I do realize that the phrase "to be man enough" is an idiom. But I wonder what is the grammatical/syntactic role that man plays in it. Is it an uncountable noun? An adjective? An adverb? Or perhaps because the phrase is an idiom, the question makes no sense?

  • It's a noun used as an adjective, as in such usages as "He never asks for directions. It's a man thing". In your context you could reasonably substitute the explicitly adjectival form manly. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 15:24
  • 1
    Good question! Firstly, M-W's sense (2) of man is relevant: man noun :(1) an adult male human being :(2) a man or boy who shows the qualities (such as strength and courage) that men are traditionally supposed to have // Secondly, while the first sense is classifying (given a decision on when the adolescent – man transition occurs), the second is gradeable (consider the related adjective 'manly'). This doesn't really answer your question, though. I'd treat 'X enough' – where X appears to be a noun as a snowclone (a productive idiom) – modelled on 'adj enough'. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 15:25
  • It’s an attributive noun, a noun adjunct. In other words, it is one noun used to modify another. Although all adjectives modify nouns, not all things that modify nouns are adjectives. This is very common error of logic.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 19:26
  • @tchrist: And which noun does man modify here? Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 20:14
  • Note that the phrase alludes to "be a man", as in If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, / Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, / And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son! -- Rudyard Kipling's If
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 22:44

3 Answers 3


Consider an alternative sentence:

He is sufficiently manly to achieve his goals.

Here manly is an adjective and sufficiently manly is an adjectival phrase. In your sentence, man enough is a colloquial substitute..........so it is also adjectival.

Because of its colloquial nature, I would only catagorize the phrase and not break it down further.

  • 1
    To answer the question, you have to specify a part of speech or say that that would be unprofitable here. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 15:28
  • @Edwin: But this answer explicitly says OP's usage is adjectival (for which I'm upvoting). Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 15:36
  • @EdwinAshworth I agree with you......and have expanded my answer. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 15:38
  • 1
    @FF Saying " 'man enough' is adjectival in sentence A" is very different from saying " 'man' is an adjective in sentence A". Attributive nouns are obviously adjectival (= 'acting to modify a noun' or 'doing the job of an adjective'). 'Adjectivals' include more than just adjectives; though the adjective 'adjectival' is polysemous, its main sense is usually taken as being 'acting as (ie doing the job of) an adjective'. Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 15:39

Man is a noun in constructions such as 'to be man enough'.

To be more specific, man is a predicate noun, or a noun used in the predicate of a sentence. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED), under the definition of enough, gives an example of this exact phrase, from, coincidentally, another dictionary, the New English Dictionary (N.E.D.).

1891 N.E.D. He was not man enough to confess the truth.

The description in the OED of enough in this usage is

quasi-adjective, qualifying a noun used as a predicate

Note the term quasi-adjective describes enough, not man. Other OED examples that fall under this same entry for enough are

1711 The Butler has been Fool enough to be seduced by them.


1878 Looking at a spot into which she was not climber enough to venture.

Fool and climber are nouns.

In additon, the first definition of enough in the OED says:

  1. in concord with noun, expressed or implied:

and as examples for with noun in singular it gives uses from Old English (prior to ~1100) through Middle English to Modern English, and they include

1518 With payne and trauayle anough, we made toward the Cowrte. (With pain and travail enough, we made toward the Court--my updating of this sentence)

approx1616 There's wood enough within. (Shakespeare, The Tempest)

1766 He had not resolution enough to give any man pain by a denial.

1816 That thought is happiness Enough for me.


Webster's 1828 Dictionary notes that

This word, in vulgar [common] language, is sometimes placed before its noun, like most other adjectives. But in elegant discourse or composition, it always follows the noun, to which it refers; as, bread enough; money enough.

Edited to add:

Another modifier that goes after the noun is alive. And here is an example:

As for the scientist, he has absolutely no use for me so long as I am man alive.

  • It appears we are more commonly common than once we were.
    – RJH
    Commented Jan 10, 2016 at 22:40

Another way of phrasing it is, "He is enough of a man." Then "enough" is an adjective, but "man" is something of a "qualifier," even though it is technically a noun. That may be where the confusion is coming from.

  • +1 I agree with that. Man is a noun. English often drops words which are easily understood. Man enough is shorthand for "enough of a man".
    – almagest
    Commented Oct 11, 2014 at 7:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.