Is “something red” an example of ellipsis or adjectival positioning

I want to better understand why the construction something + [adjective] makes grammatical sense.

Background: I was recently reading a Washington Post article and came across the following sentence.

So if you fall in that category, [the movie] feels more like magic than repetitive.

(Note: I’ve copied the relevant spoiler-free sentence above; following the link to the article will open you up to movie spoilers! Source)

The phrase more like magic than repetitive struck me as odd, presumably because it was non-parallel (more like [noun] than [adjective]). I would have expected "…more like magic than something repetitive." (Actually, that needs to be rewritten to flow better, but the point is that at least it appears to be grammatical.) Thus, one would have the noun phrase "something repetitive," of the form "[noun] [adjective]."

This got me to thinking about the use of adjectives after nouns. There is a great Stack Exchange article
here (When can an adjective be postponed) that involves the characteristics of the adjective that indicate it should come after the noun. But I haven’t been able to find examples of how the word "something" requires a postponed adjective.

Consider the following sentences:

I want to buy something red.

I am looking for something sweet to eat.

You cannot say:

*I want to buy red something.

*I am looking for sweet something to eat.

But you can say:

I want to buy something (that is) red.

I am looking for something (that is) sweet to eat.

So, my question:

  1. Do the above examples mean that the "something [adjective]" construction is an example of the ellipsis of "that is"?

  2. Is there something special about the word "something" that requires the postponed adjective? Note that I am NOT looking for details about adjectives that are postponed; I’m interested in the word that precedes the adjective (either "something" or similar words).

By the way, I am not interested in the following constructions, which are different:

I want to paint the house red.

I tried to build the brick house taller.

Thanks in advance!


“Something” is a compound determinative. There is a constraint on the position of certain modifiers called ‘restrictors’ that can be used to modify such compounds. The restrictors (adjectives or certain nominals) cannot occur in pre-head position because of the fused nature of the construction and are forced into post-head position, with only “else” allowed between them and the head:

“Nothing (else) significant”; “everything gold”, “somewhere beautiful”, “nowhere special”, “somebody rich”.

Source : Link , Question Author : Nonnal , Answer Author : BillJ

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