How can a noun be an adjective? A trunk is a trunk, not a hood. A door is not a window. A hood will be too large for the trunk, and one wouldn’t want to use it for a windshield. But one part of speech can be another. How does that work?
A word can be converted into another part of speech depending on where it is used in a sentence. Think of a sentence as a series of slots. A noun slot is typically followed by a verb slot. If the sentence has an adjective, the adjective slot is before the noun.
Linguists call this a functional shift because the function of the word changes but its form remains the same. This is fairly common in flexible languages like English.
Can a Noun be an Adjective?
Yes, a noun can function as an adjective in a sentence to modify another noun.
- Car engine
- Railroad track
- Glass house
- Coffee mug
- Grape jam
- Peanut butter
A dirty knife is what you get when you spread grape jam and peanut butter on banana bread. But dirty knife is not an example of a noun turned into an adjective. It’s just something that needs to be washed.
An Adjective Can Be a Noun
The process can also be reversed. In red wagon, red is an adjective describing the wagon. But an artist might say, “I used cadium red in my painting,” turning red into a noun, and cadium the adjective. Another example could be “the sky is a beautiful shade of blue,” where blue is being used as a noun to describe the color rather than simply an adjective describing the sky.
Can a Noun Be All the Parts of Speech?
We know that a noun can be an adjective, but can a noun be used as 8 parts of speech in one sentence?
Well, I went to the well-decorated well and saw a pool of inspiration well up, and it was well and good.
That sentence contains an interjection, adjective, noun, verb, and adverb.
Five out of eight—that’s not bad. What’s missing is a preposition, conjunction, and pronoun, but well has not been turned into any of those parts of speech, at least not yet.
Turning a word into a new part of speech is called anthimeria (antimeria). Because anthimeria creates unexpected phrases, advertisers and influencers often create them.
Beverly E. Jones’ book, Find Your Happy at Work, is an example. Hulu used “Come TV With Us” for awhile.
Sometimes such anthimeria occur because people want a shortcut word. Instead of “I spend too much time looking at my Facebook feed,” try “I Facebooked the day away.” Or, instead of “I spent half an hour on Google looking for more examples of anthimeria,” try “I Googled for anthimeria.”
We Could Add ”a” to Parts of Speech
A small word can make a big difference. For example, whether I use the article “a” or “the” makes a difference. If you ask someone to hand you the book and they give you a book, that will annoy you, especially if the book they handed you is not the book you asked for. (We discuss articles and adjectives in 5 Fun Facts About Adjectives.)
Part of Speech implies individual parts. Parts of a speech means the elements of a speech: introduction, main idea, elaboration, examples, conclusion, and so on.
Maybe that won’t work either, since we’re talking about sentences, not speeches. We could say parts of a sentence. That won’t work either, because sentence parts is related to syntax.
It looks like we are stuck with parts of speech.
Want to know how we feel about grammar? Then check out What is Grammar?
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