I wonder if it is possible to say "musical school" instead of "music school" (with the same meaning 'a school of music'). Recently I have come across several sentences like that:

*The obvious genius of the child had been noticed by the family, and his mother took him to a musical school.

In general, I am a classical Muscovite, who went to musical school in my childhood, therefore I dream of buying a piano...*


  • Were you studying musicals there?
    – tchrist
    Oct 22, 2016 at 12:44
  • No, this is about a usual music school.
    – Yulia
    Oct 22, 2016 at 12:46
  • 1
    Though the adjective is often the preferred choice (when available) as a premodifier, in some instances, as here, the attributive noun is idiomatic. (For Hogwarts, neither 'magic school' nor 'magical school' sounds right.) This probably often has to do with an inappropriate common sense of the adjective in question (eg magical school; nightly school). In some cases, it probably just wouldn't sound right (magnetic school). Oct 22, 2016 at 13:15
  • So it can be said that the adjective "musical" is incorrect here?
    – Yulia
    Oct 22, 2016 at 13:19
  • 2
    Not incorrect, but do you want your English to sound natural or quirky? These Google Ngrams in my opinion accurately reflect the situation, suggesting that 97+% of people would use 'music school'. Oct 22, 2016 at 13:37

2 Answers 2


The problem is that music school is not an adjective followed by a noun. It is two nouns, a compound noun.

  • music school
  • agriculture school
  • carpentry school
  • engineering school
  • nursing school
  • drama school
  • masonry school

These are all schools where one goes to learn about, or to become, the noun given in the first position. They are all “schools of/for/about X”, not “schools that are X”. The nursing school is not nursing any grudges nor infants; rather, it is schooling nurses.

That means when you try to say musical school, people will assume that musical is not an adjective but a noun! They will understand it, at least in writing where stress in not expressed, that you are going to a school to learn about musicals, not some school that happens to carry a tune well.

  • 3
    But ... we say religious school, medical school, and military school, and those are all adjectives. Oct 23, 2016 at 1:02

The word musical has three slightly different meanings:

  1. Having to do with music, as a musical instrument
  2. Euphonious, as a musical tune
  3. Skilled or interested in music, as a musical poet

The OED records that they all entered the written language at about the same time, circa 1420. There's likely not a rule that dictates which nouns take the adjective musical and which take the attributive noun music. For instance, the Ngram viewer finds few instances of music talent as compared to musical talent -- the latter favored by over 75:1 --, but the google shows roughly equal hits. Both methods find music school preferred over musical school. The google finds over 16M hits for the former; 355K, for the latter, although there used to be a New York institution called the Goodrich Private Musical School. The problem will musical school is that it brings to mind a school that can carry a tune instead of a school that can teach one to do so.

(Warning: I haven't accounted for false drops in the google, which will count such things as "the musical, School of Rock".)

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