Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mini-lesson: Using nouns as adjectives

Nouns used as adjectives are also referred to as Noun Modifiers or Noun Adjuncts (noun + noun)

In English we can put two nouns together. The first noun is used as an adjective to modify the second noun and is called a noun adjunct. The first noun is almost always singular because it follows the rule for adjectives, which do not have plural forms in English.

N1 + N2 can mean that

a. N1 is a kind of N2 (a grammar book is a kind of book)
b. N1 is an object of an implied verb (an apple tree is a tree that produces apples)

It is important to understand that N2 is the thing and N1 is the kind or type:
a rose bush is a bush
a wrist watch is a watch
computer paper is paper
N1 is singular, even if the phrase is plural.

My mother planted a rose bush in the garden.
I bought a new table lamp.
Bobby takes the school bus to school.
The school ordered fifty new grammar books.
That man makes bird cages.
Mrs. Taylor bought some new baby clothes.
According to this explanation then, we should not say "strength points" when we mean "strong points" or "strengths" BUT can say or write "talking points", "debate or discussion points" and the like.

We can use a number with N1 to make a compound adjective. Since the number and noun make one unit, we use a hyphen to join them. Note that N1 remains singular because it is being used as an adjective.

a three-car garage
a ten-speed bicycle
a twenty-dollar bill

If we use a number to refer to the second noun (how many), we do not use a hyphen:
two grammar books
five rose bushes
We can use a number to refer to the second noun (how many) and a number with the first noun (compound adjective). In that case, there is no hyphen after the first number, but the second number is still used with a hyphen because it forms a compound adjective.
two ten-dollar bills
four three-bedroom homes

Practice Quizzes


  1. Hello Ms Vanessa.
    I read the articles about mini lesson: “Using nouns as adjectives” and “blog face lift”.
    For the first one, I like the mini lessons. It’s simple and understanding. I’m going to do the exercises a few hours later. For the moment I am noting the unknown words, and learn them as a vocabulary.
    For the second one, time to time we need some changes. I like the new blog face too.
    But I have to say that the articles “in the News” I can read them in my own language.

    Also I like to see the links that helping me to study English. I visited the “English at home” and I found it interesting. I like that site. Also I like the “BBC Learning English”. I’m getting newsletter a few months now. It has reading lessons [is it noun as adjectives? :))], listening lessons that I think that is very important.

    Ms Vanessa just remembered something that I always wanted to ask you. Remember that a year ago you send us a library link that we access to read books and listening books. Do we have access to use it now? I like to listening stories. Time to time I look for something like this but I can’t find anything interesting.

    I have to leave you for the moment. It is earlier in the morning , I ‘m drinking a cup of coffee , but I have to do my housework. Today I’m not working at the laundry.
    Thank you for your time.
    Have a nice day..

  2. Hi Ms Vanessa.
    I did the exercises and my score for the first one was 8 out of 10 and for the second one was 10 out to 11.
    I didn't have any problem. Is seems easy for me to study.

  3. Mata

    Just because you CAN read the news in your language does not mean HAVE TO or that you CAN'T read the news in English. I can read the news in English, but that does not keep me from reading it in other languages.

    Indeed, reading news OTHER languages is excellent practice, which is WHY I added the feature.

    Each time you visit the site, read at least one news story in English.

  4. Ms Vanessa.You miss understanding! The News in our blog are in my language; Not in English.
    I take newsletter from 3 English newspapers. I read some articles from them as much as I can.
    The English newspapers is more good than ours.They have variety of news. And it make them more interesting.
    Whether or not, when I have time to read I study English in internet.Seldom I read Greek newspaper. I hear the news from Tv.I buy time to time newspaper for specific reasons.

  5. hahaha... sorry about that. If the news alerts run in whatever language you have your browser set for, then there's not much point in having them. It would be better for me to put in a "news in English" section.

    I remember sending the link you mention but lost it with computer problems and do not recall what it was. Does anyone still have it saved?

    There is also - or used to be - a site for using movies to learn English.

    I recently put together some listening, pronunciation and accent reduction links for someone. I should post them here too.

  6. Hi every one =]

    You can try here for e-book and audio books
    (registered require to see the lists)

    and these two website, I use to watch some music/movie or any thing I like such as some tutorials. I belive you will find something there.

    btw, Ebook or E-book which one correct ???

  7. Hello

    I like the mini-lesson
    I always had had problem with "nouns as adjectives" this lesson is a great help for me.

    thank you.

  8. HI Ms. Vanessa,

    MIni lessons are always welcome and I like to have much information in a nut-shell. It helps in grasping knowledge. I have noted some important points. Now a days I am not able to much time on English learning. I apologize for that. I was in some other work. ACtually, my mother is suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis for the last several years and now is going out of control. Her major as well as minor points have been fused. I have taken her to a Hospital and now she is responding well. I hope in the next few weeks she will be ok and would be able to do her daily chores.



  9. Hello

    Is this correct

    "The adverb adjective noun"

    Can I put adv. to emphasize adj. ?

  10. Tai

    "adverb adjective noun" is not correct. Nouns used as adjective do not take "adverbs." Although such a construction might be used informally, it would not be standard usage.

    Please give me a SPECIFIC example of what you mean. ANYTIME you ask a question like this, you should include an example.

  11. Thanks Rajeev - good to hear from but sorry to hear about your mother's problems with rheumatoid arhritis.

  12. I found this pattern in the scientific report, but I not remember that word. Next time I will put an example.

    This my example ..

    "The gradually increasing proteins are induced by the very dose gamma radiation."

    it's something like this.
    Anyway, thank you very much for your advise .. i will be careful when I'm writing my manual scripts :)

  13. Tai

    Your example,
    "The gradually increasing proteins are induced by the very dose gamma radiation" is not a correct sentence.

    I can only guess at correcting it because I cannot be sure what meaning you are trying to express. However, I can assure that "very" is neither used correctly here nor an "adverb adjective noun."

    I'd hazard the guess - just a guess - that you may have meant,
    "The gradually increasing proteins are induced by the very dose of gamma radiation [that...]." In this case, "very" functions as an adjective meaning "same."

  14. >>> "The gradually increasing proteins are induced by the very dose of gamma radiation [that...]." In this case, "very" functions as an adjective meaning "same."

    oop!! it was my typo. it should be "by the very low dose of gamma radiation."

    btw, I just see that when "very" is used as adj., it can change the meaning. I will think about this point next time.

    if i change like this ?

    The proteins, induced by small doses of gamma radiation, are grandually increased.


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