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

4 answers


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 Expert

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

The verb "to be" is frequently followed by an adjective describing the subject of the sentence; for example,  "The first singer was good." The example you present --  "The first singer was the best." -- is no different than "The first singer was best."  This is called a predicate adjective. "Best" is a predicate adjective just as is "good."  If it helps, think of the sentence as having an implied noun:  "The first singer was [a] good [singer]."  or  "The first singer was the best [singer]."  If the noun you imply is the same as the subject of the sentence, then you're looking at a predicate adjective. 

link comment answered May 28 '16 at 19:33 Ernie Murray New member

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