An adjective is a word to describe a noun. Sometimes we use a noun to describe another noun. In that case, the first noun “acts as” an adjective.
Adjective/noun: happy boy, clever girl, smart worker
“Noun as adjective”/noun: plastic bottle, glass cover, bird cage
Rules of nouns as adjectives
- The “noun as adjective” will always come first, the second noun is the subject matter. Once you understand this rule, you will understand the meaning of a sentence.
- A race dog is a dog that runs in races
- A dog race is a race for dogs
- A toy house is a toy in the shape of a house
- A house toy is a toy for playing in the house, can be any type of toys
- A lighthouse is a beacon
- A house light is any lighting unit in the house
- Just like a real adjective, the “noun as adjective” is invariable. It is usually in the singular form. If there is a plural it is on the real noun only.
- Plastic bottle/Plastic bottles
- Bird cage/Bird cages
- Plastics bottle/Plastics bottles
- Birds cage/Birds cages
- A few nouns look plural but we usually treat them as singular (e.g. news, billiards, athletics, sports, clothes, accounts). When we use these nouns “as adjectives” they are unchanged:
- news report/news reports, billiards table/billiards tables, athletics game/athletics games, sports article/sports articles, clothes line/clothes lines, accounts clerk/accounts clerks
- Writing “nouns as adjectives”
We write the “noun as adjective” with the real noun in 3 different ways:
- In two separate words (apple pie)
- In two hyphenated words (tax-plan)
- In one word (football)
There is no fixed rule for this. We sometimes use all the three different ways to write on single “noun as adjective” e.g. head master, head-master, headmaster
The rules of style that apply to dashes and hyphens have evolved to support ease of reading in complex constructions; editors often accept deviations from them that will support, rather than hinder, ease of reading.
- Saying “nouns as adjectives”
We always emphasize on the first noun that is the “noun in adjective” when speaking.
- More than one “nouns as adjectives”
We can use more than one “noun as adjectives” to describe a noun, just like we do in adjectives e.g “
team badminton coach” China
- Combined “ nouns as adjectives” with adjectives
We can also combine adjective with “noun as adjective” to better describe a noun e.g. “the cute Italian football player”