a <flying> carpet [noun or adjective?]

Ocham

Senior Member
Japanese
Please allow me for asking a stupid question. But this is very important for me.

Is "flying" in "a flying carpet" a noun or an adjective? Which can it be changed to,
"a carpet flying in the air" or "a carpet for flying [to fly on] in the air"?

Or ... either?
 
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  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    It's an adjective, comparable with "magic" or "airborne".

    (It is of course the present participle of "to fly", and one of the roles of present participles is to serve as adjectives.)
     

    Franco-filly

    Senior Member
    English - Southern England
    The freedictionary definition is: Noun 1

    flying carpet - (Asian folktale) an imaginary carpet that will fly people anywhere they wish to go

    Strictly speaking the "carpet" is the noun and "flying" is the adjective describing what the carpet is (capable of) doing.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It's a good question, because the answer is subtle. Harry Potter might cast a flying spell, and then 'flying' is a noun. Old or injured people might use a walking stick, and again 'walking' is a noun: they're a spell for flying, and a stick for walking. Now a flying carpet is both a carpet for flying and a carpet that flies, so 'flying' could be either. The answer is the intonation. A noun + noun group normally has the main stress on the first noun:

    a walking stick
    a flying spell

    But in adjective + noun groups, the noun has the primary stress, and in fact we call it a flying carpet - which shows that the intended meaning is a carpet that flies.
     

    RoRo_en_el_foro

    Senior Member
    Español Argentina
    I don't think so. Harry Potter always casts a spell, sometimes a flying spell, sometimes another kind of spell. You can stress the intonation in the "flying" word but it is still the adjective.
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    "Flying" is a verbal form deriving from "to fly." It can function, as you know, as a noun (gerund) or an adjective. Almost any noun can be used as an adjective simply by placing it before the noun it is intended to modify (e.g., "verb form") without the addition of a suffix or any other change. Your specific example, "flying carpet," means to me "a carpet capable of flying,"—whether it is actually flying is unspecified. In your example, "flying" is unquestionably an adjective (present participial form of the verb).
     

    RoRo_en_el_foro

    Senior Member
    Español Argentina
    See this:

    What is he casting? A spell ---- spell is the noun.
    What kind of spell? A flying spell ----- flying is the adjective of spell.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    No, he can also cast an illumination spell, or an invisibility spell. Those are nouns, not adjectives, and the stress rule applies to them and to the flying spell.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Entangledbank, this is an old argument and we'll probably never resolve it to everyone's satisfaction. But surely when it concerns a present participle (e.g. a flying carpet, a singing bird, a flashing light, a charming girl, an interesting argument etc.) there can be no possible justification in calling them nouns?
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The flying carpet contains a verb (the gerund-participle), used as an adjective if you like, but the point is that that's different from the gerundial noun in the flying spell. The intonation provides the means of distinguishing the noun from the adjective-or-verb.

    In fact, in your list, 'charming' and 'interesting' are true adjectives (as opposed to the verb in 'the girl charming us with her singing is only 15'), and can be modified ('very charming' v. :cross:'very flying' of any kind, :cross:'very singing'). Putting a word before a noun as a modifier is no test for what kind of word it is, but intonation and modification do provide tests.
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    Entangledbank, I, too, would be grateful for a reference from your CGEL—or any other authoritative source— that supports your contention. Wikipedia, among other sources, has this to say: "A participle is a form of a verb that is used in a sentence to modify a noun or noun phrase, and thus plays a role similar to that of an adjective or adverb."
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    Entangledbank, this is an old argument and we'll probably never resolve it to everyone's satisfaction. But surely when it concerns a present participle (e.g. a flying carpet, a singing bird, a flashing light, a charming girl, an interesting argument etc.) there can be no possible justification in calling them nouns?
    I suppose that it depends on whether the object that it qualifies is actually "verb-ing"

    A walking stick is not "walking" - it is merely associated with its owner who walks. Whereas, a flying carpet is actually flying
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    The flying carpet contains a verb (the gerund-participle), used as an adjective if you like.
    I do, I do.

    ...but the point is that that's different from the gerundial noun in the flying spell. The intonation provides the means of distinguishing the noun from the adjective-or-verb..
    But the intonation is personally variable and invisible in writing. That doesn't help a learner and it's taken me several minutes to understand that was what you meant.

    ...In fact, in your list, 'charming' and 'interesting' are true adjectives.
    I know; I threw them in to show the silliness of this argument. If a word qualifies a noun, then it's an adjective. English isn't Latin, and the etymological source of the word (whether it was originally a participle, gerund, preposition, noun, adverb or whatever) seems to me irrelevant, especially for learners.
     

    Ocham

    Senior Member
    Japanese
    Thank you very much, every one. Now I know how hard it is to make a clear distinction.
    But it's still a perfect answer itself for me.
     
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