This might sound as a trivial question but it's been on my mind for a while now, and so I am asking it.

Isn't the use of the word "adjective" in "adjective phrase/clause" erroneous? I mean because "adjective" is not a 'noun' here but an 'adjective', shouldn't it be "adjectival phrase/clause? Likewise for " noun/adverb phrase/clause."


In the phrase adjective clause, "adjective" is not an adjective: it fails most of the tests for adjectives. It is a noun modifying another noun: a very common structure in English.

In this case, the noun-modifier and the adjective ("adjectival") are both possible; in other cases, only the one or the other is possible.

The claim that such-and-such a phrase is "wrong" or "erroneous" because some (usually old-fashioned) grammatical analysis forbids it generally means that said grammatical analysis fails to describe English adequately.

  • 1
    Attributive noun, noun adjunct.
    – Eddie Kal
    Aug 24 '20 at 16:31

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