Why I always heard something like "Iphone release date and price unveiled". Shouldn't it be "be released" by someone? (Iphone can't release anything itself as a lifeless object)

I look up some the online dictionaries, none of it says "release" can be used as "adjective" (in order to describe "date"), and even if it can, it should be "the release date of Iphone and price unveiled".

What am I missing?


3 Answers 3


Yes, it is.

Here's why:

  • Nouns can sometimes be used like adjectives.

    From Wikipedia

    Noun adjuncts are nouns that modify other nouns.

    (e.g. language learners, man eater, work clothes, chicken soup, etc.)

  • How does this work for three nouns? (Iphone + release + date)

    They work for as many nouns as you like.

    (e.g. baseball game ticket price increase proposal, waste water treatment process)

    These are called noun chains. Here, only the last word functions as a noun.

  • Therefore, "Iphone release date" can be parsed as:


    And yes; this can be rephrased to:

    the date of release of the Iphone

  • I agree with you! +1 Apr 24, 2014 at 7:59
  • While maybe irrelevant to this site, I somehow feel it's interesting to mention that in Dutch these noun chains have to be concatenated into one word. So "baseball game ticket price increase proposal" in Dutch is "honkbalspelkaartjesprijsverhogingsvoorstel". You can make words as long as you want :). Apr 25, 2014 at 12:18

They're attributive nouns.

Here, release is an attributive noun. It modifies the head noun directly following it:

release date

Together they form the nominal release date, meaning "the date of [something]'s release". Add an article to that, and we get a complete noun phrase:

[ The release date ]noun phrase had yet to be determined.

Your example, though, is written in headlinese, a style in which articles and other words are often omitted. In this case, have been is also omitted (before unveiled).

It also uses a slightly more complex structure than the above: it coordinates release date with price to form a larger nominal, release date and price. This nominal is modified by another attributive noun, iPhone:

the iPhone [ [ release date ] and price ] have been unveiled

This could be considered a reduced version of two full noun phrases:

[ the iPhone [ release date ] ] and [ the iPhone price ] have been unveiled

I've bolded the attributive modifiers: iPhone, release, and iPhone again. The omitted words here are stricken through. The noun phrases mean in turn "the date of the iPhone's release" and "the price of the iPhone".

They're not adjectives.

Nouns can be used as attributive modifiers, just like adjectives. It's a basic function that nouns have, and every single noun can be used this way. In fact, other nouns modify other nouns all the time:

chicken soup
an atom bomb
a release date
a sports magazine

Some people say that sports and chicken here are "adjectives" or "nouns acting as adjectives". These people are wrong. How do we know?

  1. They don't inflect like adjectives:

    hot soup
    hotter soup
    hottest soup

    chicken soup
    *chickener soup
    *chickenest soup

  2. They don't accept adverbs as modifiers:

    hot soup
    very hot soup
    chicken soup
    *very chicken soup

  3. They often don't function as predicative complements:

    It was a dangerous bomb.
    It was an atom bomb.
    The bomb seemed dangerous.
    *The bomb seemed atom.
    He made the bomb dangerous.
    *He made the bomb atom.

  4. They don't function postpositively:

    This is hot soup.
    This is chicken soup.
    This soup is something hot.
    *This soup is something chicken.

  5. Attributive nouns are sometimes marked for number:

    a sports magazine
    a customs officer
    a soft drinks manufacturer
    the heavy chemicals industry
    The Parks Department

    Most attributive nouns are unmarked for number:

    chicken soup
    *chickens soup
    a trouser press
    a trousers press (nonstandard?)

    But adjectives are never so marked:

    *a hots soup
    *several beautifuls walls

In short, nouns remain noun-like when used attributively. Nouns don't suddenly become adjectives or adjective-like when you make use of one of their basic functions. Their main similarity to adjectives in this position is in being unmarked for number, but even there we can see a difference, and one that's widening over time—the plural attributive construction is becoming more and more common.

Sometimes attributive nouns are reanalyzed as adjectives. For example, in recent decades people have started to say funner, funnest, and really fun. For these speakers, fun really is a full-fledged adjective, and we can tell because it displays the characteristics associated with one!

But for the most part, there are clear differences between attributive nouns and adjectives, so there's very little motivation to use the word "adjective" in describing this sort of usage.

  • ++ But scissors kick is an awkward example: a) Scissors kick is in fact in widespread use, and b) in many dialects/idiolects scissors is singular - Could you bring me a scissors, please. Apr 24, 2014 at 9:38
  • @StoneyB Oh, I starred it because I thought scissors kick was nonstandard. (I grabbed that example from Quirk et al., but I see looking at corpora that you're correct.) I'll go with trousers press for my example, then, since I think that trouser press is the normal usage, but I'll mark it "(nonstandard?)" since I'm not sure.
    – user230
    Apr 24, 2014 at 9:43
  • @snailplane, your explanation terms are better.+1. Apr 24, 2014 at 10:33
  • Unfortunately, we cannot star the answer - this is brilliantly executed snailplane :)
    – Maulik V
    Apr 24, 2014 at 11:30
  • You only reckon that "chicken" can't be an adjective because you're jealous that my soup is chickener than your soup. Your soup is barely chicken at all. My soup is the chickenest soup around.
    – tobyink
    Apr 24, 2014 at 17:58

I guess iPhone release date serves as a compound noun. In that case, it does not take anything. You may read it like this...

[iphone release date] and [price] unveiled

[Just to address your confusion about the device being released by itself -- Even if I believe it for a while that 'iphone' is the one releasing itself, it takes 'releases', doesn't it! - iPhone releases its date and price!]


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