The difference is that cowardly is usually an adjective, while coward is almost always a noun. Hence:

That dog is a coward.

That cowardly dog runs at the sound of hooves.


the link

I couldn't understand how "coward" is noun in "That dog is a coward.", let's take the word brave as example:

That dog is brave.

Is brave an adjective in this sentence? If yes, so why is "coward" noun in the same clause structure?

if "coward" word is a none in "That dog is a coward", Does it has any difference meaning than:

That dog is not brave.

Another question: Can we remove the article "a"? is this make it adjective? Does it still has the same meaning?

  • The fact that either an adjective or a noun can appear after a "to be" verb is illustrated by this classic "Dad joke": "I'm hungry." "Hi Hungry, I'm Dad." Mar 6, 2017 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


Notice the indefinite article before "coward". Indefinite articles almost always introduce noun phrases.

The dog is a coward.

"a coward" is called a noun phrase, functioning as the predicative complement.

The dog is brave.

"brave" is an adjective phrase, consisting of only one word, functioning as the predicative complement.

Whether "not brave" is the same as "cowardly" is debatable. You can argue that the dog is not cowardly, but isn't brave either; i.e. there's a middle ground.

Note that this is just an illustration. There's no way to quantify cowardliness.

  • 2
    @Shannak see this; TL;DR; no, we can't omit it. "coward" as an adjective only appears in the attributive position, that is, right before nouns.
    – M.A.R.
    Mar 6, 2017 at 18:17
  • 5
    Following M.A.R 's note: the words coward and cowardly are properly used of people who fail to do their duty out of fear - frequently of soldiers at war. To be frightened is not to be cowardly. A jackal that runs away from a carcass when a lion approaches is not a cowardly animal, but a sensible one. There's no point in getting a hiding for nothing. Mar 6, 2017 at 18:58
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    @Sahuagin that's context-dependent. Sometimes context rules out the middle ground. But without any context, we can't rule it out. And I don't think it's restricted to English.
    – M.A.R.
    Mar 6, 2017 at 20:18
  • 1
    @Sahuagin That might be because you only either have binary states or the two extremes in mind. If the door isn't open, it must be closed. But if a surface isn't smooth, it could be rough, or it could be something between smooth and rough, in a way that qualifies neither adjective in your mind.
    – M.A.R.
    Mar 6, 2017 at 20:32
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    @Sahuagin For context, consider "He's not a brave dog—he hides under the bed during thunderstorms, and runs away from the cat. But he fought off the housebreaker who threatened me."
    – 1006a
    Mar 6, 2017 at 20:35

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