Adjectives Used as Nouns

Adjectives are very often made use of as Nouns in a sentence by virtue of a process known as Zero- Derivative nominalization wherein a non- Noun is used as a Noun, without requiring a derivative affix.

The intention is to express an idea more succinctly than possible otherwise.

Let’s understand in detail how adjectives function as Nouns in a sentence:

1.  Ellipses of Noun Phrases – where ellipsis is shortening of a phrase. Adjectives can then be used as Nouns or can be used as subject, object, and complement in a sentence.

Examples: Adjectives being used as Subject in a sentence.

  • The intelligent (people) are never arrogant.
  • The meek (humans) shall inherit the earth.
  • The old and the young (people) were evacuated from the building.
  • The rich (people) are privileged

Adjectives being used as Objects.

·         He is a lover of the intelligent (beings)

·         She has an eye for the rich (men)

·         He is a veteran amongst the young (students)


1. Sometimes the article ‘the” precedes certain adjectives omitting the use of Nouns they modify.


·         She gives money to the poor (people).

·         Nurses care for the sick (people).

·         A shelter for the homeless.

·         Tax breaks for the insured have been announced.

These words perform the functions of a Noun but they cannot be designated as Nouns as they do not fulfil any other criterion distinguishing them as Nouns.

However, Writers and the Film and Television industry make immense use of this form of adjectives being used as Nouns.


·  The famous soap opera from 90s “The Bold and the Beautiful”

· F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Beautiful and the Damned’

·  Clint Eastwood’s movie “ The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”


2. Adjectives are often made use of as Nouns to categorize a section of society based on class or physical condition.

Please note that in such cases the article “the’ always precedes the words.

These words are used in plurality and hence plural verb ‘are’ is used to drive across the point.

While showing possessiveness, the word ‘of’ is made use of and not apostrophes.


  • The book is available in Braille for the blinds(instead of saying the Blind People).
  • Therecession badly hit the poors (instead of mentioning the Poor people).
  • The bus service is free for the elderly (people).
  • The poor are better off with improved health care.
  • The needs of the disabled must be given due prominence.


3.  Adjectives being used as Nouns through Conversion – Adjectives can be made use of as Proper Noun, common Noun, Abstract Noun through this process wherein a words functions as a different Part of Speech without undergoing any change in its form but transition in intent and meaning .



As Noun: The village elder frowned on the the idea of inter-caste marriage.

As Adjective: The elder son shall perform the funeral rites of the deceased.

As Noun: She kept the fast for her husband every year.

As adjective: The fast car was no match against the speeding truck

As Noun: This Right is legally available for all Indians above the age of 18.

 As adjective: The right lane is meant for heavier vehicles.

As Noun: Mahatma Gandhi has always been his ideal.

As Adjective: He was fed up of living up to the expectations of an ideal son.

English Grammar and Composition

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