a 2-year followed group

kitty like a cat

USA English
I am looking for rules about turning nouns and verbs into adjectives. I teach advanced English students who write scientific articles. In these articles they have to keep the word count low so they want to use adjectives instead of verbs. (the infected group vs. this group is infected with a disease.).
Look at the following sentences:
The infected group.:tick:
The 2 -year followed group. :cross:
The question is WHY is the second sentence not correct.
Infected and followed are both verbs. Does it have something to do with the fact that we have to say "the group is infected" but "the group is being followed"? If so does anyone know a teachable rule about this?
Thank you!
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The words you’re using as adjectives are past participles. Many past participles (including “infected”) are also adjectives in their own right, and have dictionary entries as adjectives. But this does not apply to all past participles, and “followed” is an example of one that’s not normally used as an adjective.

    The meaning of “the 2-year followed group” as the group that has been followed (in a study) for 2 years is clear (to me, anyway), but it’s not very idiomatic. However, I wouldn’t entirely rule out using it if it kept a wordcount within the required limit.


    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    That sounds terrible, honestly. One way around that problem is to define your term first and then use it after that.

    One group was followed for two years and another for four years.

    The two-year group had these results.

    That's perfectly good English and it's even shorter. The two-year group means nothing without an introduction, but once you introduce it you can use it thereafter and save a whole word each time.

    kitty like a cat

    USA English
    Thank you for your answers. I know that "2-year followed group" sounds bad but I can't explain why it is grammatically incorrect. I could re-work the sentence easily (the group that was followed for two years) but I'm interested in understanding why. Lingobingo your explanation was really good but how would a non-native speaker know which past participles can not be used as adjectives. I've done some research online but haven't found a list of past participles that can or can not be used as adjectives.
    Thanks for your help and if anyone can find any such list I'm very interested to see it!


    Senior Member
    English - US
    I know that "2-year followed group" sounds bad but I can't explain why it is grammatically incorrect.
    The rules of grammar are not the only thing that makes up a language. I can't say that's grammatically incorrect, but I can say a native speaker wouldn't use it.
    Even though "the infected group" sounds good, I'd say "the two-year infected group" sounds bad so "followed" is not the only issue.


    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think we’re all agreed that “the 2-year followed group” is not technically incorrect, but neither is it, by any means, a standard grammatical construction. (Hits if you search for it online: zero.)

    But imagine you were working on a text about three groups that were studied for different lengths of time. It would not be beyond the bounds of possibility to distinguish between them by abbreviating them as, for example, the 2-year, 3-year and 4-year followed groups. Having said that, I agree with Kentix (#4) that the word “followed” could be omitted altogether once the set-up had been explained.
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