An attributive adjective or noun?

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Tomasz Klimkiewicz

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Hello everybody,

I've noticed in many texts of both British and American origin that in certain contexts noun forms are used as attributives rather than corresponding adjectives. Perhaps some examples will illustrate the problem better:

Noun: optimum, precision
Adjective: optimal, precise

Examples:

Finally we have arrived at an optimal solution (adjective, pretty obvious).
The production is now running at an optimum rate of .... pcs. a day. (IMO, sounds better than optimal)

A precise answer will be impossible without additional data. (adjective)
The new product requires precision tooling. (a noun form)

I am posting this question, first of all, to obtain confirmation whether my observations are correct and, secondly, to learn if there is a more general rule governing the use of noun and adjective type attributives.

Regards to all, Tee Kay.
 

Casiopea

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This is just a thought but nonetheless something interesting:

As attributive adjectives,

the noun precision means, made for, adapted for X;
the noun optimum means, most favorable condition for growth.

It's interesting that both definitions contain the preposition 'for'.

Maybe it's the case that attributive adjectives express what kind, whereas attributive nouns express 'for X'.

All the best, :D
 

Tomasz Klimkiewicz

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Thanks a lot, Casiopea.
Maybe there exists another rule and a different explanation, but what you suggest sounds logical and is perfectly sufficient for my purposes. In my work, I am often asked to do a piece of English-Polish / Polish-English translation. By the nature of the texts I deal with (engineering, general business, legal stuff), I try to make my translation as accurate as feasible to my best knowledge and experience. That's one of the reasons why I sometimes ponder the kind of intricacies of the English language like the ones in the topic of this thread.

Thank you again for your time and willingness to help. Tee Kay
 
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