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why do we have expressions like 'free time' , 'free afternoon' , and so on. , but we can't have 'free evenings'? What is the rule behind this? I was also searching and I found out that although 'free' is an adjective and can come before 'noun', in this meaning it can come either after or before nouns. Here it means 'available', but What makes me confused most is that when we can use this adjective before and when we can use after 'noun'?

I wanted the evenings free for going out with friends.

I wanted the free evenings for going out with friends.

  • "free evenings" is just as possible as "free afternoons / day / etc...". – Laure Apr 10 '17 at 5:41
  • As Laure says, "free evenings" is perfectly possible, however it is little used because for many people work is 9 to 5 and so their evenings are normally free anyway. – JavaLatte Apr 10 '17 at 6:11
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    "...but we can't have 'free evenings'" you wrote, but you don't say how you came to that conclusion. – user3169 Apr 10 '17 at 6:39
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    @JavaLatte In my experience, free evenings are a very dear commodity for folks with school-age children :p. – 1006a Apr 10 '17 at 6:39
  • @1006a: There, but for the grace of God, go I. – JavaLatte Apr 10 '17 at 11:39
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When you use the word free to talk about not being busy, it is an adjective. You can use an adjective in two ways, with slightly different word orders:

I want a red dress - to qualify something (identify what kind of dress you are talking about)
the dress is red - to describe something (say something about it)

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I wanted the evenings free for going out with friends.

This sentence doesn't fit either pattern, so what's going on? It makes more sense if you insert to be into the sentence like this:

I wanted the evenings to be free for going out with friends.

You would use this version to describe the state that you wanted your evenings to be.

I wanted the free evenings for going out with friends.

Here, you are using free as a qualifying adjective, so that you can say what you want to do with this category of evening.

  • how about?I've got no Thursdays free this term. – Mickey Mouse Apr 10 '17 at 6:39
  • @MickeyMouse: I have updated my answer: Your sentence could be understood in a describing sense: "I've got no Thursdays that are free this term". You could also say the same thing in a qualifying sense: "I've got no free Thursdays this term". – JavaLatte Apr 10 '17 at 11:38
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As JavaLatte answered you can use the first version that means:

  • I wanted the evenings to be free for going out with friends.

or use the second version.

The way this works is that normally an adjective modifying a noun goes before the noun but But an adjective which has a complement cannot be placed in front of the noun; it must be treated as a reduced relative clause and placed after the noun.

  • I wanted the evenings free for going out with friends.

A reduced relative clause (aka adjective clause) is one from which the relative pronoun and any immediately following copula have been deleted as unnecessary: to be free for going out with friends


In modern English adjectives may undergo a change of meaning when used postpositively.

  • I'm here to find the responsible people.
  • I'm here to find the people responsible.

Used prepositively, as in the first sentence, it generally means something like "trustworthy" or "reliable", but when used postpositively, as in the second sentence, it probably means "at fault" or "guilty" (of some misdeed known from the context). Another adjective with a special postpositive meaning is proper: in phrases like the town proper, Sweden proper, it means something like "strictly defined".

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