[21 v] He isn’t [enough of a scholar]. (CGEL, p.534-5)

In construction [v], scholar is not head of the whole NP but part of the of phrase complement, and for this reason it must follow enough.

They are, it seems, saying ‘enough’ is a noun, but I’ve not yet found the proper nominal meaning of ‘enough.’ Is ‘enough’ a noun there? What does it mean in [21 v]?

  • Are you trying to learn English from CGEL??
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 5:19
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    @BenKovitz OP is trying to learn English grammar from CGEL, which is a different matter. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 10:15
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    I think CGEL here takes 'enough' to be a fused-head determiner modified by the PP 'of a scholar' - see the discussion of 'much of a X' in [16iii] on p. 533. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 10:36
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    @BenKovitz It's not just a matter of what kind of question you ask - it's also what kind of answer you're looking for. Even very sophisticated answers on ELU depend a lot on native-speaker intuitions of the sort we try to avoid raising here. Listenever is active on both sites and has been here since ELL was two weeks old. I think we can leave it to her judgment which site she posts on. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 17:52
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    @BenKovitz We speak to a very wide range of learners. Many, perhaps most of them learn a great deal more grammar than most native speakers are ever exposed to, and b)many of them are much more highly educated than their command of English suggests. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 18:33

2 Answers 2


We can say

He isn't scholarly enough


He isn't enough of a scholar (variant: He isn't much of a scholar)

In "old-school" grammatical terms: enough in #1 would be considered adverbial because it describes the degree to which he is scholarly ( he is not sufficiently a scholar); enough in #2 would be considered a pronoun, because it refers to the portion or amount of a scholar that he is (he is not a sufficient portion of a scholar).

Since the OP tagged the question with "meaning-in-context": the second statement, in objectifying the scholar, is the more derisive remark.


Enough, in this sentence, is part of a noun phrase, which is two or more words that grouped together act like a noun. That's what the abbreviation "NP" in the sentence you quoted means. The Wikipedia article goes into more detail.

As for the meaning of the noun phrase, here it indicates that the subject of the sentence isn't sufficiently educated, and doesn't possess the qualities of being a scholar. The subject lacks some skill or quality that a man of learning would have.

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    not enough implies some, but not a sufficient quantity of... So it isn't that he doesn't possess the qualities of being a scholar, it's that he doesn't possess a sufficient amount of scholarliness.
    – Jim
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 6:16
  • So is enough a noun here? Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 11:19
  • Enough isn't a noun. It's technically an adverb because it modifies the verb isn't, but it's also part of the noun phrase. Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 13:47
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    @Araucaria I think that in H&P's view it is actually the head of the NP: a determiner which has fused with its (unspecified) head. What that head might be is left to our imagination: perhaps "quality" or "attainment". Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 14:10
  • How would a modern grammarian parse "The vicar was something of a scholar" ?
    – TimR
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 22:30

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