We know that when something tells the property of a noun, we call it an adjective. For example

  • Tommy is beautiful

So, beautiful is an adjective because it is telling the property of Tommy.

Now take another example:

  • Tommy is an animal

Animal is also telling the property of the noun but why isn't animal an adjective in the second sentence?

  • 2
    Because it is a noun here. There's an article before it and no object to which it could refer should it be an adjective. dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/animal Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 11:54
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    @SovereignSun Thanks, I get it. If we say "They are observing animal life" Where life is an object after animal. So in this case animal is an adjective. In all other cases animal is a noun
    – beginner
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:02
  • 1
    "He is animal" is also possible, means "He acts as if he were an animal" Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:06
  • It is possible to use nouns like adjectives in English, as in race horse or car door, which might be confusing for you. This is called a noun adjunct.
    – stangdon
    Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:15
  • More specifically, you can call it a predicative complement. Commented Apr 17, 2017 at 12:17

1 Answer 1


Animal is not an adjective because it has an article before it. Nouns take articles, never adjectives.

If you say "Tommy is animalish" or "Tommy is animalistic" - those are adjectives.

I think this is a "predicate nominative" situation where you are renaming the subject, not a "subject complement" where you are describing properties directly.

In saying "Tommy is an animal" - we are using figurative tactics here, we don't mean he is literally an animal even though we are literally saying that. The "Tommy has the properties of an animal" is implied.

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