Nominalising qualities

So far we’ve looked at how processes can be turned into things using nominalisation.

Qualities (meaning adjectives and adverbs) can also be turned into things (although they are abstract things, meaning you can’t see or touch them).

For instance, here’s something you might say in conversation.

I think a lot of us do things because we are frightened.

Frightened is an adjective, so it’s a quality.

But if you talk about fear or fright, you are treating the same emotion as a noun—as a thing you can possess.

See if you can find the nominalised quality in this snippet.

But it could be that many of us are driven by fear.

Why talk about qualities as if they were things?

Because a quality is only ever something you can be: you can be frightened, or angry, or jealous, or frustrated.

But because of the way our language works, you can do so much more with things. You can be frightened, but you can sell fear, share fear, calm fear, summon fear, create fear…

With nominalisations you can express many types of action and meaning.

In this next snippet, can you find three nominalised qualities and one normal (being-type) quality?

(Note there are other nominalisations in this snippet apart from the qualities. Right now we’ll just focus on the nominalized qualities to make sure we know what they look like.)

If so, what good was the French Revolution? If people did not become any happier, then what was the point of all that chaos, fear, blood and war?


Stop and think about these nominalisations for a moment. They’re very subtle.

Example 1

Was it good? — here good is a quality

What good was it? — now good has been turned into a thing

Example 2

It was chaotic — chaotic is a quality

There was chaoschaos is a thing

Example 3

They were afraidafraid is a quality

Fear drove himfear is a thing