Nominal, substantive, substantivised - adjectives

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Kirimaru, Apr 10, 2008.

  1. Kirimaru Senior Member

    Hi ,all of you.

    I am going bananas because of the using of substantivised adjectives functioning as nouns with singular meaning.

    For example :
    Her beautiful today made me surprised.

    Does this sentence sound right?

    Could you please tell me the difference between the using this substantivised adjective and its corresponding noun - beauty ?

    Thanks so much .
  2. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    "Her beautiful today made me surprised" sounds totally and utterly wrong to me. In fact, I didn't realise, until I read farther on in your post, that "beautiful" was intended to be a noun.
    "... made me surprised" isn't all that great either.

    So the difference is: your sentence is wrong, while "Her beauty surprised me today" is right.
  3. Kirimaru Senior Member

    oh that's what I have learned T_T
    I am terribly worried when reading your reply because this is one grammar point I study this semester.
    Here are several other sentences on this topic :

    1.The wise look to the wiser for advice.
    2.The latest is that he is going to run for election.
    3.He is acceptable to both old and young.

    Do they all sounds wrong ?Please let me know your ideas about these.
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    These new examples are OK, but they are not the same as your "Her beautiful ..." sentence.
  5. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    If I said to you, "Good morning beautiful," I would, I think, be using beautiful as a substantised adjective (a term I have not heard of until today).
  6. Kirimaru Senior Member

    Thank for your ideas ,Lexiphile and panjandrum.

    Well ,I am still so puzzled with what called substantivised adjectives functioning as nouns. Some adjectives (wise ,wiser ,old, etc)can be used in this way ,and some like 'beautiful" cannot. Why so ? Please let me know.
    Thank a lot.
  7. Lexiphile Senior Member

    England English
    But Kiri, they can be used as nouns. "When Fred met Sally at the party, it was the beautiful vs. the bashful, and the beautiful won." Sentences of this type are not common, but they do occur.

    The problem was with your particular use in post #1. I can't think of any example in which such a "noun" is possessed by someone. "Her beautiful..." simply doesn't work.
  8. Kirimaru Senior Member

    That means I must use the definite article "the" before these adjectives,right ?

    If so ,it seems much clear to me.
    Thank you,Lexiphile.
  9. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Yes, the definite article makes an adjective function as a noun: that is, creates a "substantivized adjective".

    Edit: In English grammar it is more often called a "substantive adjective". Post #2 in this earlier thread The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly 2 has an good discussion of how they work in English.
  10. Kirimaru Senior Member

    I am so sorry for talking about a topic which was already mentioned.Honestly, I haven't finished reading all the old threads in this forum. It will take me much time to do this, but I will do my best.
    Thanks a lot for your idea and you link.
  11. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I hope this is not confusing, but it's probably important to know that you can use some adjectives with personal pronouns - my, your, etc.

    Hello my lovely.
    If you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, you will remember "my precious."

    And sometimes you can use them without article or possessive pronoun, as in my example earlier - "Good morning, beautiful."
  12. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    The main problem with the original sentence was that beautiful was used in the sense of "beauty".
    The beautiful doesn't equate" beauty". No more than the wise equates "wisdom".
    The beautiful and the wise respectively mean "one who/that which is beautiful" or "those who are beautiful" and "one who/that which is wise".

    Hence, the original sentence would mean
    Her "one who/that which is beautiful" surprised me today, which makes no sense.
  13. Kirimaru Senior Member

    Thank you, panjandrum .This information is really useful to me.

    Could you please tell me some more about this ? Which adjectives can we use in this way ?

    To LV4-26 ,many thanks for your idea about my original sentence.
  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't think I can tell you more.
    Nor can I tell you exactly which adjectives can be used like this.
    I can think of a few examples: beautiful, gorgeous, handsome, silly, stupid. Like most substantivised adjectives, or nominal adjectives, they are used to refer to people.
  15. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Some more examples:

    Bad money drives out good.
    [good = good money]

    What's the good in that?
    [the good = anything good, the good part/point]
    The perfect would have no need for forgiveness. [the perfect = those who might be perfect]
    An adjective becomes a noun when its noun is understood without being said ("good (money)", "a two-year-old"). It can also happen when it represents a generalization of something that might be described by that adjective ("the perfect (people)", "the good (thing)"). Such generalities usually use "the" and the plural is usually used for people ("blessed are those who mourn", "blessed are the meek", etc.), the singular for anything that fits the description ("the latest").

    The perfect is the enemy of the good.

    Here the perfect is singular, so the meaning would be "whatever is perfect". The good may mean either "what is good" or "those who are good".

    However, in this particular saying, as is common in proverbs, there is also metonymy, the suggestion of something by reference to something related to it (e.g. "The pen is mightier than the sword").

    In this case, I think "the perfect" means "an energy-consuming attempt at perfection" and "the good" means "a solution that would have worked fine", at least in the context where I first heard the saying.
  16. parap Senior Member

    Mainly US English
    One way to find out is to look up the adjective in a dictionary. A good dictionary will tell you when an adjective is also used as a noun.
  17. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    That is true, but the question is specifically about adjectives that may be used as nouns without either the or a possessive pronoun.

    None of Forero's examples are such examples, and many dictionaries would not give enough information, or examples.

    For instance, most dictionaries probably list stupid (meaning a stupid person) as a noun as well as an adjective.
    Very few list beautiful or handsome, which are used in the same way, as nouns.
  18. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Even without the (or a possessive adjective), I don't think any adjective is exempt as a possible noun:

    Like follows like.
    Positive and negative attract.
    To tie a square knot, it's left over right, right over left.
    Good, bad, beautiful, ugly: all went to the fair that day. There was something to suit both chubby and thin, old and young.
  19. Kirimaru Senior Member

    Thanks a lot,panjandrum,Forero and prarap.

    Well,I am afraid to say that what called substantivised adjectives seems to be complex to me.

    We've agreed that adjectives following the definite article "the"can function as nouns ,right?

    Some adjectives are preceded by possessive adjectives work as nouns,such as my lovely ,my precious ,etc.

    According to panjandrum,there are some adjectives are substantivised ones themselves without co-occurring with the or possessive pronoun and it is difficult to list all the adjective used in this way.

    So, how can I classify adjectives into these 3 groups? You know,it is extremely difficult for me,a not so good learner.

    I also asked my teacher about this.
    In her opinion,nouns made up of "the"/possessive adjectives and abstract adjectives have singular & specific meaning.
    So ,the sentence "Her beautiful today made me surprised " indicates that the girl mentioned look beautiful surprisingly today.The word "today" denotes specific time ; whether she is beautiful or not in other moment is unknown.
    While "Her beauty today made me surprised" implies that she is beautiful all the time.The noun beauty indicates a general meaning ,not a specific one as her beautiful.

    My teacher is not a native speaker and she told me that basing on what she had researched.I don't know if it works in real life or not.

    Finally,many thanks for your ideas
  20. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    "Her beautiful today made me surprised" makes no sense to me. It sounds as if beautiful (adj.) modifies today (noun). Beautiful, when it is a noun, does not usually mean beauty, temporary or otherwise. Beautiful as a noun refers not to beauty itself but to someone or something beautiful (or some beautiful people or things, when the meaning is plural). "My Beautiful" means "(O) one (who is) (most) beautiful to me".

    "And so that was all right, Best Beloved. Do you see?" [from Just So Stories, by Rudyard Kipling]
  21. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    I have great respect for teachers, who have a very difficult job.

    However, I would suggest that when you are speaking with native speakers, or taking a standardized test, you avoid a construction like "her beautiful."

    The following construction is possible in English:
    "Her being beautiful made me surprised."
    (Or, more idiomatically: "Her being beautiful surprised me.")
    This means that I was surprised that she was beautiful. Perhaps I had expected her to be ugly. ​

    (This is not a substantive use of the adjective, but an alternate construction, in response to your initial sentence.)
  22. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    So far, two different kinds of "substantivised" adjectives have been mentionned and I think it is important to distinguish between them as they seem to be very different.

    Panjandrum wrote several examples where the adjective is used as a form of address. (I guess latinists would call it "vocative" use).
    - either without any determiner
    Good morning, beautiful.
    - or with a possessive
    Where do you go to, my lovely? (after an old 1969 song)

    Contrary to what you said in post #11, Panj, I think only "my" -- and our? -- can be used in this way. No one provided any example with your or his/her and I really can't think of any. (or maybe as a joke "Hello, his lovely").

    This type shouldn't be hard to recognize: just check if it still works when you put a proper name in its place ==>
    Good morning, Jennifer
    Where do you go to, Marie-Claire? (that's the real name of the "lovely" in the song :))

    It is important to point out that there's only a limited list of those. (Hello, my intelligent :cross:, Good morning, blue :cross:). They're almost set phrases, actually.

    Those adjectives that are used with the definite article, as in the good, the bad and the ugly, the beautiful and the bashful, (after Lexiphile's post #7) , etc...
    I think their list is much less limited than in the other type. I'd be hard pressed to define its exact limits, if any.
  23. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I was struggling to remember vocative - it's rather a long time since my last Latin class :)
    I can think of only one example of this type that goes with my, your, his - beloved.
    That is perhaps so well established as a noun that it doesn't really count.
  24. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    Most any negative adjective can be used as an epithet ("name calling" word):

    What is it with those uglies?

    Here is a construction that works with most adjectives (especially two-syllable trochees) to turn them into nouns:

    _ is as _ does. [Put the same word in both _s.]

    I think almost any "vocative"-type substantivized adjective can be used with any possessive adjective, provided it sounds reasonably like a pet name:

    He said he would bring his precious with him to the ball tonight.

    Some parents, understandably proud, take their little pretties to every fashion show around, in hopes that some day each can become a supermodel.

    I agree that not every adjective can be used as a pet name, but the ones that can, seem to be alike somehow ...
  25. Kirimaru Senior Member

    Yes,I will do so.Thanks,Cagey.

    Substantivised adjectives ,I think , are not so commonly used but they do exist,therefore I just want to know them. And now,it seems to me that I have known them more ^^ ,thank you all for your clear explanation and ideas about this.
  26. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Senior Member

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    If I've understood Panjandrum correctly, these examples are different from the original question because they all have generic reference and refer to groups of people (1 & 3) or phrases with superlatives, specific reference (2). Correct? My grammar book gives a large amount of examples for all of those.

    However, it doesn't even mention the case of 'My precious', but it does list a few other substantised adjectives with specific reference: Almighty, accused, deceased, injured, dead, wounded, young. Some of them can even be 'possessed':

    The accused was found guilty of murder.
    We had to leave our dead behind on the battle-field.
    Helicopters evacuated over 500 wounded.
    A pheasant and her young strayed out of the park.

    I was also confused by the use of substantive adjectives in the movie title, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which is why I've posted a follow-up question in that particular thread.


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