I wanted to describe a helmet visor which can have separate settings, opaque and transparent. Thus I wrote the following sentence.

She switched her visor to transparent.

I thought it an ellipsis of a noun phrase:

She switched her visor to the transparent mode.

However after my spellcheck irritated me with being unhappy with my construction I started investigating. At the very least there are barely occurrences where the adjective after switched to is not followed by a noun it is modifying.

The corpus search indicates that as well as the ngram. Although there are ngrams with switch to color, they are almost exclusively followed by a noun, the same applies to the clear hits, only that they include hits where 'clear' is a verb.

Obviously I expected transparent and opaque to be dwarfed by the colors in the ngram, but there was not a single hit. Which is strange, since ngram does not care about the following words. This prompts my question is there some difference between the other adjectives and transparent - or opaque - that I am not aware of?

A company that produces glass with similar capabilities uses those two adjectives, just not after switch to.

I can very well live with my spellchecker being outdone by the construction, my question however is, can I use such a construction?

The ngrams and corpus searches seem not that encouraging. More for the comments, is my construction intelligible?

EDIT: After the positive feedback regarding comprehensibility and provided immersion of the sentence in the comments and chat, I'll keep my sentence and likely only change the verb.

Can anyone speak to the grammaticality of the construction with an adjective after switch to or set to?

  • 2
    Intelligible and better, IMO, than "She switched the visor to the transparent mode." Your version is easily understood, although it might cause readers to slightly pause. Good science fiction creates the feeling of there being a complex world beyond what's merely described in the text. Your construction "switched to transparent" actually does this--intentionally or not--since readers, once they figure out what is meant, will immediately recognize this construction as likely occurring in a world with visors with multiple settings, regardless of whether we use it here in our crummy world.
    – DyingIsFun
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:47
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    I was about to say it's like "Set phasers to stun" but that could be interpreted as the verb stun, rather than as a contraction of "stun mode", which isn't the case in your example. I'd definitely say that it's intelligible. Aug 23, 2016 at 15:48
  • 4
    FWIW, I've always interpreted "set phasers to stun" on analogy with "switch visors to transparent." It's like "set the fan to high".
    – DyingIsFun
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:49
  • 3
    @Silenus me too: it conjures up an image of a little switch on the side of the phaser which has two settings, labelled "Stun" and "Kill", which may actually be the case in-world. Aug 23, 2016 at 15:50
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    Exactly! Which is what I was getting at with good sci-fi forcing the reader to conjure a world way more vividly than what's merely presented in the text. I think a similar thing happens with "set your visors to transparent".
    – DyingIsFun
    Aug 23, 2016 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


I see transparent as a noun in this case. It is a type of "thing." Normally it would modify the thing in question, but the lack of a noun following it pushes it to take on the role of one. There are lots of examples in English, and some are idiomatic:

  1. I like red. [Clearly an adjective for the color red.]
  2. I like the red. [It's probably referring to a red beer or wine and functioning quite well as a noun.]
  3. The lady in red [another example of a prepositional phrase; with red as a noun].

Switch is simply a verb in the imperative mood.

There is nothing wrong with the sentence in terms of its grammar, either "Switch visor to transparent" or any of your other examples.

  • I agree that the OP's first sentence is fine. But I don't think 'transparent' can be a noun. I would be very surprised to see 'the lady in transparent', for instance.
    – TonyK
    Sep 27, 2016 at 16:11
  • So you think an understood ellipsis then? I still don't think it makes it ungrammatical.
    – Stu W
    Sep 27, 2016 at 16:25

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