My English Fundamentals professor keeps using the word "adjectival" as in "adjectival clause" but I can't find it being used anywhere else but his class notes. I know that the word exists but is it used in this context or in similar situations? I can't find it being used in the context of "adjectival clause". It's just adjective clause.

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    adjectival is the adjective form of adjective.
    – user405662
    May 30, 2021 at 6:57
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    A modest dictionary search will provide an answer. Please search and return to us if you still have difficulty.
    – Anton
    May 30, 2021 at 7:10
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    It's supposed to be the function of an adjective. But the term is misleading since it might imply that everything that modifies a noun is an adjective, which is of course untrue. The term adjective clause is most certainly to be avoided. The classification of finite subordinate clauses is based on their internal form rather than spurious analogies with the parts of speech.
    – BillJ
    May 30, 2021 at 7:53
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    @BillJ You are talking about whether you consider adjective/adjectival clauses to be a valid category. You are not addressing whether the usage is correct. May 30, 2021 at 8:19
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    @GArthurBrown No, it can't. Clauses may be modifiers or complements etc., but they are not adjectival. Finite subordinate clauses are relative, comparative or content.
    – BillJ
    May 30, 2021 at 9:56

2 Answers 2


adjectival clause or relative clause or adjective clause

An adjectival clause (or relative clause) is one that modifies a noun phrase. They typically are introduced by a relative pronoun, which serves as the subject of the clause. For example: The man who lived here went to New York. The car that came from Italy is very fast. The apple which fell from my bag is now inedible.

adjectival clause

there are adverbial clauses, and for parallelism's sake, there are adjectival clauses AKA relative clauses.

Relative clause In Indo-European languages, a relative clause, also called an adjectival clause or an adjective clause, meets three requirements:


Sometimes, things are known by several different names.

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    Actually, NP complements like the report that Congressman Frog has been re-elected are also adjective clauses, although relative clauses are by far the more common type. NP complements can only occur with picture nouns, usually formed from a verb (like report) that takes a complement. May 30, 2021 at 23:13
  • @JohnLawler If Your Lordship would be so kind...How is the complement you cite a picture noun? All is see is the frog. [:)]
    – Lambie
    May 31, 2021 at 15:50
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    The complement is not a picture noun. It's an adjective clause (an "NP complement") modifying a picture noun. Picture noun is a technical term in some theories that refers to a noun like picture, story, report, rumor, etc. which are symbolic for (metaphorically, they "contain") propositions that can be expressed in clauses. It's a technical term; I didn't invent it. You can find a long discussion of it in Ross's dissertation, since NP complements, like relative clauses, are subject to the Complex Noun Phrase Constraint, one of the Ross Constraints. May 31, 2021 at 18:15
  • @JohnLawler Ok, I see. I just don't see how that example is different from many others. But I shall take the point to the bank. Thanks.
    – Lambie
    May 31, 2021 at 18:52
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    I was just pointing out that "relative clause" and "adjective clause" are not the same, just like "object" and "direct object" are not the same. Most objects are direct objects, and most adjective clauses are relative clauses, but there are other kinds of object and adjective clause. That's all. May 31, 2021 at 23:14

Yes, "adjectival" is used in context. Yes, "adjective clause" is also commonly used as English can also make nouns act like adjectives. They can become modifiers, called noun adjuncts.

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    I'm sorry but that is simply untrue. Apart from the fact that the term 'adjective clause' is just nonsense (see my comment to the OP). I've no idea what you mean in this context by "English can make nouns into adjectives".
    – BillJ
    May 30, 2021 at 7:57
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    I'm aware that some people use the term but as I said, the classification of finite subordinate clauses is based on their internal form rather than spurious analogies with the parts of speech. The so-called 'adjective clauses' are generally relative clauses functioning as modifiers, not adjectives.
    – BillJ
    May 30, 2021 at 8:19
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    Let's use a slightly different example to show Bill what the issue is. "My teacher says adjectival dog, but my text book says adjective dog. Which one is grammatical?" It doesn't matter that you don't think adjectival dogs or adjective dogs exist. The grammar rules for English are still the same. May 31, 2021 at 4:53
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    Right, you are still saying "adjectival dogs" don't exist. May 31, 2021 at 5:18
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    @BillJ, given that you feel so strongly about the matter, why don't you post your views on it as an answer?
    – jsw29
    May 31, 2021 at 18:05

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