Which phrase, if any, of the following, is correct with regard to each single element of my puzzle design:

  1. element has a shape of a dinosaur
  2. element is in the shape of a dinosaur
  3. element is of the dinosaur shape
  4. is dinosaur-shaped

enter image description here

My research.

I find support for "have a shape" in texts related to geometry. Here is an example:


Here is scientific work in which the phrase "is a shape of" is frequently repeated: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c824/a5c28db61405b19412a1fed6a2a8dc5733d4.pdf

Update for bounty.

I would like to find a compromise between brevity and precision. I want to point out that the puzzles are different from ordinary jigsaw puzzle in which each element is a rectangle with tabs and blanks.

  • I do not want to be as simple as to say that each element is a dinosaur (which is simple but not precise, since piece of wood is not an animal).
  • I do not want to be too descriptive as to say that it is a caricature of dinosaur or artistic impression of a dinosaur, which is precise but not simple.
  • I would like to avoid ambiguity. The figure is meant to be a dinosaur, not a dinosaur-like creature.

The best solution would be a two-three word phrase for layman audience.

  • 2
    I could have sworn you had asked this question (with identical picture) before, though I can't find it. (2) and(4) are both idiomatic ways of saying it. Oct 5, 2020 at 13:23
  • @KateBunting yes, I did. I asked it at English Language and Usage. I received a few valuable comments there which I have saved. But my question was soon closed as off-topic without leaving a comment why. I tried to improve it but it ended up only with down vote. Apparently the threshold was too high for me there. Oct 6, 2020 at 8:29
  • 1
    (2) is more formal, (4) more colloquial. People sometimes say informally, of something or someone they miss very much "There is a (--)-shaped hole in my life." Oct 6, 2020 at 8:46
  • 1
    The question is quite unclear to me, and appears self-contradictory. I don't mean this as blame or disparagement, but to try to encourage you to decide if you might get better answers by changing it. First, you ask what "is correct". What do you mean? Grammatical? To designate something correct or incorrect requires some standard. What that could be here is unclear. You do not give us the context in which the word or phrase would be used. To me, I'm afraid the answers and comments in them, so far, betray the problems and not only that, they make them worse. Finally, you've put a bounty 1/ Oct 17, 2020 at 18:15
  • on the question, thus preventing what seems to me probably needs to happen: Voting for the question to be closed, explaining why, and giving you the opportunity to rephrase it in a way that's likely to be helpful. EDIT: Further, asking "which is correct, 1, 2, 3, or 4?" seems to imply that you do not want any additional options. Yet your question also seems to request them. Quite problematic. 2/2 Oct 17, 2020 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


"Have the shape of" isn't really the best way of saying what you mean.

If you have something that belongs to someone else then you have the actual thing, or it is identical. For example, if someone says "I have my father's nose", it means their nose is identical to their fathers. A wooden toy isn't exactly the same shape as a real dinosaur... what you are trying to say is that it is like, or resembles the shape a dinosaur - recognisably so.

"In the shape of..." is an idiomatic phrase, you'll find it in the dictionary, and it means "in the form of something, or appearing as something". The toy has been made in a particular shape to appear as, or resemble the form of a dinosaur.

Another idiomatic way to say this would be "it is shaped like a dinosaur".

  • Is it really so? Tell it to a child that "this toy is not a bear, it is just shaped like a bear". Yes, I am aware it is just a dinosaur silhouette, mere wooden figurine, not a real animal. I want to explain the shapes of my puzzle to layman in simple words. "like dinosaur" sounds as if I failed to achieve the goal. I aim only for good caricatures bearing distinctive traits of real reptiles, I do not aim at creating real reptiles :-) Oct 5, 2020 at 14:04
  • @PrzemyslawRemin I certainly didn't think I was speaking to a child, nor was I speaking to you as if you were one. Rather, I was explaining why "[x] has the shape of [y]" is not idiomatic. If you have something that belongs to someone else then you have the actual thing, or it is identical. For example, if someone says "I have my father's nose", it means their nose is identical to their fathers.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 5, 2020 at 14:12
  • Thanks. To sum up. You say (1) not idiomatic (improper?), (2) you favor that one, (3) and (4) you didn't address those, you add alternative "is shaped like a dinosaur". Oct 6, 2020 at 8:45
  • 1
    @PrzemyslawRemin I don't know why you keep bringing children and adults into this. I never mentioned this in my answer. The shape of a tire is a circle. But we wouldn't say "a tire is in the shape of a circle", we would say "a tire is a circle", because a circle is a shape. You could say something is "dinosaur-shaped", but that would be odd when the item is meant to be a dinosaur. I've told you what I believe to be the idiomatic way to describe a 2-dimensional toy that is in the shape of a dinosaur, I'm happy to let my answer stand.
    – Astralbee
    Oct 6, 2020 at 9:41
  • 1
    Shaped like a dinosaur or is dinosaur shaped.
    – EllieK
    Mar 24, 2021 at 19:11
  • The shapes in my puzzle are all elephant shapes.
  • The pieces of my puzzles are elephant shaped. [not before a noun]
  • Elephant-shaped pieces are hard to fit together. [dash if before a noun].

In English, something is or isn't a shape. In English, we don't usually say: "have the shape of". There is an idiom: x takes the shape of y. But that is separate from this.

  • A circle shape, or circle
  • A square shape, or square

A circle-shaped canvas [for a painting, for example]
A square-shaped head [for a person or figure of a person, for example]

  • Each jigsaw piece

We say jigsaw puzzles are made of pieces.

  • …is shaped like a dinosaur
  1. We use the copular verb, like, to connect the subject (each jigsaw piece) to its predicate nominative (a dinosaur).
  • Each jigsaw piece is shaped like a dinosaur
  1. The OP could mention that the pieces are handcrafted, which is a strong selling point. The OP and Lambie's suggestion “dinosaur shaped" works well here
  • Each handcrafted piece is dinosaur shaped
  1. We could say the jigsaw puzzle is composed of [animal name] + pieces
  • A puzzle made of dinosaur pieces.
  1. The addition of “wooden“ will dispel any idea that the pieces are made from real dinosaur flesh and bone.
  • A puzzle made of wooden dinosaur pieces

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .