China's Guangzhou Evergrande FC set up a mouthwatering FIFA Club World Cup semi-final against European champions Bayern Munich after seeing off Egypt's Al Ahly 2-0. And Guangzhou Evergrande FC challenges Bayern Munich on their newly released posters with this slogan: Where Amazing Happens.

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I am wondering if this slogan is a right expression. Amazing is an adjective without doubt, then how could it be used alone as a subject? I have thought this over and now I guess maybe it is acceptable using some simplified, less-grammatical expressions for news titles and slogans, isn't it?

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    Worth noting that this is also the slogan of the NBA in the USA. (Read more here.) Dec 17, 2013 at 3:53
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    I am wondering if this slogan is a right expression. Amazing is an adjective without doubt, then how could it be used alone as a subject? While amazing is an adjective/gerund, it's not the subject of that clause. The subject is the abridged: [The place] where amazing [things] happened/did happen/have happened/are-were happing/etc. The subject is the entire noun clause, that is to say, The place where/in-at which amazing things happened. Dec 17, 2013 at 4:28
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    @JohnQPublic - Nicely stated. I'd like to follow that up with a reminder that not everything will be "grammatically correct" – puns, slogans, headlines, and lyrics are four examples that come to mind.
    – J.R.
    Dec 17, 2013 at 9:02
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    @JohnQPublic I must disagree. It's an ordinary free relative clause like Where the Boys Are or How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and its subject is what. Dec 17, 2013 at 11:40
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    Keep in mind that the Arts, including prostitutive arts like advertising and forensics, are not constrained by ordinary convention. On the contrary, they function by deliberate subversion of ordinary convention. Dec 17, 2013 at 11:42

4 Answers 4


You could interpret it as a gerund, a noun-like form of the verb amaze formed with -ing. If you interpret it this way, the phrase is grammatical, standard English. The gerund serves as the head of a noun phrase, which is in turn the subject of the verb phrase headed by Happens. However, this is not the first interpretation that occurs to me as a reader; instead, I read it as a noun derived from the adjective amazing, which is not standard.

I'll describe the latter interpretation below.

All speakers of English understand a process called zero derivation, where a word that is normally one part of speech is used as though it were another. This is a highly productive process, which means you can say things like:

I ripped the door off its hinges and doored him upside the head!

Speakers of English all have door in their vocabulary as a noun, but very few have it as a verb. Despite that, any fluent speaker of English would understand door here as a verb, presumably meaning something like "to hit someone with a door".

But--and this is very important!--when we're speaking standard English, we tend to reject derivations like doored or speakering or guitar playingly as unacceptable, even if it's clear from context what they mean. And if I were to zero derive a verb amazing from the adjective amazing:

Every night I walked onto the stage and amazinged my audience.

It would be non-standard. The same thing is true of your quote:

Where Amazing Happens

Here, the grammatical context tells us that Amazing must be a noun, which conflicts with our expectation that Amazing be an adjective. It is grammatical: the noun Amazing is zero derived from the adjective Amazing; it then serves as head of the noun phrase Amazing, which is the subject of the verb phrase headed by Happens. But the zero derivation is non-standard, which means the whole thing is non-standard English.

Of course, when many people say "grammatically correct", they're really asking whether something is acceptable in standard English. And that, it is not. When we speak standard English, we avoid making derivations like these.

Do not use the adjective amazing as a noun if your goal is to write standard English.

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    The term "zero derivation" is really good to know. Thanks. Dec 17, 2013 at 9:19
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    @DamkerngT. It's also called conversion.
    – user230
    Dec 17, 2013 at 9:20
  • I was just thinking about this last night, after I saw this TV ad, and found myself chuckling at the word Twizzlerize.
    – J.R.
    Dec 17, 2013 at 9:52
  • @J.R. I enjoy silly non-standard derivations, zero and otherwise :-)
    – user230
    Dec 17, 2013 at 10:00
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    +1 -- well put. Unfortunately, these constructions are dangerous for non-native speakers to use until you are pretty fluent because native speakers won't be able to tell if you are making a mistake or a joke! But in casual conversation you may enjoy experimenting with them anyway.
    – hunter
    Dec 17, 2013 at 12:36

The poster is correct.

This type of reframing of an adjective as a noun used in the English-speaking world, and is beloved by advertizers:

A mouthful of "awesome" in every bite!

Tongue-in-cheek speech:

Auditioner: Okay, can you portray the same character, but make him ... sad?

Actor: Sorry, no, I don't do "sad". Unless it's "cheesy sad"; I'm a comedian!

Auditioner (to others): Did you hear that? We have a clown here (which I mean literally as well as pejoratively) who says he doesn't do "sad", unless it is "cheesy sad".

Another example:

A: I went on a date with a really intelligent guy, but he intellectualized every topic we talked about.

B: I hear you. Intelligent is good. Nerdy: not so much.

We probably accept this kind of thing by imagining the word to be completely outside of the syntax, as if wrapped in quotes (which is why I wrote all the examples that way).

The ability to use pieces of language as nouns is necessary, because it allows us to talk about language. We can say things like:

A: Blurchmoop!

B: What on Earth is "blurchmoop?"


"up on" is a different preposition from "upon".

We cannot stop ourselves from saying sentences like these because we don't know the lexical category of blurchmoop, or because "up on" isn't a noun, and so cannot serve as the subject to the verb "is".

A piece of quoted language can serve as a noun, or even a verb, to make these kinds of sentences work, and as a byproduct, it lets us say things like "awesome lives here" or "I'm with stupid".

Also note that "amazing" can in fact be regarded as simply the gerund form of "to amaze". Thus, "where amazing happens" can be interpreted similarly to "where cooking happens". However, this is not the interpretation which jumps out at me; and if I wanted to convey that meaning, I would say, "where amazement happens". Because "amazing" is a common adjective, we do not use the gerund form "amazing" in contexts where it is not clear that it cannot possibly be the adjective, such as, "He goes around amazing everyone with his skill". So if "where amazing happens" is used by someone with the intent of invoking the gerund meaning, patterned after "where cooking happens", that someone must not be a native speaker of English. By dumb luck, however, that someone has created a glib phrase suitable for an advertizement.

Another thing: "the amazing" is definitely a noun.

Every morning, Bob the Contortionist does the amazing; he bends over backwards and bites his own left ankle.

The slogan in the poster could be expressed as:

Where The Amazing Happens

Finally, check this out. There are some adjectives in English that serve as nouns also, such as various -ible and -able words: convertible, deductible, dirigible, ...

Something can be convertible, and we can have "a convertible" and "the convertible".

Now imagine if such a word were used for something uncountable. For instance, gases are like liquids, but they are compressible. What if we coined the word "compressible" as a way to say "gas"?

Then we could quite perfectly say something like this, without any article "the" or "a":

This pipe is where compressible escapes from the tank.

Which is not so different from "where amazing happens". So maybe "where amazing happens" is not that far fetched; perhaps we do not have to resort to hypotheses about quoted material being treated as a noun.

  • “The Amazing”, interesting!Just like "the rich", "the free",right?
    – dennylv
    Dec 19, 2013 at 7:00
  • @dennylv That is right, and I just added something new at the bottom.
    – Kaz
    Dec 19, 2013 at 7:34

Ignoring the fact that it's not a full sentence, I think it should be grammatically correct because you could say

[This is] Where evil happens

so it's just a different adjective, but using amazing there just sounds ugly/wrong to me.

Where amazing things happen

sounds much better to me.

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    It is elliptical in nature. The first thing that came to mind when I'd begun to answer was: The place where amazing things. It's clearly informal. As for the adjective sounding ugly/wrong, it may just be this specific example. It's not uncommon for adjectives to modify other adjectives. I'm not sure whether this is the official term or not, but Wikipedia lists them as attributive adjectives. Nouns (and adverbs) can function similarly. Dec 17, 2013 at 4:21
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    I wouldn't call it "ugly/wrong", I'd call it "more catchy." Where amazing things happen may be more grammatical, but it's more of a yawner. Where amazing happens is more edgy and provocative; it induces excitement.
    – J.R.
    Dec 17, 2013 at 9:05
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    In the sentence "Where evil happens", evil is being used as an abstract noun, not as an adjective - so it's not a valid comparison.
    – Matt
    Dec 17, 2013 at 11:07
  • @Matt But that's how amazing is being used, too. It's unusual (that's the whole point), but it's not "ungrammatical". Dec 17, 2013 at 12:55
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    @StoneyB: My objection was with the statement "so it's just a different adjective". Evil in that sentence isn't an adjective. It's a noun that the dictionary lists separately to it's adjectival form. Amazing here might be being used as an abstract noun (and hence is grammatical), but its doing so is not common usage, and there are not many dictionaries that will list the abstract noun form of amazing.
    – Matt
    Dec 17, 2013 at 17:27

I guess, coming from a Latin viewpoint, the "Amazing" would translate as an adjective substantive, so something like, Where (the/an) Amazing (Thing) Happens

  • +1 Exactly. The same is true in the other languages I know, German and French. English appears to be the odd man out in its intolerance of this construction. Mar 3, 2014 at 17:25

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