I have been always having trouble with the order of nouns when I want to indicate that one describes the other.

For example, suppose I want to discuss a feature of a system named SNR (Signal-to-Noise Ratio). What is the difference between the two following sentences? Are both correct?

The SNR feature significantly affects the performance.

The feature SNR significantly affects the performance.

I searched a lot, but I couldn't figure out the difference. What topic should I read to understand it?

As another example, suppose I want to indicate a method named XYZ.

The XYZ method is more effective.

The method XYZ is more effective.

Are both correct?

  • The word "feature" could be confusing there. It often refers to an optional aspect of a system, while SNR is an inherent characteristic. So, you could just say "The SNR affects performance." If you want to add a noun, you could say "The SNR specification". Dec 17, 2020 at 9:02
  • @JackO'Flaherty I have edited the question and I added another example. Please see that.
    – M.H
    Dec 17, 2020 at 10:02
  • I added an answer, for your consideration. Dec 17, 2020 at 15:45

2 Answers 2


As a software developer, I'd rather use the SNR feature, this sounds more common.

Also here you can find information about attributive nouns:

English often uses nouns as adjectives - to modify other nouns.

So in your example Signal-to-Noise Ratio is an attributive noun and is used to define what the feature does.

The second example is also goes in the same manner (what method is about):

The XYZ method is more effective.

Just like X-Y Problem (commonly used, so you can be sure that it is right).

  • I have edited the question and I added another example. Please see that.
    – M.H
    Dec 17, 2020 at 10:03
  • @M.H I have updated the answer. Dec 17, 2020 at 10:11
  • Thanks Marria. Is the sentence "The method XYZ ..." incorrect?
    – M.H
    Dec 17, 2020 at 11:01
  • In my opinion, it is incorrect. See the example, sometimes nouns are interchangeable with different meanings, like car race (race where participants use cars) and race car (car for the race). For XYZ method I cannot think of any valid construction with method as attributive noun. @M.H Dec 17, 2020 at 11:10
  • @MariiaIllarionova - "Method efficiency" would be the efficiency of a method. Contrast with "efficiency method," which would be a method for determining (or creating) efficiency. Dec 17, 2020 at 13:42

In a compound noun, the first word usually describes the second, corresponding to the usual English word order where an adjective precedes a noun. So look at your combination and see which noun is more of a descriptor, and which is more described.

In your example "the XYZ method" is more likely than "the method XYZ", because "method" is the main noun, and "XYZ" is a further modifier or specification.

On the other hand, if you are describing a series of methods, you might go through the list like this: method XYZ... method ABC... etc.

There are many articles available on the subject of compounds. Here's one:
Merriam-Webster "forming compound words"

Here's one from Stack Exchange:
ELL How can I correctly form...

You must log in to answer this question.

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