This is from an article in the CBC news:What parents need to know about Facebook's new messenger app for kids

"That's why Facebook is doing this, of course — it's a safe way to get their brand into the family young."

Is using 'young' after a noun 'family' in this sentence a right usage? I've googled but without an answer. Can you, for example, say 'the family rich', 'the family poor', 'the family old'....etc.?

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    young is a noun there and family is the adjective. Young is a synonym for offspring. google.com/…
    – TimR
    Dec 6, 2017 at 21:30
  • @ Tᴚoɯɐuo: Oh!, never occurred 'young' is a noun here. I've heard 'a family law' 'a family show' 'a family name' 'a family tradition' ' a family friend' ...etc. But never heard 'a family young'. Is it used commonly?
    – whitecap
    Dec 6, 2017 at 21:59
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    The family young. It is a collective noun formed from the adjective. It is very common, especially in naturalist contexts. See the link I added to the comment above. The quick and the dead, the young and the old, the healthy and the infirm.
    – TimR
    Dec 6, 2017 at 22:05
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    I read it as an adjective, as a sort of small clause "into the family young" = "into the family while it is/they are young"..
    – Colin Fine
    Dec 6, 2017 at 22:09
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    @Colin Fine. A viable reading, but I'd expect early if that was the intended meaning.
    – TimR
    Dec 6, 2017 at 23:00

3 Answers 3


All I can say is that I can't see anything intrinsically wrong with it, but it sounds terribly weird to me. I get what they're trying to say, but it conjures images of branding herds of cattle. And "young" is more often used with biological species than with a modifier like family. "Youth" might be slightly more appropriate, but I'm still picturing burning flesh.

In other words, I think "family young" sounds odd, but I also think "get their brand into" is odd. I'd probably say something more along the lines of "saturate the youth market with their brand."

Edit: From the comments, it's become clear to me that I didn't actually understand what they were trying to say here. But for whitecap, you can indeed say things like "the family rich" when you mean "the rich people of the family" and so on. But "rich" is used by itself as a collective noun, too. "There are too many tax loopholes for the rich."

The young is similarly used as a collective noun. "Mammals breastfeed their young." Whether or not it was intended to be a noun in this quotation is up for debate.

  • Young isn't a noun here. "young" modifies the word "brand". Dec 7, 2017 at 4:02
  • I see your reading, now. I still think it's bad writing. Dec 7, 2017 at 4:10
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    You're speaking very authoritatively about something that is grammatically ambiguous. Did you write the article? Why would I not assume that the relevant noun "young" is modifying here is family members, since the whole article talks about people younger than 13 being able to use the Facebook brand? Dec 7, 2017 at 4:43
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    @ joiedevivre: Tᴚoɯɐuo suggested 'the young' as a collective noun and 'family' as an adjective. To me that's a very convincing explanation. What do you think?
    – whitecap
    Dec 7, 2017 at 5:05
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    @whitecap That's how I read it and what my answer was based on! I think SovereignSun has a good point that "young" might more likely have been intended to be an adjective. It's completely unclear which is true, though. And if it's an adjective, there's no way to know for certain what it was intended to modify. The only thing I'm completely convinced of is that it was badly written! It is a quote, though, so maybe the speaker can be forgiven. The writer should have found out what the speaker meant and clearly paraphrased it, though. Dec 7, 2017 at 5:17

That's why Facebook is doing this, of course — it's a safe way to get their brand into the family young.

"The family young" is a noun phrase with "young" as head and the nominal "family" as attributive modifier.

It's called a fused modifier-head construction where "young" is an adjective functioning simultaneously as modifier and head in the NP "the family young", where we understand "young" to mean "young people". Note that "young" retains its status as an adjective within the NP.

It's no different to the "rich" found in "The rich cannot enter the kingdom of heaven", and the "poor" in "How will the new system affect the very poor?" In these examples "rich" and "poor" are adjectives functioning as fused modifier-heads within the noun phrases "the rich" and "the very poor".

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    So what does it mean? A young family (a family of young people)?
    – Probably
    Dec 7, 2017 at 13:49
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    @Probably It's another (not very good) way of saying "the young people in the family".
    – BillJ
    Dec 7, 2017 at 14:10

I got the e-mail from Richard Lachman and here is his answer:

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  • I think you meant "their new project." I also question your full interpretation. Even if you read "young" as an adjective, you'd be more likely to apply it to the "family" than the "project" in this context. Dec 7, 2017 at 4:24
  • @joiedevivre The family isn't young, since messenger application aren't something new, but Facebook's one is young and is just entering this family Dec 7, 2017 at 4:40
  • @SovereignSun: I don't think you understood the context properly. Facebook has launched Messenger Kids, a messaging app for children under 13. By attracting new users to Messenger Kids when they're young, Facebook has the potential to convert them into full users of Facebook as they come of age. Unlike Facebook, Messenger Kids itself is fairly harmless. As a chat tool, there's less concern about bullying or filter bubbles or the spread of misinformation. "That's why Facebook is doing this, of course — it's a safe way to get their brand into the family young."
    – whitecap
    Dec 7, 2017 at 4:44
  • @whitecap I understand the sentence as it is written otherwise it is Facebook who wrote it incorrectly and should be pointed to the mistake. It isn't ambiguos and "young" isn't a noun here. And it isn't modifying "family" - impossible! Dec 7, 2017 at 4:49
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    @SovereignSun: When I read the article it was my understanding that 'young' has something to do with young kids(under 13) not the new Facebook app, 'Messenger Kids'. If it is not too much bother, you could read the article yourself. I am not good at English so there's a good chance I might have understood wrong.
    – whitecap
    Dec 7, 2017 at 4:57

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