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  1. keannu's Avatar
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    #1

    witness? noun or adjective?

    What is the grammar term for "witness" in the below?

    ex).....When the runaway slave was caught, not only did the slave face almost certain death, but the rest of the slaves on his plantation were often witness to his execution and were punished themselves......

    Is it an adjective or a noun? I found no adjective definition in the dictionary for this, and as a noun, it lacks articles. so it's confusing. Maybe the author wrote incorrectly.

    I need your kind help.

  2. mayita1usa's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: witness? noun or adjective?

    When the runaway slave was caught, not only did the slave face almost certain death, but the rest of the slaves on his plantation were often witness to his execution and were punished themselves.
    This is perfectly correct, acceptable and even fairly common. But I can see why you're confused, and I'm also having difficulty finding references to this exact expression!

    Obviously, if the sentence said "were often witnesses to," it would clearly be a noun. However, because witness is singular and follows a linking verb, I guess it must be an adjective....

    I think that the best way to consider this is as an idiomatic expression, "to be witness to" (with the same meaning as the verb "to witness"), and not worry about the part of speech! (Maybe someone wiser than I can contribute some more information about it!

  3. probus's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: witness? noun or adjective?

    The following is only conjecture.

    "To bear witness" is both archaic and idiomatic. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour" is from the King James version of the Bible.

    Perhaps "be witness" is a somewhat modernized version of the idiom "bear witness". Not very modern, though: "be witness" goes back at least as far as the 19th century.

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    #4

    Re: witness? noun or adjective?

    I have found this: https://www.usingenglish.com/forum/a...ess-event.html

    No conclusion seems to have been made concerning the etymology of the phrase. I'll try to take a look at what the OED has to say about it tomorrow.

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