The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly 2 -substantive adjectives

Discussion in 'English Only' started by vachecow, Dec 11, 2004.

  1. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    In this phrase, would good, bad and ugly be substantive adjectives?
  2. Focalist Senior Member

    European Union, English
    I wasn't familiar with the notion of "substantive adjectives" before I did a bit of looking up, but the answer is "yes" by this definition:
  3. Artrella Banned


    When you put the definite article before those adjectives you turn them into nouns.

    Good= adjective The good = noun

    The poor/ The handicapped/The needy/The rich.

    Art, :) ;) :p
  4. leenico

    leenico Senior Member

    U.S.A. english
    Good for you Art. You're bringing back memories of grammer that I've long ago forgotten. Of course I spent a lot of time looking out the window while I was in school. I take it by the icons you display that you are female. :D
  5. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    Ah...Thank you very much!
  6. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Senior Member

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    I am slightly confused, still:

    Normally, the good, the bad and the ugly should refer to groups of people being good, bad or ugly, or alternatively, it refers to that which is good, bad or ugly (abstract notions). Both cases have generic reference.

    However, in the movie title, good, bad and ugly seems to refer to the specific main characters of the movie, i.e. specific reference. We are told in our grammar books that substantised adjectives cannot be used like this. An example (Hemingway's novel):
    The old and the sea.:cross: (= old people in general)
    The old man and the sea.:tick: (= a specific man who is old)

    Has Hollywood changed the nature of English grammar? Or do you (native English speakers) understand the movie title differently?

    Swedish learners of English need to take care, because substantised adjectives are much more common in Swedish, and we often make mistakes such as the wrong book title above. Moreover, when the movie title was translated to Swedish, the adjectives ended up referring to the specific persons, meaning "The good [man], the bad [man] and the ugly [man]."

    Another thread about substantive adjectives occurred recently, here, which prompted me to check my grammar book and raise the above question.


  7. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Response to POST 6 above.

    I understand the movie title to mean that the movie is about good people, bad people, and ugly people in general. I would not be surprised to find in the movie that each refers to a specific person, as a representative of the quality. That is, the shift from "the ugly [people] in general" to a specific ugly representative of the group would seem clever, not wrong.

    I hope I understood the question you were asking.
  8. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I don't have any difficulty with this title. I understand these adjectival nouns to refer to archetypes (but which are represented by individual characters in the film). In a sense the title refers to both the abstract and the individuals. This is similar to Lexiphile's example in the linked thread:
    Here we have actual people, Fred and Sally, but they are represented in a figure of speech by these abstracts. This is not the same as Wilma's "the old and the sea", where I agree: we do not call an old man "the old" or "an old". Even if "the old" refers to the archetype, it would be a kind of rhetorical error to match this substantive adjective (the old) with a real noun (the sea).
  9. Wilma_Sweden

    Wilma_Sweden Senior Member

    Lund, Sweden
    Swedish (Scania)
    Yes, you understood my question perfectly.

    Yours and Mole's answers were much as I suspected, i.e. there is a clever double reference which may or may not get lost in translation. Thank you both!


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