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According to the Merriam-Webster's dictionary, the word "problem" is defined as an adjective as follows:

problem

adjective

Usage: always used before a noun

:difficult to deal with

  • a problem child

However, I have seen in some article the following predicative usage of the word "problem":

Constructing the relevant knowledge base was problem enough.

I wonder whether it is grammatical to use the adjective "problem" predicatively.

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    It isn't an adjective in that sentence - it means '...was enough of a problem'. Oct 24, 2021 at 13:02
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    Yes, that's what I meant. Oct 24, 2021 at 14:12
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    @Later: Well, perhaps it's an idiom. Two of these examples have uncountable nouns in and two don't: "Had we but world enough and time", "Are you man enough?", "There's food enough", "’Twas grief enough to think mankind..." Oct 24, 2021 at 15:34
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    It was shame enough to be beaten at tennis by a nine-year-old girl. Oct 24, 2021 at 15:40
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    I don't think your example Constructing the relevant knowledge base was problem enough is syntactically valid, even though it's not uncommon. Imho it's just sloppy colloquial spoken shorthand for ...was enough of a problem. And I suggest no-one would dispense with the article in that syntactically valid longer form. Having said that, I have no problem with either sequence in Don't bother me now! I have problems enough! and ...I have enough problems! Oct 24, 2021 at 17:21

1 Answer 1

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Enough is sometimes used after nouns. The reversal is a form of emphasis. It is a little old fashioned and literary, and is acceptable in formal writing. Example - "Columbia College Today: At the same time, the space demands of teaching and research are ever growing, ever expanding. That Columbia does not have enough space today is problem enough"

The noun can be in a singular or plural form.

Don’t ask questions – there’ll be time enough for that later.

He had reason enough to be angry

I was fool enough to trust her

A gâteau weighing 2 Kg should be cake enough for anybody.

Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) To His Coy Mistress

But are these reasons enough to justify their continued use?

Brazil has problems enough of its own

Enough (Macmillan Dictionary)

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  • Marvell's poem famously points out that 'The Grave's a fine and private place, But none I think do there embrace.' Oct 24, 2021 at 20:24
  • Wikipedia has an article on postpositive adjectives. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postpositive_adjective Oct 24, 2021 at 21:50
  • I'm not sure if enough is an adjective or a determiner, but maybe it works the same. Oct 24, 2021 at 21:52
  • @MichaelHarvey Thank you for your answer. Can we conclude that "... was enough of a problem" is more suitable for formal writing than "... was problem enough"?
    – Later
    Oct 25, 2021 at 6:30
  • @Later - 'problem enough' is fine in formal writing. Example - "Columbia College Today: At the same time, the space demands of teaching and research are ever growing, ever expanding. That Columbia does not have enough space today is problem enough" Oct 25, 2021 at 6:41

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