For instance

  • "Study Material" vs "Studying Material"
  • "Participle Phrase" vs "Participial Phrase"

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  • In noun phrases like "study material" the first noun generally specifies the second somehow. So you know that this material is for study. Consider "roast chicken"; we have a chicken, and the leading noun shows us that it's been roasted. Now consider "roasting chicken"; used as an adjective, this tells us that we have a chicken which is currently being roasted. Apply that to "studying material" and it's nonsense, because material can't study. That said, you could still arguably use "studying material" as a noun phrase where you're basically talking about material for studying. – John Clifford Nov 28 '16 at 9:46
  • 1
    A noun used this way is an adjective use, so that it's really an adjective and not a noun any more. The OP may have had a more complex idea when asking this question, though. – Kris Nov 28 '16 at 10:06
  • @Kris: it is still a noun, actually. For example, we can modify nouns by adjectives like "study" --> "independent study", and this applies also to attributive nouns as in "study material" --> "independent study material." If "study" had stopped being a noun in the second phrase, we wouldn't be able to do that. – sumelic Nov 28 '16 at 11:46
  • @JohnClifford. Thanks for your explanation. I just confused about "study material" that was the same meaning as "studied material" (a material which is used for studying)? For this case, i am wrong about Active and Passive usage by myself. – thekanompung Nov 29 '16 at 3:03
  • @Kris Thanks for explanation. I was so confused when I found some unknown words and i always think "Why I have to use this? Why I can't use this instead?", such as natural language (not nature language), nitrogenous gas (not nitrogen gas). – thekanompung Nov 29 '16 at 7:49

The difference between [noun noun] and [adjective noun] is that a [noun noun] form is a word (specifically, a noun) and [adjective noun] is a phrase (an N-bar). You can very often tell them apart by stress, since the word usually has stress on the first part, [nOUn noun], and the phrase usually has stress on the second part, [adjective nOUn].

  • In We'll [study matErial], with end stress, it's a verb phrase
  • In We need more [stUdy material], with fore stress, it's a noun.
  • In [Studying matErial] is no fun, with end stress, it's a noun phrase.
  • In Some [stUdying material] is boring, with fore stress, it's a noun.

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