Should we say industry problems or industrial problems?

Which is incorrect? or maybe each of them has specific meaning, then what is that meaning?

I myself think the "industry problems" means the problems occurred in the industry , and the "industrial problems" means problems which are related to industry.

  • You're right. When you say "industrial problems" you put stress on the type of the problems, whereas when you say "industry problems" you put the stress on the area in which the problems have occured. Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 7:19
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    But don't expect this nuance to be observed by nearly all writers and speakers, or to be applicable with all attributive noun usages. For instance, by an 'Oxford comma' is not meant 'a comma that one finds in Oxford' (though of course one might well do). Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 7:48
  • Currently, "industry" n is used in the sense of the business of the industrial sector, and thus, "industry" adj. relates to this sense. On the other hand, "industrial" adj. always meant relating to an industry (rather than the sector as a whole) "Industry News" has more of the economics and politics of the industrial sector; whereas "Industrial News" deals with the technical and management issues within the industry. HTH.
    – Kris
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 10:06

2 Answers 2


This article by Wikipedia (reformatted) discusses the choice between noun adjunct and attributive adjective (when the choice is available):

Use of noun adjuncts when an adjectivally inflected alternative is available.

It is a trait of natural language that there is often more than one way to say something. Any of the options that is logically valid will usually find some currency in natural usage. Thus "erythrocyte maturation" and "erythrocytic maturation" can both be heard, the first using a noun adjunct and the second using an adjectival inflection.

(1) In some cases one of the equivalent forms has greater idiomaticness; thus "cell cycle" is more commonly used than "cellular cycle".

(2a)In some cases, each form tends to adhere to a certain sense; thus "face mask" is the normal term in hockey, and "facial mask" is heard more often in spa treatments. Although "spine cord" is not an idiomatic alternative to "spinal cord", in (2b) other cases, the options are arbitrarily interchangeable with negligible idiomatic difference; thus "spine injury" and "spinal injury" coexist and are equivalent from any practical viewpoint, as are "meniscus transplant" and "meniscal transplant".

Regarding the latter class, attempts at extensive editorial prescription are usually past the point of diminishing returns; ensuring local consistency is sensible (e.g., avoiding random intradocument juxtaposition of both forms for the same meaning), but trying to enforce absolute interdocument consistency (e.g., to never stet a noun adjunct if an adjectival inflection is interchangeable) would only illustrate that indeed, "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."

So, since both 'industry problems' and 'industrial problems' are commonly used (as can be seen on the internet), do they have distinct senses ((2a) above) or are they closely synonymous ((2b))?

While I'd agree with mok that '"industry problems" ... put[s] the stress on the area in which the problems have occur[r]ed', ie a specific industry, I'd say that "industrial problems" can be used here also, but should be the choice for more general situations (eg a general strike).


It's not real complicated.

If you're talking about problems in industry X, that is industry problems. (Example, "petroleum industry problems.")

If you're talking about industrial problems, that is industrial problems. (Example, "The USA and UK have industrial problems, but Japan and China have no industrial problems.")

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