In "Medical team", Medical is an adjective. In "Legal team", legal is similar. But in some situations, some people use only "Medical" or "Legal" , eg "Get approval from Legal team" becomes "Get approval from Legal". What is this usage called ? How old is this type of usage ?

There are cases where this usage does not work, eg "Secret service" cannot be shortened to "Secret". What are the general "rules" of where this shortening works and where it does not ?

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    The examples do not suit the question; or the question is inappropriately titled. "Medical" could represent medical team, medical department, medical cases, medical profession, medical whatever... depending on context and domain of reference. It is not a generally recommended practice to use an adjective as a noun, though broader context can permit such an ellipsis. – Kris Mar 24 '15 at 16:07
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    Some of the examples are what is known as nominal adjectives (the poor; the opposite; the English ...). There are not too many different classes of these, and they have been dealt with before. Internet Grammar has a good treatment. These all require the definite article; the dropped noun is often 'people', but can be say 'explanation / truth / situation'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 24 '15 at 16:22
  • "Get approval from Legal" , is not a correct usage. It may be spoken mistakenly, but it can never be grammatically correct. – B Gaurav Mar 24 '15 at 16:24
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    The dropping of a noun where the resulting noun-substitute does not need a definite article (I've lost my mobile / Mine's a half / Get approval from Legal ...) is slightly different. However, if defaults are very well understood (He went for a medical / I am aware of a couple of instances where regional have told patients / ...) amongst the target audience (national, regional, company-wide etc), these elliptical expressions are quite acceptable. Talking about 'grammatical correctness' hereabouts is over-prescriptive. If you need a medical, don't refuse one because your grammar is B negative. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 24 '15 at 16:37
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    'Substantive noun' seems to be an ill-defined term (see Kris's Nordquist article below). Some seem to use it as a synonym for 'concrete noun'. I'd avoid it. A more important question is your 'What adjectives can be pressed into service as nouns?' (check individual usage); the related 'Have words like 'local', 'mobile', 'Legal' ... actually gone the whole hog and become true nouns nowadays (as well as remaining as perfectly valid adjectives)? is probably pretty unimportant. Until you look at how they now 'behave': my new mobile / his old local / ??our useless Legal. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 24 '15 at 17:19

Do a bit of studying on the Latin language. In Latin, when adjectives are used without an accompanying noun, they are called substantives. They are translated as "the ____ ones." For example, "pulchras" would translate as "the beautiful ones." "Fugimus ex pulchras" would translate as "We fled from the beautiful ones." You can say "the beautiful people" or "the beautiful," but, like you said, the secret service cannot be abbreviated as "the secret."

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    Please provide supporting references. e.g., grammar.about.com/od/rs/g/substantiveterm.htm – Kris Mar 24 '15 at 16:11
  • Why is that we can use secret to mean "secret service," then? – Kris Mar 24 '15 at 16:12
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    Welcome to ELU, DoBroYeo. The discussion of Latin grammar seems interesting enough, but an English word used as a noun is a substantive too. – ScotM Mar 24 '15 at 16:12
  • Interestingly, "substantive noun" is itself shortened to "substantive" !!!! – Prem Mar 24 '15 at 16:54
  • @dobroyeo : "nominal adjective" and "substantive noun" are similar ? Is it something like "nominal-adjective substantive-noun" can be shortened to "nominal-adjective" ? – Prem Mar 24 '15 at 16:59

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