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One of them was very successful.

One of them was a success.

If the first sentence is quite common, then the second one is surprised me. I have noticed that version in different sources. Is there the need to use the second version? For example, "I had a few stories to publish. One of them was a success." I would never choose here an noun - success - but I would choose "successful". Is there the difference in their meaning?

2 Answers 2

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The differences are very small.

The first difference is a very minor point of grammar.

  • The first is using a modifier to indicate a quality: successful.

  • The second is saying that the thing was a type of thing: a success.

This comes to the same thing. So as far as meaning, these are interchangeable. A thing that is a success has the quality of being successful. Something that has the quality of being successful is a success.

The second difference is the degree of success indicated.

  • The first says the thing is very successful.

  • The second just says that it is a success.

So the first is indicating a large degree of success, while the second is only indicating some degree of success but not how much. For example, suppose you were a real estate agent. Selling a house would be a success. Selling it for significantly more than asking price and in a very short time would be very successful.

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  • About the second difference... Does it mean “That book was very successful.” & “That book was a big/great success.” are interchangeable? In fact, they don't have the difference in meaning, right?
    – Sergei
    Jan 1, 2022 at 21:38
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There is a difference in meaning. Being a success implies that you are successful at many different things, and also implies that you are so successful that everyone, even those outside your profession, recognize you. It is like saying that you have it all.

Even with the sentence above, "...was very successful" naturally makes the reader ask, "Successful at what?" It has a narrow meaning.

Now, you can constrain success like this: "He was a financial success". This does mean the same thing as "He was financially successful." Leave off financial though, and you get the wider, broader definition of success.

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  • it's quite difficult to understand your answer if you don't reply on the example in my question. In the beggining of your answer is "There is a difference in meaning." but in the end "This does mean the same thing as..."
    – Sergei
    Dec 21, 2021 at 15:25
  • Without adjectives, success and successful aren't quite the same. If you add adjectives to them, they have the same meaning. Does that help? Dec 21, 2021 at 15:49
  • Being "a success" does not mean you're successful at many things, or that everyone recognizes it. Whether someone is successful or not is entirely a subjective opinion. Some people consider themselves "a success" just for being alive.
    – gotube
    Dec 21, 2021 at 22:42
  • @FeliniusRex I had no hope of changing your mind. That was for the sake of the OP.
    – gotube
    Dec 22, 2021 at 18:15

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