What is the difference between:

1. Design of a system vs. System Design

2. Type of cable vs. Cable type

3. Certificate of Compliance vs. Compliance Certificate

4. Obligations and Duties of Company vs. Company's Obligations and Duties

  • Please clarify your question more. What specifically do you want to know? – user72323 Nov 3 '14 at 9:00
  • 1
    Where legalese is used, the precise terms often have precise definitions, and the apparently totally equivalent alternative may not be acceptable to the legal authority involved. Thus, this type of question would not be acceptable on ELU. To a layman, 'type of cable' and 'cable type' look like almost exact synonyms, with the second variant being in a slightly more formal register. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 3 '14 at 12:10
  • I would like to know if there are specific rules when choosing the order of these words, and when to use the preposition "of". Could it be that "of" emphasizes the adjective? But it doesn't always sound natural or doesn't help the language flow naturally. I have dealt with these issues in books, engineering terms, titles, legal documents, etc. I would like to know if there are any grammar rules to follow. – Aneko Nov 3 '14 at 16:55

There is no difference, except when one form or the other has an idiomatic significance (e.g. "king of the hill" versus "hill king").


The way I see it is that the difference is where the emphasis lies.
To use your example 1, I would say the emphasis of Design of a system lies on the System, while in System Design the emphasis lies more on Design.

The latter could also be car design or airport design while the former would signify the design of a specific System for specific needs.

  • we've designed a system to track the migration patterns of birds

In that scenario the most important is the system itself, and not the the design that went into it (however impressive the design might be.)

It's an interesting question and I certainly hope more people post answers.

In any case I hope this helps,


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