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I heard phrases like "place nice" and "place safe" several times during watching series and movies and each time I was wondering why an adjective stands after a noun while they teach that adjectives go strictly before nouns.

Unfortunately, all what I gained with simple googling is that it could be a set phrase like "Princess royal". And I already checked a similar question which doesn't answer my question because in this case I see no difference between "a place safe" and "a safe place".

Examples:

  1. We always have to go to, you know, someplace nice.

  2. Is there any place safe for her?

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    someplace nice is not the same as place nice. – chrylis -on strike- Dec 16 '19 at 0:40
  • Heh heh. "Top knot, come down!" teamfishhooks.com/top-knot-come-down – puppetsock Dec 16 '19 at 19:05
  • It's a kind of challenge for me to get the difference between "someplace" and "some place" by ear. I found out that it's "someplace" only when the question already was created and I was looking for the exact examples. – voloshin Dec 17 '19 at 7:06
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    @voloshin, if it were "some place", place is a noun so you would have to say "some nice place", but "someplace" is an indefinite pronoun, so you say "someplace nice". – JavaLatte Dec 20 '19 at 7:28
12

There are two possible mechanisms that could explain the position of the adjective in the example sentences that you provided: postpositive adjectives and whiz-deletion.

When you apply an adjective to an indefinite pronoun, the adjective must be placed postpositively (after the indefinite pronoun):

I am looking for something nice - correct
I am looking for nice something - incorrect

Whiz-deletion refers to the removal of a that-is or which is from a sentence:

I am looking for a house that is near to the school - correct
I am looking for a house near to the school - correct

Note that you can't do whiz-deletion if you are left with just one adjective after the that is: the adjective must be moved in front of the noun:

I am looking for a house that is new - correct
I am looking for a house new - incorrect
I am looking for a new house - correct


We always have to go to, you know, someplace nice

someplace is an indefinite article, so this example must use a postpositive adjective: you cannot put nice in front of the indefinite article:

We always have to go to, you know, nice someplace - incorrect

If you were to replace the indefinite pronoun by a noun, the adjective cannot be placed postpositively:

We always have to go to, you know, a place nice - incorrect
We always have to go to, you know, a nice place - correct

You cannot use whiz-deletion to remove that is from the sentence below, because there's only a single adjective after it.

We always have to go to, you know, someplace [that is] nice


Is there any place safe for her?

In this sentence, any is an indefinite pronoun, so a postpositive adjective would have to go after it, and before the noun:

Is there any safe place for her?

This sentence can therefore only be explained by whiz-deletion:

Is there any place [that is] safe for her?
Is there any place safe for her?


Note that, when the adjective is a subject complement, the adjective goes after the noun, though there is normally a verb in between them:

roses are red
the fish smells bad

If the verb is a be-verb and the sentence is converted to a question, the verb is moved to the front of the sentence, resulting in a NOUN + ADJECTIVE sequence:

Are roses red?


One other situation I can think of where you get NOUN + ADJECTIVE is after verbs like make (CAUSE TO BE), consider (OPINION), go (BECOME) and go (BE) which can take an object followed by an object complement, which is an adjective.

My five-point plan to make Britain safe again - Daily Telegraph

North Korea suggested today that it did not consider negotiations finished. - New York Times

Why Things Always Go Wrong - entrepreneur

6 reasons why people go hungry - global citizen

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    But we also have "something nice". And I don't think you can get away with claiming that "something" is an adverb. – TonyK Dec 15 '19 at 14:53
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    I'm sorry but this answer is just absolutely wrong.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpositive_adjective – It's Over Dec 16 '19 at 2:47
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    This answer is an oversimplification of postpositive modifiers. What you suggest is what is called in linguistics a Whiz deletion, but there is absolutely a lot more to it and postmodification is a really complex grammar phenomenon. For example your answer fails to explain the difference between go to someplace nice and go to a place nice*. Please refer to the link provided by @M.A.R. – Eddie Kal Dec 16 '19 at 3:12
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    I retracted my downvote and changed it to an upvote. As it stands now your answer is definitely better than the other answer. – Eddie Kal Dec 16 '19 at 17:15
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    I have a little something to tell you about your theory that the adjective cannot precede an indefinite pronoun. – Malvolio Dec 17 '19 at 17:31
43

Rather than Noun + Adjective, it can be thought of as Noun that is Adj, which uses relative clause but that is is omitted.

We always have to go to, you know, someplace that is nice.

Is there any place that is safe for her?

In both cases, "that is nice" and "that is safe for her" are relative clauses. Cases of Noun + Adj are often just such relative clauses with that is omitted.

Another example:

I'd like a house (that is) big enough for 4 people.

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    This is the best answer, because it provides the optional additional words which fully describe the meaning of the sentence. – Chris Melville Dec 16 '19 at 10:25
  • I agree, it's the easiest explanation for me to understand. Now I understand both examples I provided but I'm still wondering how to use the construction. Is it appropriate to use it or should I keep "that is'? Can I do the same with other words? – voloshin Dec 17 '19 at 7:13
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    You should read more on relative clause. Instead of "that", you can use "who", "which", etc depending what the relative clause clarifies or adds information to. In some cases, "that/which/who is" can be omitted, though I won't go into those specifics here. – John Zhau Dec 17 '19 at 7:18
  • You can't always omit that is but these Noun + Adj are often relative clauses that omit that is. – John Zhau Dec 17 '19 at 12:34
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    Yes, but one of the specific examples in the OP's question uses an indefinite pronoun, not an adjective. Your answer doesn't explain why you cannot place the adjective before someplace, nor does it explain why you cannot place the adjective after a place, which is a noun. It's plausible but wrong, and completely unhelpful for people who are trying to construct a correct sentence. – JavaLatte Dec 18 '19 at 1:40
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There is a lot of linguistic precedence, as well. English borrows heavily from latin languages (e.g., Spanish). Many such languages that contribute to English frequently (but not always) use the noun-adjective (e.g. el hombre viejo).
The rule of "adjective-noun always" is not correct strictly speaking. It was likely intended to simplify teaching when illiteracy was much higher and reduce the aristocratic influence (both my my off-the-cuff speculation).

  • I guess you'd be correct if the examples were evident Latin or French but "place safe" looks like neither the former nor the latter. – voloshin Dec 17 '19 at 7:37
  • Linguistic influence does not have to be limited to words of Latin languages. That's the beauty of English. – M E Dec 18 '19 at 15:08

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