pay his workers 'sufficient' to buy ... [pronoun?]

Discussion in 'English Only' started by JungKim, Apr 5, 2013.

  1. JungKim Senior Member

    Here are a couple quotes from The Telegraph and Forbes, respectively:

    It seems to me that "sufficient" functions as a pronoun in both these quotes.
    But no dictionary that I consulted lists it as a pronoun.

    How would you classify "sufficient" in these contexts in terms of a part of speech?
  2. GMF1991 Senior Member

    Cork, Ireland
    English (UK, Suffolk)
    In this context, the phrase "wages to allow them to" is inferred after "sufficient", so I believe that it still counts as an adjective.

  3. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    Hello, JungKim. I think the WR dictionary considers it a noun: sufficient

    I had never noticed this use before you brought it up.
  4. JungKim Senior Member

    Wow, you're right. owlman5.
    So it's a noun, not a pronoun, I guess.

    On a side note, the reason I thought it might be a pronoun was that it can be replaced with "enough" in both of those quotes, and that "enough" in that context is a pronoun. :)
  5. JungKim Senior Member

    Come to think of it, is there any reasoning behind treating 'enough' as a pronoun and 'sufficient' a noun?
  6. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    The US dictionaries on my shelf say that sufficient is always an adjective, but that enough substituted in that sentence would be a pronoun. I have no idea how to explain this; I'm as confused as you (maybe more so). :confused:
  7. Jim2996 Senior Member

    Boston, MA
    American English
    It's extremely common in English to use nouns as adjectives, nouns as verbs, and all the combinations of parts of speech. Their degrees of acceptance vary. Many we give no thought to; for some, the new ones, they seem wrong or, at least unnatural, not something I would ever say.

    You've found an adjective used as a noun. With enough this has been done so long that everyone accepts it, even the dictionaries (they are always late, since they follow usage). Sufficient, as a noun, is either too new to be in the dictionary or they editors haven't noticed it (I often notice that dictionaries overlook meanings).

    To me, a pronoun refers to some noun that came before it; it needs to have an antecedent. I don't see any antecedent in your quotes. Of course, pronouns without an antecedent is a common error in writing.

    It's also extremely common to leave out (implied) words. You can take sufficient to be an adjective and then fill in the missing noun.

    English is always changing. We are quite flexible, sometimes inventive.

    EDIT: corrected my brain-slip.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2013
  8. JungKim Senior Member

    So, do you think it's a mistake (or an error) to call "sufficient" a pronoun rather than a noun because "sufficient" in neither context has an antecedent?

    If so, why "enough" put in place of "sufficient" in both the quotes is called a pronoun and not a noun when it doesn't have any antecedent either?
  9. Jim2996 Senior Member

    Boston, MA
    American English
    I think that sufficient is a noun (if the other choice is a pronoun). Enough is also. But this is just me. I wouldn't jump all over or correct anyone who called it a pronoun, especially since I know what you mean.

    It's like thing. Sometimes it seems to stand on it's own (noun), sometimes it is another name (noun) for something previously mentioned, sometimes it refers back to something previous (pronoun). I don't see a difference in these last two, except for what you call it.

    This is an area of usage where the exact label doesn't matter, and where people will use different labels.

    Actually, in your first quote,I can take it as an adverb, that it should be sufficiently, and that the sentence is "he had to pay his workers sufficiently." I would call this a mistake, but my dictionary says the sufficient can also be the adverb form. (These are called flat adverbs; it means no -ly.) So, who am I to say what is right or wrong? One voice, often it seems in the wilderness.

    Maybe the copy-editors should have re-written these sentences or sent them back to the author for more consideration. The second one, in particular, I think needs to be re-written (words missing). But, they are on a deadline; there is only so much time. (Perfection takes a long time.)

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