Noun or Adjective?
September 13, 2017 3:28 PM   Subscribe

School has started again and homework is in full swing, maybe I don't remember my parts of speech or have their functions mixed up but...

"Yesterday Maria collected ten large eggs." What is the part of speech of ten in this case, I say Noun. So which is it and why? Thanks much.
posted by Whatifyoufly to Education (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Adjective. Maria collected eggs. How big? Large. How many? Ten.
posted by pizzazz at 3:32 PM on September 13, 2017 [14 favorites]

I'd say adjective, because it is describing the eggs.
posted by Lucinda at 3:33 PM on September 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ten is an adjective, because it gives (descriptive) information about a noun (eggs). It describes how many (large) eggs. Ten is a cardinal number as used here, but it's definitely adjectival.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:33 PM on September 13, 2017

It's an adjective. What's your thinking behind seeing it as a noun?
posted by notyou at 3:49 PM on September 13, 2017

Adjective - it's performing the same function as "large" in this sentence. Actually, a dictionary can help here - there are a bunch of noun definitions for 10, but has one "adjective" definition too:
amounting to ten in number.
posted by brainmouse at 3:50 PM on September 13, 2017

I don't think a number is a noun or an adjective. People seem to be agreeing with me in this discussion in a linguistics subreddit. However, if I had a homework assignment where I had to pick whether "ten" was an adjective or a noun and there was no "none of the above" choice, I would go with adjective.
posted by Redstart at 4:15 PM on September 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

There is disagreement among linguists about what numbers are - this paper might be of interest to people who are interested in syntax.

There's some reason to think 'adjective' isn't a great fit for cardinal numbers; e.g. you can say 'She bought ten of them' but not 'she bought red of them' or 'she bought excellent of them.'

But if this isn't syntax homework - yeah, I'd go with 'adjective.'
posted by Jeanne at 4:23 PM on September 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

Lots of words pull double or triple duty as nouns or adjectives or verbs or whatever (Er, how about ... "swim" ...).

The key is to look at the word's function in any particular sentence.
posted by notyou at 4:45 PM on September 13, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have taken an entire upper-level class on grammar, so I feel qualified to tell you that, while we get taught that certain words simply are a particular part of speech, you can also think of words as having a function within a phrase or clause. Especially in the case of acting like an adjective, which is to say, modifying something. Just about any part of speech can be put to use as a modifier. A noun, say: "He was a Corgi person." Corgi is a noun, but it's acting like an adjective because it is telling you more about what kind of person he is.

The Wrong Kind of Cheese has it--in this use, it's adjectival. Which is different from saying it is an adjective.
posted by Orlop at 4:47 PM on September 13, 2017 [11 favorites]

There are lots of nouns that function as adjectives in English: Guatemala report, paper dolls, credit card, etc. etc. So just saying that "eggs" is the noun doesn't definitively prove that ten is an adjective.

Adjectives can generally be modified by an intensifier, so if you can say "That's so __________", then you have an adjective. For example: That's so large! Large is an adjective. This is not the case for words like Guatemala, paper, or credit.

Ten is not an adjective here either. You can't say "That's so ten!" But it is adjectival, as in Guatemala, paper, or credit. We usually call numbers "quantifiers" in linguistic-y situations.

Or, what Orlop said.
posted by chainsofreedom at 5:58 PM on September 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You mention homework, so I'm assuming this is for a child's homework assignment asking for identification of nouns or adjectives? In that case, it's an adjective.

While the above points about linguistics and things being adjectival and disputes in higher-level grammar discussions about whether numbers can actually function as adjectives are correct, when we're teaching basic grammar, we generally tend to simplify and bring in exceptions or complications later if at all. (There are plenty of finer points of grammar/linguistics that aren't really interesting or useful unless that's your interest or profession.) So in this sentence, it is almost certainly functioning as an adjective, depending on the context of the assignment. It is most definitely not functioning as a noun.

Qualifications: certified ESL instructor, adjunct college composition instructor, co-writer of elementary school grammar curriculum, editor, etc. etc.
posted by tiger tiger at 3:16 AM on September 14, 2017

I'm curious how you would justify defining it as a noun in this case. Noun is the most straightforward part of speech IMO, and this sentence has two nouns in it: Maria and eggs.
posted by tzikeh at 7:59 AM on September 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Adjectives answer the following questions: which one? what kind? how many? whose?
posted by oceano at 9:33 PM on September 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm guessing you're suggesting "ten" could be a noun because you would see "Maria bought ten" as sufficiently grammatical - except it doesn't make sense without context, so grammatically speaking it's not a complete sentence. (i.e. "eggs" is still implied, and "ten" is still just a modifier on "eggs")
posted by aimedwander at 9:04 AM on September 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

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