Is there any difference between "robot model" and "model robot"?

For example:
The engineer taught me how to make a model robot.
The engineer taught me how to make a robot model.

And which one is more common to use in daily language?


A "model robot" could mean an exemplary automaton.

A "robot model" could mean Elle Macpherson's AI replacement.

Either one could mean a scaled down replica of a robot.

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In English we always use adjectives before the noun, i.e. descriptive words come before the item in question. Model robot would be the correct term in this situation as "model" is your descriptor and "robot" is your item.

We actually have a very specific order when multiple adjectives are used which can be found here:

Cambridge Dictionary - Order of Adjectives

Interestingly it's something that all fluent English speakers do without generally being aware that a rule even exists. So for example you could say:

The green model robot

But it would be incorrect to say:

The model green robot

  • 2
    Isn't "model" a noun? – DeeDee Nov 3 '17 at 9:22
  • 1
    The word model can be used as an adjective or a noun, especially in scientific or technical writing (as in system model or model circuit). That's why you can find hits for both "model prototype" and "prototype model" in the literature. A robot model could be a model of a robot. – J.R. Nov 3 '17 at 9:44
  • That's a point I hadn't considered, I'd assumed you were using it as an adjective as contextually that made the most sense to me. In fact model can also be used as a verb, and in your sentence "robot model" could refer to being taught how to make a robot walk down a catwalk. – miggly Nov 3 '17 at 9:59

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