Open form of compound noun

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Conan Doyle, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. Conan Doyle Senior Member

    Vietnam, English
    Dear friends,

    A history book is a book of history. :tick:

    The noun "history" behaves similarly to an adjective and modifies the second one "book".

    A history book is a book of history.
    A historical book is a book of history.

    Could you tell me when I can use the compound noun "Noun + Noun" instead of using an adjective to modify a noun?

    I am looking forwards to your kind clear explanations?

    Thanks in advance!

  2. mjscott Senior Member

    Anytime a noun is used as a descriptor of the next noun it is turned into an adjective.

    Blue is my favorite color. (Blue is a noun.)
    I live in the blue house on the corner. (Blue is an adjective.)
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  4. Conan Doyle Senior Member

    Vietnam, English
    Yeah, I don't think we can use any noun for modifying another noun.
    Can any native people give me ideas for the usage of compound noun "noun + noun" ?
    Because it is not clearly defined in any grammar books that make non-native speakers like me confused, especially in the word form exercises.

    Many thanks
  5. Forero Senior Member

    Houston, Texas, USA
    USA English
    I'm afraid there is no general rule for what noun+noun combinations are possible, common, or proper.

    In a phenomenon known as "noun plague", nouns modifying each other can form strings difficult if not impossible to understand, e.g. "Phase I groundwater quality evaluation report", which I am not familiar with but I suppose means "report on the first phase evaluation of groundwater quality". In my line of work, we have "extended binary-coded decimal interchange code", which a person not familiar with mainframe computers might find impossible to decode, and its PC counterpart "American standard code for information interchange".

    More to the point, subject + "book"/"lesson"/"class"/"lecture"/"instructor"/etc. compounds are common. Subject in these compounds can be anything that may be studied, whether singular (e.g. "history lecture"), plural ("differential equations textbook"), or noncount ("swimming instructor", "sex lesson").
  6. Conan Doyle Senior Member

    Vietnam, English
    I only can think the compound noun "Noun 1 + Noun 2" can be used if:

    Noun 1 has no corresponding adjective itself as suggested by panjandrum
    Noun 1 or it adjective shall be used to modify the second noun, which is governed by the meaning as "A history book or a historical book"

    That's all I can think but they may be wrong, and I need your help
  7. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Unfortunately, Conan, huge numbers of English nouns do have adjectives, though they're not always obvious. To pick a few out of your quote:
    car ~ automotive
    cow ~ bovine
    baby ~ infantile
    brain ~ cerebral
    If there is a rule governing which nouns can be compounded with which other nouns, I can't imagine what it might be ...
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Unfortunately, those adjectives are not appropriate for the contexts in which the noun-noun versions I quoted would be used. Can you imagine the reaction if you were to ask for some bovine bells, or cerebral food? And as for infantile oil :eek:
  9. Phil-Olly Senior Member

    Scotland, English
    I find it interesting that, over the years, "electricity meter" has become "electric meter" (which should be a grammatical improvement?) and "railway station" has become "train station" (which has merely replaced one attributive noun with another)
  10. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    I was just pointing out that some of those nouns do have 'corresponding' adjectives; but, as you rightly point out, these don't go with all nouns.
    In the same way, the original attributive nouns don't necessarily go with other nouns:
    [cow spongiform encephalopathy]?
    [brain palsy]?
    while others might use either noun or adjective:
    the car/automotive industry.

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