Updated: Jan 10, 2022
As a student of English, you probably know the different parts of speech. For example, verbs refer to words that describe an action, nouns refer to people, places and things, and adjectives are used to describe nouns.
Here’s a simple sentence using all three:
The young boy jumps.
Young is the adjective, boy is the noun, and jumps is the verb. The adjective young gives us information about the noun, boy. Pretty easy, right?
Now, take a look at this next sentence. Do you notice anything?
Fuel prices are increasing.
What is different about this sentence? Well, increasing is the verb, prices is the noun, and fuel… is also a noun.
Wait, that can’t be right, can it? Well, yes, it is correct! There is nothing wrong with this sentence. Let me tell you why.
Sometimes nouns are used in the same way as adjectives! There are plenty of instances where a noun is used to modify another noun. These nouns are called attributive nouns.
Here are some examples of attributive nouns that are quite commonly used in everyday life:
You can see that the first noun gives information about the second noun. Airplane tells us what kind of tickets we are talking about. Chicken tells us the kind of soup, and so on.
You might also notice that most of the time the first noun is usually singular. However, this seems to be changing in recent years. There are some cases where the plural of the attributive noun is used.
Here are some examples:
You should note, however, that the plural form is the exception. When in doubt, use the singular form.
Here are some common mistakes that students make when using the plural instead of the singular form:
A three-month-old baby (correct)
A three-months-old baby (incorrect)
A five-year plan (correct)
A five-years plan (incorrect)
Noodle soup (correct)
Noodles soup (incorrect)
Egg salad (correct)
Eggs salad (incorrect)
Now that you understand what attributive nouns are, see if you can identify them in this lesson:
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