How is 下手 a noun?

I thought that, but Japanese Wikipedia suggests a counterexample:

I’m sure you can always find counterexamples, but I still think it’s true in general. That said, always happy to be proven wrong.


Totally fair if you don’t like the terms! I teach an ancient language at the college level, so I get kind of picky about terms sometimes, but honestly, I really don’t care too much.
For what it’s worth, I think in the sentence 下手だ (at least the sentence as I’m interpreting it) 下手 is not the subject, but a predicate in an equative clause. In most languages adjectives can function attributively, as a predicate, or as a substantive, so your example (as far as I’m interpreting it) falls into the standard linguistic category of adjective still. Again, totally fine if you don’t want to use the English categories! Also, depending on what your sentence above means, it could technically be 下手 functioning substantivally. This isn’t out of the question for adjectives in most languages either (though English is often a major exception here), and basically creates a serious overlap between adjectives and nouns. In general, adjectives are classed as part of the noun system of most languages, and sometimes differentiating them is difficult and moot.


Reading through a Japanese definition of 副詞, there are apparently three types of adverbs in Japanese: 状態副詞, 程度副詞, and 陳述副詞. It then says that 程度副詞 specifically are capable of modifying 体言, which include 名詞. Here’s the end of the definition:


Disclaimer: I barely understood half of the definition of 副詞


Oh! Agreed.

I interpret it as Jay Rubin and Cure Dolly would:

[Ø] [が] 下手だ

The zero-pronoun (the subject) is heta.

[Edit: Oh! I see the confusion. I wrote “the subject is heta” originally, but I was demonstrating the “A is B” copula: “Ø is heta”. The zero pronoun is the subject of the sentence and is heta, but what I wrote could be interpreted as saying “heta” was the subject. This is why talking about grammar makes my head explode!]

It’s precisely the same as 猫だ.

This made me feel better about myself! :smile:


I see the confusion now! Just out of curiosity, does this mean if I say 静かだ, or similarly in English, “It’s quiet”, you would argue that “quiet” in English is not an adjective in this sentence? Maybe I’m still a little confused, but I definitely understand what you meant by “is the subject” now! So at least that’s cleared up…

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Ah. No, I didn’t mean to imply that a だ copula only works with 名詩.

My understanding of the だ copula is that it works with 名詞 or 形容動詞 like 静か, etc. (what I think are called “nominalizing adjectives”?). I mentioned in another thread that I wished “nominalizing” was called “nounifying”. :smile:

I agree that adjectives (in particular "nominalizing adjectives) and nouns in Japanese can be confusingly similar and hard to distinguish.

Weblio and other Japanese monolingual dictionaries list 下手 as both 名詞(めいし) and 形容動詞, while 静か is only 形容動詞. To be honest, I’m not completely certain why this is so, but below is my best guess.

Examples of my “understanding” (with errors quite likely!):


“As for Rex’s grammar, [it is] unskilled” in English.

Without a だ at the end, I think this makes 下手 purely 名詞(めいし). Although an argument could probably be made that omitting the だ is just a colloquialism. I think the だ would be required to make it properly grammatical if it were interpreted as 形容動詞.


“Rex is unskilled.”

Upon further reflection (and to your point), I guess 下手 here can be interpreted as either 名詞(めいし) or 形容動詞. :man_shrugging:


“The unskilled person made a grammar mistake.”

I think this is correct (if weird) Japanese with 下手 functioning purely as a noun.


“Rex is quiet.”

静か functions purely as 形容動詞.


”Quiet Rex is sleeping."

Again, 形容動詞.


Ungrammatical, incorrect Japanese. 静か is not a 名詞(めいし).

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I’ve been waiting so long for you to realize that you’ve been writing 名詩 instead of 名詞 this whole time. :sweat_smile:


I blame my terrible eyesight! :laughing: