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If one was wanting to say that someone had a passion/enthusiasm for something like mathematics, can it be said that "they have [a] quantitative zeal" or "they are full of quantitative zeal"?

I normally think of zeal to mean excitement or enthusiasm; however, I felt that saying something like: "they had a zeal for mathematics" seemed awkward, and I would probably look for something else if I couldn't use the first usage I mentioned.

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why not mathematical zeal? –  Matt Эллен Jul 25 '12 at 14:30
    
Quantitative isn't limited to describing mathematics, though. Also, see Matt's comment. :) –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 25 '12 at 14:32
    
OK, sure. It could be anything prefixed to zeal. I just wasn't sure if it was correct to use it like that--[subject] zeal. I am more used to seeing "a zeal for [subject]". I was just trying to give a specific example to work with. –  han42 Jul 25 '12 at 14:34
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Quantitative zeal just sounds like somebody who’s into super-sizing everything. –  tchrist Jul 25 '12 at 14:37
    
Oh, right! Yes, that construction is fine. –  Matt Эллен Jul 25 '12 at 14:38
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3 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you want to be clear and direct, you should say "a zeal for mathematics".

When I read your title, my first thought was that "quantitative zeal" meant "an excitement that can be measured". (Perhaps I was thinking of "quantitative analysis" in chemistry, which means measuring the amounts of each substance, as opposed to "qualitative analysis", where you identify what the substances are.)

Similarly, I think someone would take "mathematical zeal" to mean that his enthusiasm is precise. When we say that something is "mathematical" we usually mean "precise".

Of course am ambiguous phrase might be preferable if you want to be more poetic.

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First, quantitative is not the same as mathematical.

Mathematical zeal doesn't necessarily mean a zeal for mathematics. You don't want to describe the zeal itself, but what the zeal is directed towards.

You could have a fiery zeal, for example, but you would still need to say what he was zealous about.

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Is that zeal for fire? –  Mitch Jul 25 '12 at 15:16
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In Quantitative zeal, 'quantitative' would be an adjective. It describes the type of zeal you are having, than what it is for. While your requirements are to show that the person in question has a zeal for 'something' and not of 'some kind'.

If you use quantitative zeal, - which doesn't make much sense - you will still have to write what the zeal is about.

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The modifier quantitative is applied to the noun zeal. That makes it an adjectival modifier here, not an adverbial one. I cannot think of a reasonable way for this instance of zeal to be used as a verb, adjective, adverb, or preposition, so I cannot think of a way for quantitative to be an adverb. The adverb would normally be quantitatively. I think you need to edit your answer to say “adjective” where you’ve written “adverb”. –  tchrist Jul 26 '12 at 12:03
    
You are right, Thanks for the clarification. –  Playmaker Jul 26 '12 at 13:19
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