I don't quite understand the part in bold from this long sentence.

The 65-year-old lawmaker, who recently had been encouraged by President Donald Trump to seek a third term, made the surprise announcement hours before a showdown vote in an Alabama Senate runoff in which the establishment favorite lost to firebrand Judge Roy Moore.

The source

  • What precisely is it you do not understand? Sep 27, 2017 at 10:29
  • ok, what's "the establishment favorite" ? and also not sure 'lost to'
    – dan
    Sep 27, 2017 at 10:34
  • 3
    The establishment favorite is the candidate favored by the establishment--the people in power. (In this case the establishment is the people who lead the national Republican party.) Sen. Strange lost, and to designates the candidate who won, Judge Moore. Sep 27, 2017 at 10:37
  • Just mull it over. I would have understood it originally if it put as "the establishment's favorite" or "the favorite of the establishment". To me, establishment is not attributive, but possessive. It's just like saying "their favorite". Am I getting it right? Does "the establishment's favorite" or "the favorite of the establishment" sound ok? What would be the idiomatic usage?
    – dan
    Sep 27, 2017 at 12:33
  • 1
    Nouns are often employed in attributive position to designate agents, patients or other semantic complements. In this context consider 'party favorite', 'Senate favorite', 'teen favorite' = the person favored by the party, by the Senate, by teens. Sep 27, 2017 at 12:42

1 Answer 1


While you are correct that establishment's favorite seems more grammatical, in English it's not uncommon to create compound nouns by joining together two (or more) nouns:

ice cream

jelly bean

washing machine

and so on. Sometimes these are joined together (policeman) and sometimes kept separate (automobile dealership).

In general, you can assume the compound is whatever the final noun is, modified by the previous nouns. For example a "water distribution network" is a network (of pipes, pumps, valves, etc.) used to distribute water. In the same way the "establishment favorite" is the favored option of the established political party.

Again these kind of nouns are so common you probably don't even notice you're reading this on your computer screen while typing on your key-board while signals go back and forth over your network connection. You can even make up your own, once you get the hang of it.

  • I got it. But, apparently, there are also some cases that you should use the form of 's or of, instead of attributive nouns. For example, Tom's book, you wouldn't say Tom book, would you? That said, there got to be some rules that define when should use as an attributive or possessive. That's why I was just curious if establishment's favorite is correct, because I've seen 'my favorite', 'their favorite' and maybe 'Tom's favorite'. Can we say 'Tom favorite' in this case?
    – dan
    Sep 27, 2017 at 23:41
  • I can understand 'washing machine' makes sense, because that machine is used to wash sth. It should be an attributive, not possessive. The same thing for ice cream and jelly bean.
    – dan
    Sep 27, 2017 at 23:47
  • @dan actually we do sometimes use proper nouns + novel/movie/etc, for example "I'm reading yet another Stephen King novel", or, "that's a Tom Cruise movie". In any language, past a certain point there are no "rules", only "conventions".
    – Andrew
    Sep 28, 2017 at 0:32
  • In this case the convention is that the named person should be famous enough that the listener should know who they are and recognize their relationship to the noun. "That recipe is a Gordon Ramsay favorite" would be fine, but "That recipe is an Andrew favorite" sadly, would not.
    – Andrew
    Sep 28, 2017 at 0:34
  • ok, then. I know language is all about idiomatic and conventions. That's why it's hard to learn as a second language.
    – dan
    Sep 28, 2017 at 0:59

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