16

"Now, if you will excuse me, I have better things to do than listen to adolescent agonizing ... good-day to you."

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

'Adolescent' is a countable word. But why doesn't it take any articles in this context? I feel listen to an adolescent agonizing looks correct. Any thoughts?

57

I think you are parsing adolescent agonizing as noun + verb, but it is really adjective + noun. It may be more clear to you if we replace adolescent with a word that is definitely an adjective:

Now, if you will excuse me, I have better things to do than listen to childish agonizing ... good-day to you.

  • A comparable example of adjective + noun, where the adjective could also be a noun in another context,  is human events. – Scott Mar 8 at 3:13
7

It's being used as an adjective to modify the noun form of the verb "agonizing".

By not using an article he is saying he refers to (and dismisses) all adolescent agonizing rather than just one instance.

  • 5
    I think it actually takes the form of an adjective here. You (correctly) said that 'agonizing' is taking a noun form here (called a gerund), and nouns are modified by adjectives, not adverbs. Also, the asker might be confusing which word is the noun, so maybe clearing that up would help, but that might be too involved for a short answer. – Maclain Anderson Mar 6 at 14:51
-2

It cannot be an adolescent agonizing because in the context, the author is describing a group of young people.

So:

"Now, if you will excuse me, I have better things to do than listen to adolescent agonizing ... good-day to you."

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Is perfectly correct. This sentence is said in an haughty way. as the group of student are (for the character) inferior and ignorant compared to him.

  • 6
    If an is a wrong article because there are multiple young people, your answer implies that the phrase is ungrammatical as it should then be "adolescents agonizing". But this is to make the same mistake as the asker themselves - adolescent is here an adjective, not a noun, and therefore the answer makes no sense. – Nij Mar 7 at 6:19
  • Yes you are right, unfortunately I wrote this before we realised that found was used as an adjective and not a noun. Therefore my answer seems now to be obsolete. – Ced Mar 7 at 18:33
4

You can use that phrase with no article, with the indefinite article or with the definite article.

If you are in a high school around exam time, and someone asks "why don't you go sit in the lunch room", you could respond with "the last thing I want to do is listen to adolescent agonizing". In this case, "agonizing" is used like a noun, and adolescent is used to modify it.

Then, if someone says "No, you need go talk to Tommy about his exam anxiety". You could response "I have better things to do than to listen to an adolescent agonizing about exams". Here, "adolescent" is a noun, and the "agonizing" is a verb.

If you avoid talking to Tommy, but another colleague comes by, looks over at Tommy, pointing him out to you and says "listen to the adolescent agonizing - it must be exam time". Now, depending on how you emphasize things, there are two choices. In one case, your colleague is truly talking about Tommy, in which case "adolescent" is the noun, and the "agonizing" is a verb. But, he/she could be speaking in a more general sense, and it's closer to the non-article version, with "agonizing" as a noun and "adolescent" modifying it.

  • What about "listen to the adolescent agonizing"? – dan Mar 7 at 0:42

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