Consider the following:

He replied to us even when not solicited/asked.

Can not solicited be replaced with unsolicited?


Solicited can be seen as a verb in the way you want to use it. It’s a non-finite verb, which means it doesn't show tense or person. There is no verb *unsolicit, so there cannot be a verb unsolicited, which must therefore be considered an adjective. By analogy, solicited can also be seen as an adjective as well as a verb.

  • I agree that solicit is the citation form for the verb from which solicited derives, but I cannot imagine *unsolicit. Not all adjectives of the -ed variety derive from a verb, and so should not be called verbs. I’m spacing on the technical name for these, though. Gimme a second and I’ll dig up a proper reference. – tchrist Jul 26 '12 at 11:40
  • @tchrist: You're quite right, and I've edited my answer. – Barrie England Jul 26 '12 at 11:51
  • 1
    Still digging, but I think I’m thinking of something else. A good example of what I’m talking about is fanged visage, which does not presuppose a verb to ∗fang, despite being an -ed adjective. What is that sort of thing called? Regarding unsolicited, there’s a verb there but it is solicit not ∗unsolicit, because the un- was applied to solicited, not the -ed to ∗unsolicit. This is like how an unbroken series doesn’t posit a verb to ∗unbreak. – tchrist Jul 26 '12 at 11:53
  • The OED’s second entry for -ed is the one I was thinking of. Citing OED2: “is appended to sbs. in order to form adjs. connoting the possession or the presence of the attribute or thing expressed by the sb..In mod.Eng., and even in ME., the form affords no means of distinguishing between the genuine examples of this suffix and those ppl. adjs. in -ed1 which are ultimately f. sbs. through unrecorded vbs..The suffix is now added without restriction to any sb. from which it is desired to form an adj. with the sense ‘possessing, provided with, characterized by’ (something);” No special name? Hm. – tchrist Jul 26 '12 at 12:15
  • @tchrist: Thank you. Do you agree that whereas 'unsolicited' can be analysed only as an adjective, 'solicited' can be analyzed either as an adjective or as a non-finite verb? – Barrie England Jul 26 '12 at 12:37

According to OED unsolicited is an adjective not verb and means not asked for; given or done voluntarily, which could perfectly work in your context.


Yes, you can certainly use "unsolicited" in that way. I'm not sure whether I'd consider it a verb though; I'm trying to imagine how one might unsolicit something or someone.

  • I don't think the word "unsolicited" really works here. Had the sentence "He replied to us when solicited" would imply "He replied to us when [a replier was] solicited". The people doing the soliciting were not soliciting the person as an individual, but were soliciting a replier, and the individual in question was one. Adding "not" maintains the sentence structure. Using "unsolicited", however, doesn't work IMHO, since it would imply that the individual (rather than the reply) was unsolicited. – supercat Feb 9 '14 at 20:06

The use of the word "not solicited" in the original statement is fine.

However, most dictionaries classify "unsolicited" only as an adjective and with the meaning of "not searched or asked for."

So if you want to use "unsolicited," to be safe, I'd suggest:

He gave us a reply even when unsolicited.


He gave us a reply though unsolicited.

  • I don't think your proposed constructs really work, since "unsolicited" looks like it modifies to "He" [via an implied "he was"] rather than modifying "gave" or "a reply". Better would be "He gave us an message, unsolicited". Note that "unsolicited reply" is somewhat oxymoronic, given that the existence of a "reply" implies the existence of something which prompts it [and thus effectively "solicits" it]. – supercat Feb 9 '14 at 20:18

It's an example of a past participle ending (-ed) being applied to a noun (not a verb) to create an adjective. E.g. Certificated Bailiff. No such verb as to certificate but it is a perfectly logical way to express in receipt of a certificate.

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