Circle the nouns in the following paragraph.

For the first time in her life, Mary was seeing two boys at once. It involved extra laundry, an answering machine, and dark solo trips in taxicabs, which, in Cleveland, had to be summed by phone, but she recommended it in postcards to friends. She bought the ones² with photos of the flats, of James Garfield’s grave, or an announcement from the art museum, one¹ with a peacock-handsome angel holding up fingers and whispering, One³ boy, two boys. On the back she wrote, You feel so attended to! To think we all thought just one² might amuse, let alone fulfill. Unveil thyself! Unblacken those teeth and minds! Get more boys in your life! — Lorrie Moore, “Two Boys”

  1. Why is the one in "one with a peacock-handsome angel" a noun? 

  2. In my opinion, the ones in "she bought the ones with photos of the flats" can't be a noun because it is a pronoun. Also, the one in "to think we all thought just one might amuse" means indefinite or nonspecific people; therefore, it is not a noun, but a pronoun. Is my reasoning correct?

  3. Is the one in "One boy, two boys" not a noun because it is a determiner as in one, two, three, many?

  • I am not quite sure who's done the circling here. At times it sounds like it was you, at other times it sounds like you're looking at the solution and wondering why it is the way it is. At any rate, whosever circles they are, they've missed James Garfield. He's a noun just like Cleveland. – RegDwigнt Oct 27 '18 at 23:34
  • Thanks for pointing that out. Any comments on my questions? – korealive Oct 27 '18 at 23:43

Regarding #1, it's a noun ellipsis. Consider the following sentences:

John ate three sandwiches, and Sam ate two sandwiches.

John ate three sandwiches, and Sam ate two.

What is the object of "ate" in the second sentence? "Two" here stands in for the noun phrase "two sandwiches," and so functions structurally as a noun (as the object of "ate") the way "sandwiches" would in the first sentence.

Regarding what I will call #2a, see #1.

Regarding #2b, it is definite--"one" is an ellipsis for "one boy," which is unambiguously a nominal and not pronominal phrase.

Regarding #3, correct.

  • pronouns functiin structurally as nouns, too, just as determiner phrases do. Writing one's really irks me, but it shows that it's not supposed to be in the same category as its, yours, for whatever reason, even if one is often interchangeable with an indefinite you, "that site, where one/you can ask questions and answer some's without providing references" – vectory Aug 24 at 12:59
  • German has a phrase structure equivalent to (1): "Sie kaufte ... ein Schreiben vom Museum, eines mit einem pfau-zugewandten Engel ...". Since the identity between the indefinite article, determiner and the numeral is preserved ("a, an" vs "one", compare Dutch "en", "ens"), the situation is a little different perhaps, anyway the grammar does not consider the determiner a noun (which would consequently have to be capitalized as a noun). Thus your reasoning seems pretty arbitrary to me. – vectory Aug 24 at 13:07

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