I found myself writing this:

.. and this is before we consider mathematics proper.

It seemed like a natural kind of thing to write, but I couldn't find an example of it. I get the impression it's OK to use it in this way; to mean the major mathematical schools in this case (rather than people who just do mathematics).

Is there any objection to this?


3 Answers 3


It is grammatically correct but does not mean mathematical schools. It means mathematics in the most strict, literal sense.

If by major mathematical schools you mean major mathematical philosophies or major groups of people who share a mathematical philosophy (such as those listed at Wikipedia), then one alternative would be:

… and this is before we consider major mathematical schools of thought.

  • the field of mathematics proper. I guess then! hmmmm... the field of proper mathematics is clearly wrong. the proper field of mathematics is a wrong too (for my context). field proper of mathematics?
    – Lucas
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 13:32
  • Does my edit help?
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 17:26
  • As it happens, no, but you would have needed to have the rest of the sentence to know that. I mean mathematicians whose job it is to be mathematicians, rather than scientists or philosophers i.e. defined by profession not disposition. I guess what I just written makes it write quite clear how I should change it. Thankyou for chipping in.
    – Lucas
    Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 21:13
  • In that case change “mathematics proper” to “mathematicians proper” and that ought to express what you mean.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Apr 6, 2012 at 17:34

There is no objection. Proper is one of the postpositive adjectives. Others are seen in phrases such as heir apparent, devil incarnate, body politic. See Wikipedia's page for more examples: Postpositive adjectives


"but I couldn't find an example of it"

In an introduction to Dante's The Divine Comedy the author says: " ... owing to the distinction between bestial malice and malice proper".

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