Noun Modifiers

As you might guess, noun modifiers can modify nouns. What if there is a noun phrase after noun modifiers? If these questions are stuck in your mind, read more!

intermediate
"Noun Modifiers" in the English Grammar

What Are Noun Modifiers?

Noun modifiers (also known as noun adjuncts, attributive nouns, qualifying nouns, or apposite nouns), are nouns that are used to modify another noun. Modifiers provide additional information about their following noun.

Why Do We Use a Noun Modifier?

1. Noun modifiers are used attributively, meaning they are placed before the noun they modify in order to provide additional meaning. This is often achieved by using a noun as an adjective before the noun it modifies. For example:

an insurance company, a sales office, a production line, a battle ground

2. Noun modifiers can help create concise phrases. They are often used to provide a brief and precise description for a noun. Check out some examples:

I want a kind of soup that has chicken in it. → I want chicken soup.

I'm looking for a piece of ground to park the cars. → I'm looking for a car park.

Modifiers: Singular or Plural?

In most cases, the noun used as a modifier is singular. Take a look at some examples:

I love mushroom soup, but she's making chicken soup.

I'll meet you outside the railway station.

Plural-Only Nouns as Modifiers

Some nouns, such as 'pants,' 'sleeves,' 'glasses,' 'trousers,' and others, are typically used in their plural form. However, when used as a modifier for another noun, they are used in singular form. Check out the examples:

I use trouser press instead of iron.

Her shoe size is 36.

Using the Noun 'Face' as a Noun Modifier

Tip!

When a noun modifier is used with a number or a related expression, the noun is singular and a hyphen is typically added. This is common when using measurements, age, or value as noun modifiers.

I sat down on the two-seater sofa next to Barbara.

Let's take a five-minute break, guys!

At first it was a one-man band, now it has 12 band members.

What Are Noun Modifiers Used for?

1. Indicating Parts of a Noun

Noun modifiers are commonly used to indicate that one thing is a part of or belongs to something else. Possessive nouns should be avoided in these cases.

the coat pocket → (Not 'the coat's pocket)

the chair leg → (Not 'the chair's leg)

the bedroom floor → (Not 'the bedroom's floor')

the car door→ (Not 'the car's door')

Tip

Another way to indicate that something is a part of a whole is to use the preposition 'of' to create a noun phrase. However, this is less common than using noun modifiers. For example:

the car door = the door of the car

2. Indicating What a Noun Is Made of

Noun modifiers can be used to indicate the material or the origin/source of their following noun. For example:

a silver necklace

a cotton shirt

a wool skirt

a gold tooth

an iron mask

Tip

Another way of indicating the material of something is using the preposition 'of.' For example:

paper table = table of paper

3. Indicating What a Noun is Used for

Noun modifiers can be used to indicate the function of a noun. In this case, the modifier describes the function and the head noun represents the object being described. Check out the examples:

I'll buy new tennis shoes this month.

Here, the 'shoes' (object) are used to play 'tennis' (function).

I like to work in a book store.

In this example, the 'store' is used to sell 'books.'

Tip

Another way of indicating the function of something is using the preposition for. Take a look:

tennis shoes = shoes for tennis

4. Indicating Age and Length of a Noun

Noun modifiers can also be used to indicate the age or length of the head noun. In this case, a hyphen is often inserted between the parts of the noun modifier to indicate that they are being used together as a single phrase. Pay attention to the example:

The boss had a two-hour meeting in the morning.

My sister has a three-year-old cat.

Compound Noun Modifiers

Sometimes a compound noun modifies another noun and is used as the noun modifier for another noun.

Robert is a shoe factory worker.

Review

'Noun modifiers' are nouns that are used to qualify another noun, describe it, and make a shorter phrase. They are mostly used to describe:

  • part of something
  • material
  • function

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