Can an adjective become a noun?


I am a teacher. The other day I was faced with teaching this sentence:

"The first singer was clearly the best"


I was prepared to teach the word "best" as an adjective but was corrected by a senior colleague that in this case the word "best" is a noun. I do not agree with her. 


Could you explain to me who is correct?

Many thanks

Helen wright

asked May 15 '13 at 20:13 Helen Wright New member

5 answers


An adverb modifies a verb or adjective, so Z.A. argues that best is an adjective because there is an adverb in front of it.  I have to disagree.  Clearly is modifying the verb.  You could easily rearrange the sentence to:


The best was clearly the first singer.


Again, clearly is modifying the verb and best is a noun.  

link comment answered May 17 '13 at 14:03 Patty T Grammarly Fellow

I checked a couple of online dictionaries to make sure, but it can be a noun.


n. 1. One that surpasses all others. 2. The best part, moment, or value: The best is still to come. Let's get the best out of life. 3. The optimum condition or quality: look your best. She was at her best in the freestyle competition. 4. One's nicest or most formal clothing. 5. The supreme effort one can make: doing our best. 6. One's warmest wishes or regards: Give them my best.

link comment answered May 16 '13 at 00:35 Lewis Neidhardt Grammarly Fellow

There are occasions where an adjective can function as a noun.  Article the should be used before the adjective.

The rich live in fear. (rich people)

The homeless should be provided with shelters. (homeless people)

But, my opinion is that best in the sentence you mentioned is used as an adjective. (Superlative degree)

When a noun is described, an adjective should be used.  Clearly is an adverb.  Therefore the best cannot be a noun.  When an adjective is described, an adverb should be used and it should be placed just before the adjective it describes. 

link comment answered May 16 '13 at 17:02 Z. A. Jazley Contributor

So is there an adjective in this sentence?

link answered May 17 '13 at 15:16 brandon helling New member

'First' and 'the' are adjectives.

Lewis NeidhardtMay 17 '13 at 16:02

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And since you people are at it... what do you think of this thing I found today: "AmericaN's gym"? And adjective being used as a noun that owns another noun? LOL!

link comment answered Jul 22 '15 at 23:40 Christ D Leyva New member

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