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How can I make the difference in this kind of sentence :

"French Quality Clothes"

Does it mean :

  • Clothes of the well-known "french quality"

or

  • Quality clothes from France

?

And How can I express the 2 without been misunderstood?

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5  
By using a hyphen, French-quality clothes. See the Chicago Manual of Style, 6.39: "When a temporary compound is used as an adjective before a noun, it is often hyphenated to avoid misleading the reader. (e.g. 'a fast sailing ship': is it a 'ship that is sailing fast', in which case you should hyphenate it, or 'a sailing ship that is fast', in which case you should leave it unhyphenated)." I am pretty sure we have lots of questions on this subject and this will get closed as a dupe. –  RegDwigнt Apr 16 '12 at 11:07
    
What about if they are independent? That is, what if the clothes are both French and quality? –  Mitch Apr 16 '12 at 11:10
1  
"French quality clothes" is incorrect. It should either be "quality French clothes" (see order of adjectives) or "French-quality clothes" (hyphenate compound adjectives). –  Peter Shor Apr 16 '12 at 15:08
    
@Mitch Then it can be French quality clothes from France!, with an exclamation point to boot. :-) –  Kris Apr 17 '12 at 11:00

2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

By placing the adjective before the appropriate word.

Quality French clothes -- (Good) quality clothes of French origin.

and

French quality clothes -- Clothes of (the renowned) French quality.

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I think the best way to express the difference between the two ideas is to do exactly what you've done -- elaborate.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "the well-known French quality" -- I assume you are referring to certain quintessential French designs, patterns and other characteristics (I am no fashion expert). If that is the meaning, then it should be understood if you say something on the lines of

The clothes had a distinct French quality to them.

Note: I believe some authors would put quotes around the French (a distinct "French" quality) to invite the reader to apply their best interpretation of what the adjective stands for.

If the meaning is indeed as I described above, then I think this construction should be clear enough.

As for "quality clothes from France", you should definitely elaborate it as described. The use of two consecutive adjectives in front of the noun introduces a great deal of ambiguity, in my opinion. I would actually be more likely to understand "French quality clothes" as the first interpretation above, although I'd still be confused.

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