Sunday, October 21

Noun Becomes Adjective

image courtesy of stock.xchng 

In English, sometimes you can see 2 Nouns lined up together like this:

traffic light

book cover

The first Noun of the pair, in fact, becomes like an Adjective that describes the second Noun. This way:

This is why you can make many other combinations such as:


But for learners such as yourself, it would be better to follow combinations that you can see in books or in the dictionary. It isn’t a good idea to make combinations by yourself, because not all Nouns can be combined in this way.

Fruits Basket

I have heard that, in Japan, there is a manga and anime series titled “Fruits Basket” (フルーツバスケット).

(I’m not really familiar with the story of this particular series. But I hope this example isn’t a bit too girly for me! :-D)

The above expression "Fruits basket" isn’t grammatically correct.

(Note: Another expression: “a basket of fruits” is correct, but this has a different meaning.)

Like we discussed, the first Noun becomes like an Adjective that describes the second Noun. In English, Adjectives can 't become plural:


beautifuls girls = X

difficults exams = X

In a language like French, on the other hand, it is possible to make Adjectives plural:

des légumes verts (=this means “green vegetables”)

mes chats blancs (=this means “my white cats”)

In English, all Adjectives must remain singular.

However, even though English Adjectives will stay singular inside the expressions:

lemon tree

shoe store

Don’t worry because they have a plural meaning:

lemon tree (= a tree with many or no lemons)

shoe store (= a shop that sells many shoes)

Five Hundred Dollar?

This is also the reason why we say:

  1. That tote bag costs five hundred dollars(=Ok)

  2. That’s a five-hundred-dollar tote bag. (=Ok)


  1. That boy is six years old. (=Ok)

  2. He is a six-year-old boy. (=Ok)


Inside sentences #1, we are using the words “dollar” and “year” as Nouns. So it’s necessary to make them plural:

five hundred dollars (Noun)

six years old (Noun)

On the other hand, inside sentences #2, we are using them as Adjectives. In fact, they're long Adjectives:

five-hundred-dollar (Adjective)

six-year-old (Adjective)

This is why we can’t make them plural. If you remember, In English, we don’t make Adjectives plural.

This is also the reason why you can see the symbol hyphen or dash ( - ) there. To make many Nouns into one Adjective, we string them together like this:

five (+hyphen) hundred (+hyphen) dollar

six (+hyphen) year (+hyphen) old


You can also make other expressions like these:

The trip will be four days long.

I will be on a four-day trip.

The flight takes five hours.

It’s a five-hour flight.

Hope you learned something!

Keep on learning !

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