Many websites I saw say that "adjectives that function like nouns" (the + adjective) refer to a group of objects, not a single object. For example, from The Britannica Dictionary:

She gives money to the poor.
Nurses care for the sick.

The words poor and sick here are used to refer to poor people and sick people, ... A lot of adjectives are used this way, many referring to classes of people ...

My question is:

Is it possible to use those adjectives to refer to a single object?

For example:

A young man and an old man in the park. The young is John and the old is Tom.

  • 1
    You'll be easily understood, but it'll sound like you're being poetic or something
    – gotube
    Oct 8, 2022 at 2:17

1 Answer 1


"The young" and "the old" are valid examples of adjectives that can be turned into nouns in the right context. You don't have the right context for two reasons:

  1. The noun is plural. For example, "the sick" refers to more than one sick person.

  2. The nouns do not refer to a specific group, but rather to a group in the abstract. For example, "the young" refers to young people in general. If there is a specific group of young people, you have to refer to them as "the young ones" (which also works in the singular).

So you can say:

... The young one is John and the old one is Tom

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