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In everyday usage, I would use the word amateur like this:

(Noun) I am an amateur rock climber. (Adjective) I participate in amateur rock climbing.

It also sounds right for me to say the following:

(1) (Adjective) I participate in, but am amateur at, rock climbing.

My question is whether the usage above is appropriate. In other words, using "amateur" in the form:

I am amateur at [...]

Oxford dictionary gives the example sentence "it's all so amateur!" that seems to have a similar usage.

It uses "amateur" as an adjective modifying "it", so it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to have "amateur" modify "I". Is that enough evidence to support it being used in the above way?

  • I think if you look in an actual dictionary you will get the answer to this question pretty handily. Try googling "amateur definition adjective" and then click on one of the links to a dictionary site, like Oxford Dictionaries or Merriam-Webster. Note that you may have to scroll down within a particular entry to get all the parts of speech. – 1006a Apr 10 '18 at 20:43
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    Definitely not out of the question that I haven't looked close enough. I just now went through Oxford, Merriam-Webster, and a few others. I couldn't find an examples that explicitly say "I am amateur at [...]". Maybe I'm asking the question incorrectly? – CalendarJ Apr 10 '18 at 20:48
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    @1006a Though OP should certainly add dictionary references, I don't agree that this will resolve the question. 'It's all so amateur' sounds a lot less idiomatic to my ears than 'It's all so amateurish', even though dictionaries I've checked in class the adjectives as synonyms. I think this needs serious analysis. The premodifier usage of 'amateur' is possibly in the course of conversion from noun to adjective. This could limit the number of idiomatic strings available. / 'I am an amateur at rock climbing' is also more idiomatic. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 10 '18 at 21:15
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    @EdwinAshworth: The use of "amateur" as an adjective also seems to be better established when it refers to things rather than people: Oxford Dictionaries gives the example sentence "‘Some of the attempts were amateur and romantically inept", but the word "amateur" of course doesn't have the same meaning here as it would in CalendarJ's sentence. – sumelic Apr 10 '18 at 21:22
  • I have never in my life heard "amateur" as a predicate adjective describing a person. You will get responses that fail to differentiate between noun and adjective. I for one am convinced that it does not exist. – Chuckk Hubbard Apr 10 '18 at 23:53
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My understanding of the word and reading of the dictionary examples would say that it's not really correct to say you are "amateur at something". That said, I think the phrase is common enough it won't raise too many eyebrows. Personally, I would say "I'm learning to rock climb", if I'm indicating my skill level as "amateur". Really, the word should be amateurish when describing poor ability and that word has too much negative connotation. I would use "amateur", more typically, to indicate non-professional activities. But you could also talk about hobbies and pastimes.

For your example, if you want to use the word correctly, I would say:

I'm an amateur rock-climber.

Rather than:

I'm an amateur at rock climbing.

  • I'm an amateur story teller: I am an amateur at telling stories. I that not right? :) – Lambie Apr 10 '18 at 22:06
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According to Etymonline and other dictionaries, amateur is rooted in a French word meaning lover of (something). In your first example sentence, amateur is used as an adjective along with rock, to modify the noun, climber.

  • I am a climber. (What kind of climber?)
  • I am a rock climber. (Are you a professional rock climber?)
  • No, I am an amateur rock climber.

Furthermore, a quick check of the NGrams for common usage of the word, shows that it isn't used as a predicative adjective:

I am amateur

Same result for "I am amateur at":

I am amateur at

But is commonly used in the way that has already been explained in the first answer given here (by Lowell Montgomery):

I am an amateur

"I am an amateur at" barely registers on the NGram, which suggests it's uncommon and probably not grammatically correct:

I am an amateur at

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    I am an amateur also is: I'm an amateur, not to mention, he, she, they, you and we. This is one of those examples where you either know it or you don't. Ngrams simply does not work for everything, especially speech, and every written possibility. – Lambie Apr 10 '18 at 22:08
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    Take at look at this dialogue in a book: books.google.com/… – Lambie Apr 10 '18 at 22:12
  • @Lambie ~ I understand, but there's no reason why my examples don't work to prove my point here. You don't have to run every pronoun through it, to get the idea. – Bread Apr 10 '18 at 22:12
  • @Lambie ~ I already conceded within my answer, that "I am an amateur at" is used sometimes. However, I don't consider your citation any example of fine literature. In fact, the use of the F-word makes it clear to me at least, that it is informal and slangy. It is also used within the dialogue of a presumably uneducated character. – Bread Apr 10 '18 at 22:14
  • There are quite a few relevant examples of 'were amateurs at' in competently written pieces on the internet. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 10 '18 at 23:21

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