I know that an adjective can come after some verbs, such as: be, become, feel, get, look, seem, smell, sound. These verbs are "stative" verbs, which express a state or change of state. For example:

Dinner smells good tonight

But I also find this kind of sentence.

Seventeen years of war left the country bankrupt

The company was later declared insolvent

In those sentences, an adjective can follows other dynamic verbs (leave, declare) as well. Is it right for those sentences?

Or who knows what is another grammar point being used in those examples? Thanks.


3 Answers 3


It depends on the verb. The list you have is incomplete: both leave and declare take adjectives only when they are transitive or in the passive voice. These are called object complements; the list you have gives verbs that take subject complements. I don't know of a list that gives verbs which take object complements.

Why didn't these verbs go on the list you have? Maybe the compiler of the list didn't want to make it too complicated.

Only transitive verbs can be made passive, so these two cases go together.

The grammar gets complicated here. The verb paint can take an object complement, but only if it's a color.

He painted the barn red.
*He painted the barn polka-dotted.
He painted the barn with polka dots.

  • Thanks Peter. Could you analyze this sentence: "The firm went bankrupt before the building work was completed." Why the adjective "bankrupt" immediately follows verb "go"? Here it's not a passive sentence.
    – bnguyen82
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 2:36
  • Here "go" means "become", and works as a linking verb. You can also "go crazy", "go green", "go bald". See this webpage. Commented May 19, 2012 at 19:37
  • 1
    Paint is a member of Levin Verb Class 9.7. These verbs govern the Spray/Load Alternation. As you say, the syntax gets complicated. Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 17:16

Alas, English grammar is not a matter of word following word, but rather of constructions. There can be no good answer for your question, as posed.

The verbs you cite have many different properties:

  • be is unique.
  • become means 'come to be', so it works pretty much like be
  • get also means 'come to be', as well as 'come to have'
  • seem and appear (which is synonymous with seem) take infinitive complements
  • feel, look, taste, smell, and sound are sense verbs, which have unique syntax.

When an adjective follows be, get, or become, it is a simple predicate adjective.

  • He is/became/got tired.

When an adjective follows seem or appear, it is the result of To-Be-Deletion, e.g:

  • He seems/appears (to be) tired.

And the sense verbs have their own grammar. Hearing, for instance, uses three different verbs for three different kinds of meaning:

  1. hear, which requires an animate subject and an object denoting a sound
  2. listen, which is the same as hear, except that it is volitional
  3. sound, which requires a sound as subject and a description of it following the verb.

Of course, hearing is the only sense with three different verbs; vision has two: see and look, and all the others use the same verb:

  1. I saw/heard/smelled/tasted/felt it (accidentally)
  2. I looked at/listened to/smelled/tasted/felt it (on purpose)
  3. It looks/sounds/smells/tastes/feels good (to me)

In case (3), the description can be an adjective, so that Dinner smells good actually means "What I can smell of dinner indicates to me that it is good".

  • Thanks for response. That said, I know that it's legal to put adjective after the verbs: be, become, get,seem, feel, look, taste, smell, and sound. But why is the adjective "bankrupt" following the "leave" verb? You haven't mentioned "leave" verb, have you? And might we use the noun "bankruptcy" instead?
    – bnguyen82
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 9:28
  • 1
    @bnguyen82 When you leave him bankrupt, color him red, or make him tired, in all cases the adjective applies to him. There’s a fancy linguistic term for these sorts of causatives that I’m forgetting, but which John probably knows.
    – tchrist
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 12:03
  • That's the "B configuration", with a subject of the infinitive after the verb and before the infinitive. With no infinitive subject expressed, just V + infinitive, it's the "A configuration". There may or may not be a to, depending on the verb. But both configurations can occur with either of two different classes of verbs (or transformations): Equi or Raising. Commented May 16, 2012 at 13:20
  • @JohnLawler, Can you explain what you meant by your previous comment? In particular, where's the infinitive in "Seventeen years of war left the country bankrupt"? Commented Feb 25, 2020 at 18:55

There is an interesting and readable paper on the subject of these adjectives[1] and the verbs that command them. They are exemplified in such sentences as:

He hammered the metal flat; She shouted herself hoarse; They drank the pub dry; I shot him dead, etc. and, separately, "The chairman came to the meeting drunk."

These are then divided into resultatives and depictives: only the resultatives are addressed.

Thus we have

Resultative: He hammered the metal flat -> He hammered the metal and as a result it became/was flat.

Depictives: The chairman came to the meeting drunk = The chairman came to the meeting drunk and he was drunk.

The conclusion is that the construction is grammatical.

[1]The title is "Resultatives Under the ‘Event-Argument Homomorphism’ Model of Telicity" By Stephen Wechsler University of Texas at Austin. citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=

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