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Does "white bordered canvas" mean "bordered canvas whose color is white" or canvas whose border is white"? Since it's not "white-bordered canvas", I think the former one is correct, but I am not sure. It's a name of a product, and I couldn't find a picture for this.

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  • The hyphen ("white-bordered") is not significant, as it's often ignored by search engines. Both with and without the hyphen should return the same results on Google
    – Andrew
    Jun 26, 2019 at 16:25
  • I don't think that how Google treats English (after it has been written by someone else) is massively relevant here.
    – MikeB
    Jun 27, 2019 at 11:04

3 Answers 3

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It could mean either.

Since this refers to the border, rather than the frame, I am struggling to see what practical difference there is, though. I suppose it depends on whether the rest of the context makes it clear whether this is a fresh, unused canvas, or already has a picture on it. If the former, then it can only reasonably be said to have a white border if the main body of the canvas is another colour, which basically brings us back round again.

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  • Most of the time this relates to frameless prints, mounted on stretched canvas like a painting. "Border" refers to the sides of the canvas, which can be a number of options, including plain back or white. Example. Stretched and primed "blank" canvases are usually all white, so there's no point in specifying border color.
    – Andrew
    Jun 26, 2019 at 16:30
  • You're right that it could mean "either." But I'm confused by your larger paragraph where you say you don't understand the practical difference. (1) White-bordered canvas: this is a canvas (of no defined colour) that has a white border. (2) white bordered-canvas: this is a canvas that is white and that also has a frame (of no defined colour). There is a big difference in meaning. One has the canvas be white, while the other has the border be white. Most likely, when hyphens aren't used, people mean that the border is white. But the puncutation itself doesn't indicate that. Jun 26, 2019 at 18:03
  • Note: A canvas can apply to a painting, where unpainted canvas is shown, as well as to a photograph, where none of the canvas is shown. Jun 26, 2019 at 18:06
  • @Andrew - I think you've nailed it. I just looked up "black-bordered canvas" on Google images and found this.
    – J.R.
    Jun 26, 2019 at 18:55
  • @JasonBassford I specifically said that a frame is not the same as a border, so this would normally NOT refer to a frame, though marketing people frequently abuse language in numerous ways. "white bordered-canvas" means a canvas, that is white, and has a border. Not a frame.
    – MikeB
    Jun 27, 2019 at 11:02
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If it's a canvas (of unspecified color) that has a white border, that should be "white-bordered canvas." Compare the examples of hyphenated compound modifiers given here, especially "load-bearing walls" and "quick-witted boy."

If it's a white canvas with a border of unspecified color, that could be "white, bordered canvas" (note the comma, which is not present in your example). However, I think most native speakers would be more inclined to use "white canvas with a border"; I certainly would. Additionally, in most contexts it would be rather odd to describe a canvas this way without specifying the color of the border.

Therefore, I think it's fairly safe to assume that the writer means "white-bordered canvas" – a canvas with a white border.

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  • I prefer using white bordered-canvas in contrast to white-bordered canvas, just to make the use of the hyphen clear. Your use of the comma switches the way it's looked at—but it's still a good example. Jun 26, 2019 at 18:08
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If someone says they'll sell you a "white bordered canvas" picture of your wedding, for example, you're probably being offered something like this...

enter image description here

Most likely the actual image in that example has been printed (from a photographic original) onto canvas or similar material, which is then pinned (at the back, which we can't see) to a wooden "canvas stretcher". The canvas itself is normally painted completely white before adding the printed image.

A real hand-painted oil picture on canvas would start off as a sheet of canvas stretched on a frame like that anyway, so it gives the appearance of being something painted by an artist friend of the couple, just taken off his easel.

(Note that many people would call actually that a "frameless" or "borderless" picture.)

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