[Source:] Chief Justice Earl Warren's opinion for the unanimous court held that:

Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man," fundamental to our very existence and survival.... To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis ♦ as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law. ......

1. I can't pinpoint why; so please advise, but I find strange and wrong the placement of the bolded {submodifier + adjective}? 2. What are some other formal terms describing this issue?

3. What are the similarities and differences between situating the bolded before or after the noun? Please beware that I ask in general for all syntaxes like the above, just for 'so unsupportable a basis'.

  • If you put unsupportable after the noun, you can't used so: you would have to say "a basis as unsupportable as".
    – JavaLatte
    Dec 24, 2023 at 10:39

1 Answer 1


The construction "so [adjective phrase] a/an [noun phrase]" is equivalent to "such a/an [adjective phrase] [noun phrase]" and is legal.

So you could say "so unsupportable a basis" or "such an unsupportable basis" - their meaning is equivalent. The difference, other than word order, is that the first version emphasizes the adjective "unsupportable", whereas the second one emphasizes the noun "basis".

Some good discussion can be seen here as well: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/196784/when-to-use-this-construction-so-adjective-a-noun

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