I need to know how to specify something in English, I mean for example in the following case:

"Device calibration" or "calibration of a device"?

How can I know which is the right one?

What is the difference?

What rule I have to follow?

Is the structure of the second one used just to express possession?


1 Answer 1


Please note that this answer was provided before any edits were made to the OP's question.

Lambie's right that this is a complicated question. He's not quite right about the issue of posession. You need to ask yourself, "what am I talking about? A state or condition of the device, or an action that affects the device?" Are you using the word as an adjective or a noun?

Used as an adjective: Possessive

The calibration of the device => The device's calibration

We are talking about a condition of the device: the fact that because it has been calibrated it is now in a calibrated state. We're using calibration as an adjective to describe the state of the device.

Used as a noun: Compound noun

The calibration of a device1 => Device calibration

In this example we're talking about something that can be done to a device — the act of calibrating the device. This uses calibration as a noun identifying the action. Because we want to be specific about what we're calibrating, we use a compound noun: "device calibration."

Here are examples of the two uses:

I'll do the device calibration. (a task is being completed)

I'll change the device's calibration. (a condition of the device is changing)


So, you need to decide if you're using calibrate as an adjective or a noun. If it's an adjective, you'll use the posessive forms. If you're using it as a noun, you use the compound noun forms.

1 Please note that I am skipping the discussion of "a device's calibtration" vs. "the device's calibration." That might be a diservice to you. The magic isn't "a" vs. "the." The magic is choosing what you're talking about: adjective or noun. I felt that pointing this out in a footnote would be more clear than trying to discuss it in the body of my answer. Thanks!

  • Can I also use it for 2 terms? Such as "Implementation of shop and laboratory motor pool"? Thanks! Mar 14, 2018 at 17:09
  • The calibration of the device being made into device calibration is not possessive. It's creating compound nouns from A of B, which is not: John's house, which is a possessive.
    – Lambie
    Mar 14, 2018 at 17:31
  • @Lambie, I'm afraid you've missed my point: it can be. It depends on how you're using the word. If "calibration" is used as an adjective, it uses the posessive form. If it is used as a noun, it uses the noun form. I'll make that more clear in my answer.
    – JBH
    Mar 14, 2018 at 17:34
  • @JBH No, you have missed mine. Not everything that is of is a possessive. John's car is a possessive. My car uses a possessive pronoun. calibration of a device and device calibration are not possessives at all.
    – Lambie
    Mar 14, 2018 at 18:07
  • @Lambie, I agree that the OP had that confusion, which is why I explained it all. "Device calibration" is a compound noun identifying an action. "Device's calibration" is a possessive describing a condition of a device. I suspect we are enjoying what a colleague of mine once described as "violent agreement." We're both vociferously describing the same aspect of the OP's question from different perspectives. Would you agree?
    – JBH
    Mar 14, 2018 at 18:22

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