Parts of speech for "... eyes of such a very undecided blue ..."

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ntulearning

New Member
Mandarin
Topic phrase: "... eyes of such a very undecided blue ..."
Added by Cagey, moderator

I am truly puzzled and shocked today in class.

My English teacher told me that
very --> adverb
undecided --> verb
blue --> adjective

To the matter of truth, I had to approach her and express my concern.

So, I told her that my take on this is that
very --> adverb
undecided --> adjective
blue --> noun

I explained that adv + verb + adj just doesn't work as a structure and "something of something" (eyes of ... blue) has to be "noun of noun", not "noun of adjective", if we simplified the language.

She insisted that this is Dickens' creative writing and the structure doesn't have to be as traditional as I see it.

Furthermore, I raised the example of dark blue, with dark being the adjective and blue being the noun. She still said no and told me that blue is still an adjective.

She asked me to go home and think about it again before presenting my side of view again.

Can anyone explain to me how her analysis works? I truly cannot see it.

Thanks a lot.
 
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  • suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    Grammatical analysis works in sentences. Many words can only be classified by their job in any particuar sentence because they are not fixed in one role. Your Dickens example is lacking the surrounding detail we need.

    As for dark blue, you cannot say it is always adj, noun as this sentence shows:

    She has dark blue eyes = blue is an adjective here
    I like that dark blue = now doing duty as a noun.
     

    ntulearning

    New Member
    Mandarin
    Grammatical analysis works in sentences. Many words can only be classified by their job in any particuar sentence because they are not fixed in one role. Your Dickens example is lacking the surrounding detail we need.

    As for dark blue, you cannot say it is always adj, noun as this sentence shows:

    She has dark blue eyes = blue is an adjective here
    I like that dark blue = now doing duty as a noun.
    Yes, I agree with you about the variation. "Dark blue eyes" makes blue an adjective.

    My puzzle remains.

    The full sentence is
    "Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites."
     

    Wilma_Sweden

    Senior Member
    Swedish (Scania)
    I have to agree with suzi br, and with the OP - blue is functioning as a noun in this case, and undecided functions as an adjective that modifies that noun, while very of course is the adverb that modifies the adjective.

    See also my favourite dictionary: http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/undecided
    (they do seem to suggest that undecided doesn't normally appear before nouns, and that may usually, but not always, be the case)
     

    ntulearning

    New Member
    Mandarin
    I have to agree with suzi br, and with the OP - blue is functioning as a noun in this case, and undecided functions as an adjective that modifies that noun, while very of course is the adverb that modifies the adjective.

    See also my favourite dictionary: http://www.ldoceonline.com/dictionary/undecided
    (they do seem to suggest that undecided doesn't normally appear before nouns, and that may usually, but not always, be the case)
    Thanks. That is my interpretation as well. The problem is my GCSE English teacher told me something different, hence my confusion.

    Mind you, she also seemed surprised to find out that adverb could be used to modify adjective. In the class, she only taught us that adverb modifies the verb. I am not sure if she did it on purpose and will give us a fuller picture in the future, as her way of teaching.

    But making a structure of adv + verb + adj is just too confusing for me and not understandable. That's why I am looking for an explanation here.
     

    ntulearning

    New Member
    Mandarin
    There is no structure adv+verb+adj here.
    In the OP sentence, the words are used as : very (adv) undecided (adj) blue (noun)
    Cheers.

    If you all agree with me, how do I explain this to my teacher? She wanted me to present a case to convince her next week.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    Here's another argument for blue being classed as a noun in this sentence: of is a preposition and a preposition must be followed by a word functioning as a noun, or noun form such as an 'verb+ing word', sometimes called a gerund.

    There's no doubt that blue functions as a noun in your sentence.

    [mass noun] Blue colour or pigment.
    ‘she was dressed in blue’
    ‘the dark blue of his eyes’

    [count noun] ‘armchairs in pastel blues and greens’
    blue - definition of blue in English | Oxford Dictionaries

    About the definition of adverbs as modifying only verbs, that was how we were taught 60+ years ago in the UK. We only needed grammar to have the vocabulary for learning modern or ancient languages. We spoke and wrote perfect English at that age and had learnt the basics of sentence structure in primary school so there was little point in studying in any depth.

    If your GCSE teacher isn't qualified in teaching English as a foreign language, she may not be aware that 'adverbs' can modify other forms. I don't remember what we had to do for our GCE/GCSE English language exam. There might have been a 'parsing' question.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    One useful acid test to see if a word is "being" a noun in any context is the use of an article. In your original phrase we have
    A very undecided blue. That A nails the classification as a noun for me!

    This is how you can persuade your teacher.

    It is unusual to see the word undecided in such a position, but Dickens was an artist; being creative is his business.
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    I did a post-graduate diploma in teaching English as a foreign language to adults. I taught a fair amount.
    When you say 'this country', which country do you mean?
     

    ntulearning

    New Member
    Mandarin
    Thanks @JulianStuart and @suzi br for the suggestions.

    @Hermione Golightly , I meant the UK.

    Perhaps I need to speak to the college and see if they could transfer me to a teacher with TEFL experience or qualification.

    TBH, English has always been my favourite subject at school, until yesterday. This is the first time I truly found English boring and very chaotic. And this is only the second lesson for my GCSE English. Will it ever become better again for me?

    Many thanks to all.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    It is disappointing if your teacher is really chaotic, but was it really that bad?

    For sure, being able to classify words in a sentence is not really a very essential skill in learing to read / speak good English. Especially in terms of passing a GCSE you will need to focus on different skills to meet the specific exam criteria and you will never meet a question like this one you have set us in a GCSE paper!

    It is only the second lesson, and maybe your teacher found your questions surprising and unexpected. You are obviously a keen student, the way you have written your OP is very fluent and advanced, so maybe you intimidated her a bit!

    I guess you will fly this exam but maybe you can test out your teacher's qualifications behind the scenes at college and see if there is a better option for you ... but as a bit of "free" life-advice I think you need to avoid being confrontational with your teacher, cos it will only make her more nervous! ;)
     

    ntulearning

    New Member
    Mandarin
    Thanks again, @suzi br.

    She is actually perceived as a very good teacher, with heaps of positive feedbacks from us for the first lesson. She is very engaging and I could feel that she cares and is very passionate about teaching.

    The chaotic bit is that I struggled to find a system from which she was trying to impart her knowledge on us. There were many jumping points. In other words, I also struggled to keep up. When she introduced ideas and concepts, loads of questions surfaced in my head. But I did not have time to process them. I did not want to take other students' time all the time or stale her planned progress. It may just be a general learning obstacle I would face anywhere. I don't know.

    I understand it would make the teacher nervous if I bombarded her with questions that might seem authoritatively challenging. However, I felt quite worried and disappointed that a simple structure could not be taught as straight forward as I had thought. Telling students adv + verb + adj is a manifestation of creative writing is worrying. The immediate setback is giving the wrong judgment and answer on the exam paper next summer, stating "undecided" as a verb. The long-term effect is that students would carry the correct concept for life. I may be going off on a tangent here but it is worrying. In my case, I was very confident with this grammatical aspect at first. Now, I am perplexed and starting to doubt myself since she is an experience GCSE teacher and a native speaker of English language.

    One example was that, when she asked another student about the parts of speech for "blue", the student answered "adjective". She said "Well done!" and praised the student for becoming a grammar wizard. Effectively, the student would be proud for a mistaken reason.

    At this point, I found myself stepping out of line as a learner, despite my newly developed confusion.

    So, how do I strike a balance here?

    By the way, what is OP?
     
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    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    hi -
    OP is the abbreviation we use in here for "original post" or original poster.

    I think we need to take this discussion to private message, as we are going off topic now. Chances are we will get the content deleted if we carry on with it!
     
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