Student or Learner
Some phrases containing adjectives or nouns as attributes puzzle me!
For example, we say "science facilities", "science lecture" but "scientific prize", "scientific experiment". Why?
Another example, we say "chemistry teacher" but "chemical lab". Why?
Are there some rules to follow when deciding whether we use the adjective or noun form of a certain word to act as the attribute?
Thanks for your help!
Last edited by roseriver1012; 28-Sep-2012 at 03:43.
NOT A TEACHER
No, "chemical teacher" doesn't make much sense to me. A "chemistry teacher" teaches "chemistry." On the other hand, we do say "chemical engineer" and not (to my knowledge) "chemistry engineer." I'm afraid that there are no rules.
"Scientific experiment" and "science experiment" are both possible.
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
Here are some thoughts (not "answers") to share with you:
1. In the ancient days of the 1920's, an English gentleman named Henry Fowler wrote A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which, I hear, was to help the growing middle class speak proper English.
a. He was very upset that adjectives were being pushed to the side by nouns.
i. For example, he said that there was no reason to refer to a "luxury hotel" instead of a "luxurious hotel."
2. I was wondering whether that's the case of one of your examples.
a. Thanks to Google books, I found these sentences from a scholarly book entitled Investigating Chemistry Lab Manuel by David Collins:
"Accidents are common anywhere, and accidents in a chemical laboratory may have the potential of resulting in serious consequences. ... Although accidents can happen, you should not be afraid of the chemistry laboratory."
Is it possible that "chemistry" has pushed "chemical" out of the way? Of course, "chemical" would be correct if you were referring to the "chemical [testing / analysis] laboratory."
3. Bryan A. Garner in his A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (1998) says something interesting: sometimes one form is used by specialists; the other, by us ordinary people.
a. Doctors might say "prostatic cancer"; ordinary folks might call it "prostate cancer."
b. Grammarians might say "adjectival clause"; we ordinary folks, "adjective clause."
4. Finally, I used to refer to "grammatical errors" until a teacher pointed out how ridiculous that is. How can an
error (in English) be "grammatical"? So now I refer to "grammar errors."
Ah, very good question (I never gave it a thought! ) and also very good research answer, James! ;)
Thank you very much for giving me such an insight.