Many nouns are used attributively. Is it correct to use them with actual adjectives by linking them with and?

Some other examples I can think of are:

Young and news reporter

Cold and orange juice

Tall and palm tree

Economic and language barrier

5 Answers 5


Most of your examples are invalid. The last one is a fixer-upper:

Young news reporter.

Cold orange juice.

Tall palm tree.

Economic and linguistic barriers.

  • 2
    Note that the last one has a different nuance: it doesn't mean that the barrier is both economic and linguistic, it refers to a collection of barriers, some of which are economic, some linguistic.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 9:17
  • 1
    It should be noted that the first three are invalid (at least in part) because "news", "orange", and "palm" all effectively modify their nouns, rather than simply qualifying them. Eg, a "palm tree" is a particular type of tree, while a "tall tree" is not.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 12:02

You first need to realise that attributive nouns are better not regarded as true adjectives (though they can premodify the head noun quite similarly).

Then you should realise that not all pairs (etc) of adjectives can be coordinated using 'and'. There is a difference between cumulative adjectives and coordinate adjectives.

*The Chihuahua is a nice and little dog.

The African Elephant is a huge and frightening animal.

Finally, it is very unusual for an adjective and an attributive noun to coordinate. Perhaps 'I've come to read your electric and gas meters' might be considered an example, but the premodifiers are modifying different referents. From the internet, here is a complex example: 'Our vintage Sahana Wooden and Steel Frame Trunk Box'. But such cases are rare exceptions.

  • 1
    @EA - I can't agree with your final paragraph (if I understand it correctly). Example: - "He is a chemistry and physics teacher. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 10:07
  • Chemistry and physics are both attributive nouns here. Wooden isn't, while steel is (though I remember reading that steel is best considered to be in the process of converting to an adjective [of course, the noun form remains]). I've rephrased, but the meaning was clear from context (obviously some adjective pairs coordinate: I gave an example.) // The usages of and in 'gold and diamond mines' and 'red and white shirt' / 'brick and stone patio' clearly need to be distinguished. How many referents are being addressed? Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 12:05


You can link two adjectives or two nouns but not a mixture.


He has a red and black T-shirt. (two adjectives)

She is an intelligent and hard-working woman. (two adjectives)

He is a culture and sports reporter. (two attributive nouns)

John is a train and plane spotter. (two attributive nouns)

  • Hi - I'd be interested to know what got me down-voted. Is one of my examples wrong? They seem okay to me. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 15:21

The misconception is a matter of terms. "lab" in "lab mouse" is no normal attribute as the article, an adjective or a relative clause. "lab mouse" is a new noun, a compound noun, different from "mouse". It leads astray when the first element of a compound noun is described as adjective or attribute. In order to describe a compound noun new terms are necessary that make clear that we speak of a compound noun as lab mouse or field mouse and not of simple adjectives added to "mouse" as in a brown mouse or a young mouse.

Unfortunately there are not yet standard terms for describing compound nouns. Some books use the wrong terms adjective or attribute, some design the first noun as combining form and there are more terms. I prefer to say the noun "lab" in "lab mouse" is a compound element.

  • Yes, very important. However, terminology is not the only difficulty here. Heinz J Giegerich (University of Edinburgh) describes the difficulties involved in deciding which N + Ns are compounds. Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 18:57

No! English is not Latin. This kind of stuff doesn't fly in English.

  • 2
    This flies in Latin?
    – Val Kornea
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 9:09
  • Apparently it does, but mind you I am no Latin expert. Here's an Old English translation of some Latin text: Godes laga laðe and lara forsawene (god's law loath-fully and lore done forseen). I don't know how it would run in Latin, but my teacher many, many years ago told me that this was a direct translation from Latin and that it was incorrect in Old English and it should have run as follows: Godes laga and lara hæbben hy forsawene laðe! (god's law and lore have they forseen with loath!). You can look up the Latin "que" suffix if you want to learn more.
    – user74809
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 10:54
  • Well, generally speaking so many years later I can't recall the details, but the concept that such constructions are possible in Latin still lives on in my memory.
    – user74809
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 11:02
  • @user74809 Latin does not use attributive nouns. It can, however, use genitives and ablatives of description: e.g. vir sapientiae magnae est 'he is a man of great wisdom' or metu currebat 'with fear he ran'.
    – Anonym
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 13:28
  • @user74809 So, one might say ante regem eram, genuflexus metuque magno 'I was before the king, genuflect and great with fear', in which sentence both the adjective genuflexus and the ablative noun of description metu, joined with -que, describe the implicit subject ego.
    – Anonym
    Commented Jul 14, 2015 at 13:35

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