If you look up the word ‘biscuit’ in the Oxford online dictionary, you'll see this


1   British     A small baked unleavened cake, typically crisp, flat, and sweet:
[as modifier] ‘a chocolate biscuit’
    More example sentences     Synonyms

If a chocolate biscuit is a biscuit, albeit made with chocolate, shouldn't ‘chocolate’ be the modifier? This questions whether I really know what a modifier (or a chocolate biscuit) is. Or it's just an error.

Comparison with ‘oil


1.1 Petroleum:
    ‘400 birds were coated with oil which spilled out from an opened valve’
[as modifier] ‘the oil industry’

This is in agreement with the common definition of grammatical modifier. I don't think ‘a chocolate biscuit’ is a modifier as a whole: it wouldn't be an example with ‘biscuit’ used as a modifier (and it wouldn't make much sense).

  • 1
    This is an error, probably a contamination from definition 2. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 30 '16 at 16:31
  • @Human FYI in America this baked good is called a "cookie". This is a "biscuit", and not ordinarily paired with chocolate. – Andrew Nov 30 '16 at 17:42
  • You are correct, the Oxford is wrong (as it is often is nowadays). Your example chocolate biscuit is a noun phrase, in which the nominal chocolate modifies the head of the NP biscuit. – BillJ Nov 30 '16 at 19:09
  • @Andrew, something has happened to you comment: it was not directed to me... – Human Nov 30 '16 at 22:32
  • @Human it looks like someone moderated the comments ... but anyway mine is just information, only indirectly related to your question. You might want to check out this page of British vs. American terms. Plus, Australia have a bunch more all their own. – Andrew Nov 30 '16 at 22:57

'Tis simply an error. Nouns do not modify their adjectives (in the grammatical sense, of course; you parse the "dead" in "dead weight" far differently from "dead pet").

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In the example, both chocolate and biscuit are modifiers of the other. A chocolate biscuit is a biscuit, normally a digestive, with a layer of chocolate on one side. Thus you are eating chocolate that is on a biscuit (where biscuit modifies chocolate) and a biscuit that has chocolate on it (where chocolate modifies biscuit).

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  • No, a chocolate biscuit on its own means a biscuit made of chocolate. What you say does not reflect English usage. – Lambie Nov 30 '16 at 17:23
  • @Lambie Chocolate biscuit. – Werrf Nov 30 '16 at 17:30
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    chocolate and biscuit are NOT modifiers of each other. – Lambie Nov 30 '16 at 20:38
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    How can they each be modifiers of each other? That doesn't make sense. In noun adjunct phrases, the first noun modifies the second, they don't modify each other. A "race horse" is a kind of horse, and "race" tells us what kind of horse, but "horse" doesn't modify "race". – stangdon Nov 30 '16 at 20:39

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