I was thinking that the word switched could be used as a noun and maybe an adjective too but I might just be making grammar mistakes. Switched in the dictionary only shows up as being a verb!

Here are the examples and comparison sentences I was using: The shirts are brightly colored. The shirts are wool. The shirts are switched. (This sentence might be incorrect but it is the kind of sentence which I would use off the top of my head in everyday conversation. Switched seems like it's being used as a noun to me.) The switched shirts are both wool. (Here is how I think that switched could be used as an adjective.)

Please let me know your thoughts on this and correct me if I errored in any way! I am trying to better understand my own language in order to better study another.

  • Sure you can say “The shorts are switched”—but what is it supposed to mean? Who switched them? And with what? Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 11:39
  • "Switched" is commonly used as an adjective. Can't think of a case where it would be used as a noun.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 12:10
  • That the dictionary only mentions it as a verb is because they probably don't want to include the use of the past particple as an adjective for every verb in the dictionary. Its just a very common way to use a verb's past participle.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


"Switched" is the past participle of the verb "to switch". A past participle has several uses. Here are two: 1) It functions as an adjective in describing a noun: "The switched classrooms resulted in spotty attendance that first week". 2) It is used in forming the passive voice of the verb: "The children were accidentally switched at birth." Virtually all English verbs have a past participle that can function in this way; however it cannot function as a noun. For that, you can use the present participle: "I would never consider switching to another brand of laundry detergent."


The participle of just about any verb can be used attributively. A short-cut way of saying that is saying it acts as an adjective. Instead of mentioning for every verb that its participle may function like an adjective, most dictionaries do not include that.

A shirt can be washed, worn, bought, sold, switched, torn, lost, made, found, painted, burnt, etc. That does not mean you will find all those participles in a dictionary as an adjective — they are not.

Just about any word that can be used to act as an adjective can also be used as nouns, although that is not extremely common. That means I can do that with participles as well; I can certainly use the punished to refer to the punished prisoner, or the conquered to refer to the conquered people.

Again, if you look up punish or conquer, I doubt many dictionaries will feel the need to explicitly mention that you could use the past participle as a noun.

Referring to the switched shirts as the switched would be, I think, at best poetic.

In your sentence

The shirts are switched.

Switched is certainly not a noun, by the way. It is again, an attributively used participle, in the same way you could use any adjective:

The shirts are blue.

The only noun there is shirts, are is a copula linking the adjective blue to the shirts. Blue would only be a noun in a sentence like:

The reds and the blues are switched.

  • I would quibble somewhat with the comment regarding the use of the past participle as a noun. The fact is, virtually any word or phrase that's used as an adjective can perform this trick. Examples: "Only the good die young." "Dr. Richard Thorndyke arrives as new administrator of the Psycho-neurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous to discover some suspicious goings-on. " (from the plot of the movie "High Anxiety.") Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 10:58
  • @LarryTerrell: you're right, it follows from the attributive use and goes for actual adjectives as well, of course — I actually used that in the later example! — so I edited my answer.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 11:02
  • Thank you so much! I am extremely appreciative for your insight and feedback! Grammar is absolutely fascinating! I have never heard of an attributively used participle before now and plan to look further into it. Thanks for correcting my mistake when I thought that "switched" and "blue" we're acting as nouns. Now, I see that they are 100% adjectives. I am just used to adjectives coming before nouns instead of after. I understand this now completely thanks to your example sentence using "red and blues" as nouns. Once again, thank you!
    – slyfin
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 13:45
  • Finally, thanks for making your explanation simple for me to understand since I have knowledge of only basic grammar. Most of the time, as a native speaker, I only play the language by ear. I do wish however, that dictionaries would provide extended information about every possible way in which a given word can be used. Is there a dictionary out there with extended insight into using words with variations in grammar?
    – slyfin
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 13:53
  • @slyfin: there are things you can do with (almost) every verb, like using the participles attributively. Most dictionary editors would not find it very useful to include that information with every verb, so they will only include exceptions; for instance when the attributively used participle has a different meaning from what one would expect. Think of it in the same way that dictionaries do not usually include all the declensions of a verb: if I look up the verb walk, the dictionary editor will assume I know how to form he walks and _he walked_as they are completely regular.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 14:33

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