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According to my Cambridge Grammar of English, 'such (a)' is used in noun phrases with attributive adjectives.

She's such a quiet girl. (such a + adjective + singular countable noun)

They're such nice kids. (such + adjective + plural countable noun)

She always uses such fresh food. (such + adjective + uncountable noun)

And indeed, those are the rules as explained in the manual I use: such (a) + adj. + noun. But then, out of nowhere there's this exercise that requires the answer:

It was such fun for all of us to be together.

There is no adjective, and unfortunately no explanations either. So why is that structure acceptable? Or is it just a 'freak exception'?

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The adjective is possible, but not necessary. The same rule works with bare nouns. He's such a jerk. ~ I've never seen such light! For adjectives alone you use so instead of such (I'm so tired that I could cry); such is used with NPs, whether or not they contain adjectives. –  John Lawler May 20 '13 at 15:41
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Does CGEL read " 'such (a)' is used in noun phrases with attributive adjectives." or " 'such (a)' is only used in noun phrases with attributive adjectives."? There's a vast difference. –  Edwin Ashworth May 20 '13 at 16:33
    
@EdwinAshworth The CGEL mentions 'noun phrases' generally, but my students' book clearly states the rule as "such (a) + adjective + noun". –  Sara Costa May 21 '13 at 10:26
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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

This usage of such as an intensifier is both an adjective and adverb:

adj. 2b. Of so extreme a degree or quality: never dreamed of such wealth.

adv. 1. To so extreme a degree, so: such beautiful flowers; such a funny character.

As such, it can modify either a noun (“such fun”) or an adjective (“such nice kids”).

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The main question you need to ask is whether or not the target of such is countable:

It was such fun for all of us to be together.

Here, fun is not countable so no a is used. However, if you change the sentence above to refer to something that is countable, you will need to add an a (not the most elegant of sentences but it wiill serve as an example):

It was such a fun afternoon we all spent together.

"Fun afternoons" are countable, you can have one, two or many of them, hence the a.

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That's not the question the OP is putting - it's the licensing of the adjective-less variants. CGEL allows for count and non-count nouns thus: " 'such (a)' is used ...". –  Edwin Ashworth May 20 '13 at 16:36
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I think originally people would have said: "It was so much fun for all of us".

In time people substituted "much" with "such" (they sound similar) leaving out the intensifier, so. Grammatically speaking. the phrase "such fun" is wrong as is "so fun" but both forms are becoming increasingly common so we accept it unquestionably.

As for such being used to modify a noun that is not always true. We don't say: "Today was such a day, we went swimming." It makes no sense whatsoever. But we do say: "It was such a delight to stay at..." or "...such a pleasure to meet you." Likewise it's possible to say: "I've got such a headache now!" :)

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Yes, I had noticed before that 'It's such a book!' makes no sense whereas 'He's such a jerk!' sounds fine. Could it be because the noun implies a quality, which is usually given through an adjective? Does that make sense to anyone? –  Sara Costa May 21 '13 at 11:45
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Such is an adjective in both cases, which can just be likened to "like this," for me.

Such fun = fun like this/fun of this sort Such a quiet girl = a quiet girl like this/a quiet girl of this sort

The first such and the second are the same, though the first intensifies the noun because of the lack of an article to separate the noun from its modifier.

Whether it's a determiner or not depends on the context.

"Such fun" as a determiner would imply the speaker is referring to a any particular kind of fun that has been stated. The sentence, if meant to have such used as a determiner, would be better reworded ("any such fun").

But if the sentence is just intensifying, as it is, it's acting as an adjective.

In the two respective sentences in the question, it's the difference between the adjective being: "A quiet girl like that (comparison between the girl and a similar but unknown noun)/A great deal of fun" and the determiner being: "Such quiet girls/Any fun".

The determiner doesn't really make sense in these cases.

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Modern treatments correctly identify such as in such fun, such a help, such suffering as being a determiner, not an adjective (see Collins at thefreedictionary.com/such ). –  Edwin Ashworth May 20 '13 at 16:30
    
@EdwinAshworth Well, except when it's an adverb. And the distinction between adverb–adjective is more important than adjective–determiner for this question, since it explains why you can use it both with a bare noun and with an adjective. –  Bradd Szonye May 21 '13 at 4:45
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