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Consider the sentence, What folly!"

  1. identify the adjective in the above sentence
  2. What type of adjective is this?

According to me, what is the adjective. It looks like an interrogative adjective but we are not asking a question here.

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    In your example, it's called "exclamative what".
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 15:55
  • I don't think it makes sense to call what an "adjective", but I'd say exclamative sounds more like a noun to me, compared to the obviously adjectival exclamatory. And according to this usage chart, the latter has a far longer history of being used before what. Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 16:13
  • It's an adjective. "Exclamatory" is a cover term for expressions conveying an exclamatatory meaning, not just for exclamative clauses and phrases such as "What a car that was! and "What folly!" Exclamative "what" is most certainly an adjective. It always occurs in NPs with a following head. In "What folly!", "what" is an internal modifier. In "What a car that was!" it's an external modifier, i.e. outside the nominal.
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 16:56

1 Answer 1

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What folly!

This is a verbless exclamative expression consisting of just an exclamative noun phrase, where "what" has the syntax of an adjective.

It is typically referred to as 'exclamative what', and it always occurs in NPs with a following head.

In "What folly!", "what" is an internal modifier, while in "What a car that was!" it's an external modifier, i.e. outside the nominal.

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  • How what is this folly? It's very what. Some follies are quite what, but this folly is whater. It might be the whatest folly I've seen! I can't imagine a more what folly than this.
    – James K
    Commented Nov 5, 2023 at 18:57
  • @JamesK What's your point? So it doesn't have inflectional forms, and it never occurs in post-head or predicative position. Exclamative "what" only occurs as modifier in NP structure, i.e. with a following head. As a modifier it may occur in either internal or external position. What else can it be other than an adjective?
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 9:02
  • Just pulling your leg. But I don't think it's very useful to force words to fit into these parts of speech. The reason one might want to know which part of speech a word is would be so you could predict its inflections and syntax.
    – James K
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 17:50
  • @JamesK Yes to syntax. I'd say it's so that we can determine its function in the clause, in this case as modifier. Students who are expected to draw tree diagrams need to know.
    – BillJ
    Commented Nov 6, 2023 at 19:37

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