Has an assessment been conducted to evaluate potential products impact due to this nonconformity?

This is a sentence written by an American . I would like to know what does the word “potential” describe, “products” or “impact” ?

  • 1
    Is there a larger conversation in place that can give some sort of context? I suspect that it's referring to the potential impact of the product's nonconformity, and that the sentence might be poorly constructed.
    – mike
    Jan 10, 2017 at 7:39

3 Answers 3


(Disclaimer: this answer is based on my understanding of the text, which may be wrong, since I don't have the full context. I read products here as "things that are made to be sold", so this could be some marketing or management text.)

The sentence talks about nonconformity, which means something does not meet some requirement.

On first reading it seems that the nonconformity is a problem of the products and thus the products can have an impact. In this reading, "potential" refers to the impact. But if that were the case, then an apostrophe should have been used: either "potential product's impact" or "potential products' impact" ("have" is contracted to the possessive ending 's).

I would instead suggest that there is a nonconformity of some part or ingredient, which might have an impact on products using that part or ingredient. (Note: impact on, not of, products).

With this interpretation, the sentence could be written in simpler language as:

Did anyone assess the impact on potential products that this nonconformity might have?

And here "potential" clearly refers to the product.

Since this analysis is mainly based on the subtle lack of an apostrophe, which is not pronounced anyway, it is hard to tell. I would advise writers to use language carefully to avoid possible ambiguity as in this example.


Short Answer: "Has an assessment been conducted to evaluate [the] potential product's impact [since it is not like other products on the market]?"

Long Answer: This is just a guess. I would need more context to be able to better help you.

In the meantime, hope this helps!


Words ending in -al and especially -tial generally don't modify other modifiers unless they are changed to -ally or -tially, which makes them an adverb.

So potential and products both modify impact.

  • Thanks for help ! could you please explain more ? Thank you !!!
    – Steve Choi
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:27
  • why potential and products both modify impact not only products ?
    – Steve Choi
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:29
  • For potential to modify products it would have to be an adverb. Potential is not an adverb but potentially is. So it can only modify the first noun that comes afterward.
    – LawrenceC
    Jan 10, 2017 at 17:30
  • Thanks ! potential is a adj , products is a noun , why can't modify products ? Thank you !
    – Steve Choi
    Jan 10, 2017 at 18:14
  • Nope, products (and it should be spelled product's) is a possessive adjective describing impact. (You are evaluating the impact of the product, not the product itself.) Adjectives can normally be removed and the sentence will still make sense, and you can do this in that sentence: "... to evaluate impact due to this nonconformity."
    – LawrenceC
    Jan 10, 2017 at 19:51

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