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I am using the word opposite in two ways:

1) To refer to something that has an opposite; 'heat' is an opposite because it has an opposite, 'cold', whereas 'three' is not an opposite because there is no 'opposite' of three.

2) To refer to things that are opposites; to describe the relationship between opposites; 'heat' and 'cold' are opposites.

The first one (I hope) is a noun. Is the second usage as an adjective? I would think so as it describes a relationship, but one could say "the opposites heat and cold", in which case as a pair they are opposites, so would that just make them both 'an opposite', as used in the first definition?

  • The word opposites is a noun, the plural of opposite. The adjective is opposite, without an 's'. – Peter Shor Apr 30 '16 at 12:34
  • Not really; 'Black is the opposite of white'. 'Opposite' here is being used as a noun. 'Opposites' with an 's' is merely the plural form. – JDF Apr 30 '16 at 12:53
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This is not a question with an obvious answer. I suspect imprecision is making the answer more difficult: 'hot' (not 'heat') is the opposite of 'cold'. Because one noun sense of 'opposite' is 'an antonym', and 'heat' (while not 'the opposite') is a relational antonym of 'cold', it is correct to say that 'heat' and 'cold' are 'opposites', where 'opposites' is a plural noun meaning 'antonyms'. It is also, however, correct to say "heat and cold are opposites" where the sense is adjectival: "heat and cold are altogether different". Thus, whether the use in your second example is as an adjective or a noun depends on what the intended meaning is.

For the definitions used, see opposites. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved November 1 2015 from http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Opposites. See especially the usage notes on the cited page.

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    Thank you. I am studying Plato's Phaedo, and the words I am using refer to Platonic Forms: the distinctions in the usage are very slight and difficult to detect. And yes, you are correct about 'heat'; I just use 'heat' because the Form of 'the Hot' is the same thing as 'Heat', without needing to use an article. Likewise, I have been interpreting the Form of the Cold as just Cold, for lack of a better word. – socrates Nov 2 '15 at 5:46

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