Which one of the following two sentences is correct? and why?

  1. In my opinion, The characteristic that best describes me is ambitious. (adj.)
  2. In my opinion, The characteristic that best describes me is ambition. (n.)

It is supposed to be the answer for this question:-

"what personal quality describes you most accurately?"

if we rearrange the sentences, we get this:-

Ambitious is the characteristic that best describes me? Ambition is the characteristic that best describes me?

which form of the word should be used, noun or adjective?

migrated from english.stackexchange.com Jul 12 '14 at 17:50

This question came from our site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

  • Welcome to ELL. You will be more likely to receive a helpful answer if you first expand on the question? What information do you have already about whether a noun or an adjective should be used? What sources have you used so far to find the answer? – GMB Jul 12 '14 at 13:20
  • 1
    Probably both sentences could be improved if you stated what you wanted to say more directly. For example, "I am very ambitious," or, "I am full of ambition," or perhaps, "My biggest strength is my ambition." – J.R. Jul 12 '14 at 21:13
  • it was a TOEFL question in the speaking section. the questions was as follows:- "which characteristic describes you best?" and i lead-in with the phrase "i think the charac...." and left with this dilemma – Raman CHAWRESH Jul 13 '14 at 17:23
  • 1
    Take out the "I think". Just go with: "The characteristic that describes me best is my ambition." If you're ambitious, then just say so – don't just state that you think you're ambitious, assert that you are ambitious. – J.R. Jul 13 '14 at 17:32

Indeed “the characteristic . . . is” calls for the noun, but the predicate “best describes me” rather better agrees with an adjective. I would re-engineer the sentence to get rid of this tension, on the grounds that characteristics do not describe us, adjectives (or descriptors) do; characteristics characterize us. “I think my chief characteristic is ambition” or “I consider myself to be chiefly characterized by ambition” are both more concise and avoid the dilemma.

Oh, and beware the Ides of March: “If it were so, it was a grievous fault, / And grievously hath Caesar answered it.”


Ambition. Just imagine the sentence in its simplest form to know the right word:

It is ambition.

– What is?

The characteristic is ambition.

– What characteristic?

The characteristic that best describes me.

– Are you sure?

No, I'm not sure, I just think that the characteristic that best describes me is ambition.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.