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7 The partitive adjective construction

The term partitive is normally used in grammar and semantics to refer to a part or quantity of a larger identified collection, such as ‘some of my friends’. However, with reference to adjectives, partitives reflect a subset of all entities possessing a quality indicated by the adjective. In grammatical terms, it could be described as a postnominal relative adjective phrase. In inflectional languages, this mostly takes the form of a genitive. Thus, the suffix –s is normally used in the German and Dutch (but not in English). An example is given below:

Wät Flugges.
something beautiful.PA
Something beautiful.

The construction is predominantly used with indefinite pronouns, as in the example above.


The partitive adjective construction consists of:

  • a nominal quantifier
  • a partitive adjective

The partitive adjective must be marked with an s-suffix, glossed as PA; adjectives in -s are characteristic of this construction. The construction as a whole can function as a nominal argument to verbs, adjectives and prepositions. The partitive adjective construction is found in two types, depending on the definiteness of the nominal quantifier:

  • Indefinite partitive adjective construction
  • Definite partitive adjective construction

The definite partitive construction is similar to the indefinite one, except that there is a definite nominal quantifier instead of an indefinite, and the inflection on the adjective is different: nominal. There is a demonstrative or a definite article instead of an indefinite quantifier. An example is given below:

Aal dät Goude.
all the good.PA
All the / those good things.

The definite or demonstrative article is normally preceded by the universal quantifier aal ‘all’. For more information, see the following topics:

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