Nouns can be used as adjectives modifying other nouns, like:

The discussion was about supplier local content development.

Can we rephrase the above to:

The discussion was about local content development of supplier.

In general, can we rephrase nouns acting as adjectives to "of" clause like the example cited above?

  • I don't think your first sentence is correct. I would use a possessive: "The subject was about a supplier's local content development." In that case, it is obvious that the proposed transformation is correct: e.g. "John's son" to "the son of John."
    – MorganFR
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 12:52
  • thanks for your reply. can we rephrase "history teacher" to "teacher of history" ?
    – mazen26
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 14:01
  • thanks for your reply. To make it clear and avoid confusion, let me give more clear examples: can we rephrase "history teacher" to "teacher of history" ? can we rephrase “England football team coach” to “coach of England football team” ? thanks
    – mazen26
    Commented Jul 27, 2016 at 14:08
  • A noun used attributively does not it an adjective make!
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 5, 2017 at 23:34

4 Answers 4


It is certainly possible to rephrase a sentence by turning an attributive adjective into a possessive phrase, but you have to be careful about articles and agreement: adjectives have neither, while nouns may have both. So 'supplier local content development' might become 'local content development for our suppliers' or '...for a [particular] supplier'; only the original writer knows which. Conversely, 'England team coach' must become 'coach of the England team' (which is probably why the former is more used in headlines).

  • 1
    I think "supplier" in "supplier local content development" is an attributive noun, not an adjective. By "agreement" did you mean to write "number"? I don't see where agreement comes into this, and as far as I know nouns can't be the targets of agreement in English.
    – herisson
    Commented Jan 6, 2017 at 22:58
  • It's a fool's errand to rephrase Shakespeare, but just for fun tell me how to rephrase, "My salad days, when I was green in judgment..."(If you talked about my days of salad, I would think you were remembering the days before your doctor looked at you through a colitiscope and told you you could no longer eat salad.)
    – Airymouse
    Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 0:13

I think the about is unnecessary. It does not sound natural to me.

The subject was "supplier local content development".

The subject was "local content development of suppliers".

  • I changed "subject" to "discussion" in the posted example, to avoid distracting readers (and prospective answerers) with the side issue of whether "subject about" is faulty usage. The remainder of your answer, which seems to advocate putting the last part of the sentence in quotation marks whether it involves an "of" phrase or not, applies as fully to "The discussion was..." as it does to "The subject was..." However, your answer would be more useful if you explained why adding quotation marks to the alternative phrases offers a useful solution to the poster's question.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 23:34

One of the things that, in my opinion, makes modifying a noun by a string of nouns poor style is that it may be hard to parse and so obscure meaning

I suspect that the intended meaning of the sentence is:

"developing suppliers of local content."

"Local content development of supplier" does not make any sense.

"Supplier development of local content" most likely does mean "developing suppliers of local content," but it is not immediately comprehensible.


If you really want to pose this question correctly, why say 'The subject was about...' instead of 'The subject was...'? By way of example:

1 The subject of the book was sculpture ... 2 The book was about sculpture ... 3 The subject of the book was about sculpture. Examples 1 and 2 are fine, but 3 is pleonastic as the repetition is redundant and adds nothing to comprehension.

  • I edited the poster's question to remove the distracting side issue that you focus on in your response—but as a result, your response is no longer at all relevant to the posted question. This situation illustrates why answers (as opposed to comments) should address the central concern in a posted question rather than ancillary issues that can be resolved separately from that central concern.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 23:21

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