Nouns as Adjectives: Describing Adjectives Using Nouns

When we talk about nouns as adjectives, we’re referring to the use of nouns to describe or give more information about another noun in a sentence. In this context, a noun takes on the role of an adjective, providing additional information or attributes about the noun it is modifying.

Traditionally, adjectives are words that describe or provide information about nouns. They typically answer questions like “What kind?” or “Which one?” However, in some cases, instead of using traditional adjectives, we can employ nouns to fulfill this descriptive role.


1. Blue eyes: In this phrase, the noun “blue” is acting as an adjective and describes the eyes. It tells us the color of the eyes.

2. Wooden table: The noun “wooden” here acts as an adjective and tells us what material the table is made of.

3. French cuisine: The noun “French” is used as an adjective to describe the type of cuisine. It tells us that the cuisine is associated with France.

4. School bus: In this example, the noun “school” acts as an adjective to describe the type of bus. It tells us that it is a bus used for transporting students to school.

5. Soccer ball: Here, the noun “soccer” acts as an adjective and describes the type of ball. It tells us that it is a ball used in soccer.

Some important points

Noun adjectives serve the same purpose as regular adjectives:

  • to add specificity, detail, or characteristics to the noun they modify.

They help us paint more vivid pictures, distinguish between similar items, or provide context to better understand the noun.

For example, consider the phrase “coffee mug.” Here, the noun “coffee” is functioning as an adjective, describing the type or purpose of the mug. Similarly, in the phrase “school bus,” the noun “school” acts as an adjective, indicating the purpose or affiliation of the bus.

Functions of Nouns as Adjectives

Let’s explore the functions of noun adjectives:

1. Describing What Kind: Noun adjectives help us describe what kind of noun we’re talking about. They provide specific details about the noun’s characteristics or qualities. For example, in the phrase “red apples,” the word “red” tells us what kind of apples we’re referring to.

More examples:

  • White flowers
  • Fast car
  • Tall trees
  • Soft pillow
  • Sweet fruits

2. Providing Origin or Source: Noun adjectives can indicate where something or someone comes from. They help us understand the origin or source of the noun. For instance, in the phrase “Italian pasta,” the word “Italian” tells us that pasta is associated with Italy.

More examples:

  • Mexican cuisine
  • Greek mythology
  • African safari
  • Indian spices

3. Showing Purpose or Use: Noun adjectives can reveal the purpose or use of a noun. They explain what the noun is intended for or how it is used. For example, in the phrase “writing desk,” the word “writing” tells us that the desk is specifically meant for writing.

More examples:

  • Coffee mug
  • Tennis racket
  • Swimming pool
  • Reading glasses

4. Indicating Relationship: Noun adjectives can express a relationship between two nouns. They describe the connection or association between them. For instance, in the phrase “family car,” the word “family” suggests that the car is used by a family.

More examples:

  • Mother tongue
  • Family vacation
  • Student Council
  • Dog leash
  • Business Partner

5. Describing Material or Composition: Noun adjectives can describe the material or substance that makes up a noun. They tell us what the noun is made of. For example, in the phrase “wooden table,” the word “wooden” tells us that the table is made of wood.

More examples:

  • Glass bottle
  • Metal chair
  • Cotton shirt
  • Leather shoes

6. Showing Quantity or Measurement: Noun adjectives can indicate a specific quantity or measurement related to the noun. They provide information about how much or how many of something there is. For instance, in the phrase “five-dollar bill,” the word “five-dollar” tells us the value or denomination of the bill.

More examples:

  • Five-year plan
  • Ten-dollar bill
  • Three-bedroom house
  • Six-foot ladder
  • Two-hour movie

Placement of Nouns as Adjectives

The placement of noun adjectives is an important aspect to consider when using them in a sentence. Here are some guidelines for their proper placement:

Before the Noun:

Most commonly, noun adjectives are placed before the noun they modify. For example:

  • Blue eyes
  • Wooden table
  • French cuisine

Placing the noun adjective before the noun helps provide immediate context and description, allowing the reader or listener to grasp the specific details associated with the noun.

Multiple Noun Adjectives:

When multiple noun adjectives are used to describe the same noun, they usually appear in a specific order. The order is generally:

  1. Opinion or evaluation (e.g., beautiful, delicious)
  2. Size (e.g., small, large)
  3. Shape (e.g., round, square)
  4. Age (e.g., old, young)
  5. Color (e.g., blue, red)
  6. Origin (e.g., French, Chinese)
  7. Material (e.g., wooden, metal)
  8. Purpose (e.g., writing, cooking)

For example:

  • A beautiful small round wooden box
  • An old red Chinese lantern
  • A large metal cooking pot

Following this order helps maintain clarity and consistency in describing the noun.

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