Free was the best deal I could get.

A subject should be a noun, but free is an adjective, which confuses me. If this sentence is correct and natural, then I have two guesses:

First, there is an omission. The complete version should be "A free deal was the best deal I could get."

Second, there is an inversion. The restored version should be "The best deal I could get was free." Free is an adjective here.

  • 1
    Expensive was the only one I could find. This is colloquial usage.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24 at 16:11
  • This type of construction is used in colloquial conversation.
    – Lambie
    Apr 24 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


In general this is referred to as 'noun ellipsis'. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_ellipsis

Ellipsis refers to omission generally.

An example of noun ellipsis that 'I like the blue shirt, but I don't like the pink'.

According to Christine Gunther at https://doi.org/10.1017/S1360674311000049 the most common use is with colours.

However there are other types that are commonly used, such as 'the Bruneian dollar has the same value as the Singaporean', where the two adjectives are related.

In your case it can be seen that the adjective 'free' is related to the phrase 'best deal'.

Gunther identifies antonymic relationships (e.g., ' A narrow path led between the two waters, the wild and the domesticated.') between adjectives as well as superlatives (e.g., I went up that skyscraper in Boston, but the tallest is in Chicago) as typical.

In this case, the sentence is colloquial, and in some sense superlative, in that 'free' is the best possible deal.

  • Yes, I want to add that I'm already familiar with the pattern "the + adjective" used as a noun, for example, "the rich/poor", and the word "people" doesn't need to appear at all. In my question, there is no THE before free.
    – joy2020
    Apr 25 at 2:13
  • By the way, your wikipedia page writes that "I value long walks although I only get to take short" doesn't work because it fails attempt to introduce N-ellipsis with a standard adjective "short". "free" looks like a standard adjective.
    – joy2020
    Apr 25 at 3:29
  • In OP's example, an article is presumably also omitted: "[[A]] free [[deal]] was the best deal I could get." However, omitting the article isn't possible in any of the examples that you give. (For example, we couldn't say "I went up that skyscraper in Boston, but tallest is in Chicago.") Can you explain that apparent difference? (Edit: I just read OP's comments, and his first comment seems to be making a similar point.) Apr 25 at 5:03

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