A noun can modify another noun by coming immediately before the noun that follows it. As a modifier, the first noun tells us a bit more about the following noun. When a noun acts as a modifier, it is in its singular form.

  • They do not have vegetable soup, but they do have chicken soup and tomato soup.

In the sentence, the nouns vegetable, chicken and tomato are modifiers. They modify soup. Without the modifiers, we would not know what soup they have or do not have. All we would know is they have soup.

 

We need to use a modifying word such as an adjective or a noun, attributively (before a noun) to add to the meaning of the noun being modified. For example, we know what a ship is, but do we know what type of ship it is or what it is used for? By using a word, especially a noun acting as an adjective, before the noun ship we get to know what ship it is – a battleship, cargo ship, container ship, cruise ship, merchant ship, sailing ship, spaceship, or supply ship, or even an enemy ship or a pirate ship.

 

Other examples:

  • Business/girls’/language/village school – She is a teacher in a language school.
  • Corner/gift/pet/shoe shop – The gift shop offers a small selection of leather goods.
  • Family/farm/pet/police/sheep/sniffer/toy dog – The police dog was sniffing round the detainee's heels.
  • Council/country/dream/farm/mansion/tree/summer house – They rented a council house when they got married.

 

More examples:

  • We are renovating the old farm buildings after they were gutted by fire.
  • They spent the weekends doing the vegetable garden.
  • She kept her money box under her bed.
  • A car bomb went off, injuring a dozen people.
  • He lay in the hospital bed reading a library book.

 

When a noun used as a modifier is combined with a number expression, the noun is singular and a hyphen is used.

Examples:

  • They built their own half-timbered house overlooking the river.
  • He does a one-man show in a open-air theatre. / His one-man business is expanding fast.
  • The pilot overshot the runway and crashed his two-seater aircraft.
  • The three-day horse-riding event will take place next week.
  • They lived in a four-bedroom house in the suburbs.
  • She plays in a five-girl rock band.
  • He will have to serve a six-year sentence for burglaries.
  • He got a seven-month contract to work on an offshore oilrig.
  • The historic eight-room mansion stands in 60 acres of parkland.
  • The 100-year-old mansion stands in 60 acres of parkland.