The distinction between noun and adjective is inapplicable to English grammar, and should be replaced by a distinction between objective and attributive words. — Encyclopaedia Britannica (1911)

How relevant is this to understanding English grammar? Is it still defended in the academic world?

  • 2
    I'd say there's a useful distinction when one analyses 'Tom Bombadil, he was a merry fellow' and 'Exhausted, he was a liability'. Though I think the debate still rages about whether steel in 'steel bridge' should be considered noun or adjective. cf 'aluminium ladder' vs 'wooden ladder'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 10 at 15:45
  • It's a leftover from Latin grammar. The Roman grammarians didn't distinguish adjectives from nouns, literally. There was no category for adjectives in the original 8 parts of speech; Latin adjectives inflect exactly like nouns, except that they have no innate gender, so they were considered just another category of nouns in the grammar. This is typical of some languages; others tend to consider adjectives as just another category of verbs, since their predicative uses are prominent. English is about in-between on that scale; our adjectives can work like either noun or verb. – John Lawler Mar 10 at 16:07
  • Thank you for your answer, I will do some research about the classical eight parts of speech – Marc Mar 10 at 17:05

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.