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Following the terror attacks in London on July 7, 2005, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted those responsible were motivated by an "evil ideology," ...

From CNN. It uses those responsible; I searched on the Internet and found out that responsible is not a noun but an adjective. Can anybody tell me how to use such an expression?

  • read: "those (who are) responsible" -- ellipsis. HTH. – Kris Mar 28 '15 at 4:57
  • When Blair said this he was breaking with a custom which had been established in Britain during the Irish troubles. Back in the seventies news reporters used to say, after some bombing atrocity in which people had been killed, things like The I.R.A./Loyalist Paramilitaries claimed responsibility for the incident. It was felt that the word 'responsibility' tended to put a cloak of respectability on what had been a cowardly and heinous act. So the BBC and other media started saying simply 'The IRA/ Loyalists said they did it. The BBC continue such policy with current Middle East murders, – WS2 Mar 28 '15 at 12:37
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(Almost) any adjective can be turned into a noun by putting the or a demonstrative pronoun (like those) before it, or another determiner (like all). In most cases, the result means "those people who are [adjective]".

those responsible = those who are responsible

the weak = people who are weak

all responsible = all who are responsible

In many cases, only some determiners are possible, depending on the adjective and the context; and some determiners may be more or less likely to be used than others, result in a different meaning depending on context, etc.

the possible (e.g. "what which is possible")

?all possible (I can't think of a context that would allow this)

those possible ("those things that are possible")

?the hot

?all hot

those hot enough ("those things that are hot enough"; less likely without a modifier)

When the adjective is unfit to describe people, either in context or intrinsically, adding the usually results in a meaning such as "the x-ness, the x aspect", or basically anything that would make sense elliptically. When talking about wires, "the red" refers to the red wire. It should be noted that adding the to such an adjective usually makes it singular, as opposed to "people adjectives" above.

Of course those does always result in a plural. When talking about tools, those available refers to those tools that are available. But, again, in many cases many determiners are impossible, especially the. In such cases, it usually becomes (all) the x one(s).

There is a connexion with adjectives that can come after their nouns in general, such as available (those tools available): such adjectives are more likely to allow determiners even if they are unfit for describing people. There is something that makes those adjectives more predicative, and predicative adjectives don't come before their nouns.

  • I think it needs pointing out that with a few exceptions (the opposite...), only adjectives which modify nouns with human referents are likely to be used as nominal adjectives (*the/all/those... canine // * the nuclear // *the silvery ...), and that 'the' won't often work (*the responsible // *the hot // *the too hot ...) and sometimes neither will other determiners (*those hot) without padding (those too hot to continue working inside). – Edwin Ashworth Mar 30 '15 at 0:06
  • @EdwinAshworth: All good points. I have incorporated most of them; edit away where you see room for improvement. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Mar 30 '15 at 2:42
  • Another common way to say this is to use the word "one" at the end. To my ear, "The hot one" is more common that "the hot", although in "those responsible ones", the "ones" is correct but unnecessary, and would generally not be said. – Jeremy Nottingham Mar 30 '15 at 2:51
  • @JeremyNottingham:I've added a note about one(s), which is indeed the most important complement. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Mar 30 '15 at 2:55
  • The examples not involving 'the' (your first and third, and OP's) are readily explained by whiz-deletion as you show. John Lawler's explanations are probably a preduplicate. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 30 '15 at 9:32
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Responsible is an adjective. This sentence is saying that the people that were responsible for the terror attacks in London were motivated by an "evil ideology". When using responsible in the first-person, i.e. I am responsible, you are either saying that you are trustworthy and mature or you are saying that you are the person that did the thing in a certain situation or that you are chargeable with being the author or cause of something. Just replace those in those responsible with the words the ones that were or the people that were.

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