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I'm trying to understand the grammar of this sentence:

Avalanches are dangerous to mountain climbers.

What part of speech is the word mountain?

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    Basically, it's a noun used as an adjective. The precise term used for this arrangement depends on your religion. – Hot Licks May 21 '19 at 0:29
  • It's a noun functioning as complement (not modifier) of climbers. – BillJ May 21 '19 at 6:26
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It is part of the noun phrase "mountain climbers", which is itself the complement of the sentence. Specifically "mountain" is a noun modifier (also called an 'attributive noun' or a 'noun adjunct'), modifying "climbers". A noun modifier is a kind of noun.

  • Surely the NP "mountain climbers" is complement of the preposition "to", thus "to mountain climbers" is a PP. The PP then serves as complement of the adjective "dangerous". "Mountain" is a complement (not modifier) of "climbers". – BillJ May 21 '19 at 6:22
  • Is that still the case when there is no preposition as in "Mountain climbers have to be physically fit"? – BoldBen May 21 '19 at 8:56
  • @BoldBen Yes, "mountain" can only be a complement of "climbers" (climbers of mountains). Other examples include "a linguistics student" (a student of linguistics) / "a flower seller" (a seller of flowers) / "a legal advisor" (an advisor on legal matters). – BillJ May 21 '19 at 13:38
  • @BillJ I'm Ok with that, it's just that you said it was the complement of 'to' and I thought that was strange. – BoldBen May 21 '19 at 19:23
  • @BoldBen The NP "mountain climbers" is complement of the prep "to". What else could it be? – BillJ May 22 '19 at 5:58
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In the context of this sentence, "mountain" is an adjective because it modifies (or describes) the noun, "climbers." It tells what kind of climbers they are. Are they tree climbers? No, they are mountain climbers!

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    Nope, it's a noun. If it were an adjective you'd modify it with an adverb like quickly mountain climbers or very mountain climbers. Those are ungrammatical because it's a noun so needs an adjective; easy mountain climbers, high mountain climbers. – tchrist May 21 '19 at 2:43

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