Which is more correct between "British female students" and "female British students"?

I have found examples of both - even the Daily Mail renders it both ways.

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    There is no difference, both are valid. – Ubi hatt Aug 3 '18 at 5:40
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    It depends on whether you're talking about people who are studying British or females. – Mr Lister Aug 3 '18 at 6:29
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    @MrLister I have never heard of anyone studying "British". Don 't confuse it with the language English: However, "Female English students" is still ambiguous. – Mari-Lou A Aug 3 '18 at 6:32
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    @Ol'Joe I see from your profile page that you have never exercised your voting privileges nor accepted an answer. Please, don't forget to upvote (you have enough rep) and accept those answers that have helped you the most. By accepting an answer, the system also awards you +2 . Thanks. – Mari-Lou A Aug 3 '18 at 8:47
  • @Mari-LouA Sorry, my remark was more or less tongue-in-cheek. If it's confusing, shall I remove it? – Mr Lister Aug 3 '18 at 16:58

Both are correct.

Though they essentially mean the same or appear to be, they may not, in some instances. The context may require only one of the alternatives.

Say, when comparing British and American female students, you'd use the first phrasing, and when comparing male and female British students, you may use the latter. In some cases the adjectives modify different nouns.


Both may be correct, depending on the intended meaning.

Word order is dependent on meaning (and vice-versa). Cambridge Dictionary has the order as: opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, colour, origin, material, type, purpose; Example (sentences with more than 3 concurrent adjectives should be left to textbooks, handle with care): Beautiful small cold round old red British hardwood nautical metrological log.

This would mean that "English Japanese students" would be quite clear (English would be the origin, Japanese [studies] the purpose/type), while "English students" is ambiguous, because 'English' might be the origin, type, or purpose.

Advanced (Literary) usage may extend the possibilities of meaning for certain adjectives. Depending on context, any nationality may also serve as shorthand for an opinion (e.g. hated), size (small, tall, ...), physical quality (fat, sturdy, ...) colour (white, black, ...) - which further muddies the waters.

  • The OP's question is "British female students" vs. "female British students" Which one is correct? – Mari-Lou A Aug 3 '18 at 8:13
  • @Mari-LouA thanks for your input, i condensed my meaning into a new first sentence. – loonquawl Aug 3 '18 at 9:28

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