a noun, rather than expressing an independent idea as a predicate.

In English, verbs may only be attributive as participles: the walking man; a walked dog; uneaten food.

However, many other languages allow regular verbs to be attributive. For example, in Japanese, predicative verbs come at the end of the clause, after the nouns, while attributive verbs come before the noun. These are equivalent to relative clauses in English; Japanese does not have relative pronouns like "who", "which", or "when":

昨日 あの 歩いた
Kinō ano hito aruita.
yesterday that person walked
"That person walked yesterday."
あの 昨日 歩いた 人。
Ano kinō aruita hito.
that yesterday walked person
"That person who walked yesterday."

In prescriptive speech the particle ga would appear after the subject: Kinō ano hito ga aruita. However, this it is often omitted as here in conversation.

Japanese attributive verbs inflect for grammatical aspect, as here, and grammatical polarity, but not commonly for politeness. For example, the polite form of hito ga aruita is hito ga arukimashita, but the form arukimashita hito is not common (felt to be too polite and paraphrastic), though it is grammatically correct. Except for this, modern Japanese verbs have the same form whether predicative or attributive. Historically, however, these had been separate forms. This is still the case in languages such as Korean and Turkish. The following examples illustrate the difference:

Classical Japanese:

  • hito arukiki - a person walked
  • arukishi hito - the person who walked

Turkish:

  • Adam şiir okur "The man reads poetry."
  • Şiir okuyan adam "The man who reads poetry."

Notice that all of these languages have a verb-final word order, and that none of them have relative pronouns. They also do not have a clear distinction between verbs and adjectives, as can be seen in Japanese:

  • Sora (ga) aoi. "The sky is blue."
  • Aoi sora "A blue sky."

In Japanese, aoi "blue" is effectively a descriptive verb rather than an adjective.

All of these characteristics are common among verb-final languages.

See also

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