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My English professor corrected me when I wrote the following sentence: "What's so laughable?". Obviously I wanted to convey that something seemed laughable and I wanted to know what, but he answered that "laughable" is a noun, and he gave me this option: "What's something that you can laugh at?" I'm totally bewildered because in the Oxford Learner's Dictionary it appears only as and adjective. Thank you in advance.

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  • "What's something you can laugh at?" Something laughable, not "a laughable". Is your professor a native speaker?
    – Andrew
    Mar 4, 2017 at 4:47
  • Hi, Andrew. Did you write "What's something you can laugh at?" because you considered that this question is better than "What's laughable?". No, he's not a native speaker but he teaches me in an institution here, in Mexico. Maybe he was just distracted or he misunderstood me. Mar 4, 2017 at 5:15
  • I was just answering the question in a way that makes it clear "laughable" is an adjective.
    – Andrew
    Mar 4, 2017 at 5:47
  • You are right, and I guess why your professor got confused. There are English words with the suffix -able which can be adjectives and nouns, e.g.: deliverable - "something that can be provided or achieved as a result of a process" (noun); "able to be delivered" (adjective).
    – Yulia
    Apr 27, 2017 at 7:05

1 Answer 1

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Your English professor is wrong, and you are right: laughable is an adjective. It might be employed as a noun (though I have never seen this), but if someone wrote or spoke of the laughable it would not designate a laughable entity (person, thing, event) but the category or set of all entities which are laughable.

I think, too, that your English professor misunderstands your question "What's so laughable?" If you are employing this in its ordinary, entirely idiomatic sense you are not, as your professor's paraphrase suggests, asking your hearer to name some laughable entity—you are asking your hearer to justify the characterization of a particular entity as laughable.

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