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The headline is:

Analysis: The limits of a Europe whole and free

If the headline was "... whole and free Europe" instead, would that differ from the original meaning? As a learner, I often see that adjectives come before the noun. So would "The limits of a whole and free Europe" differ somehow from the first example?

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    Your cited example is a bit unusual, because it features both "formal, scientific" and "literary, poetic" elements. By default, adjectival "whole and free" should come before the noun it modifies, so the cited example is a stylistic inversion. Compare Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned - stylised inversion from the default adjectival usage a scorned woman (cf a married woman, an angry woman,...). But in your specific context, the stylistic choice has no real effect on "meaning". Feb 23, 2022 at 12:03
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    @FumbleFingers Care to make this an answer?
    – gotube
    Feb 27, 2022 at 5:49

2 Answers 2

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You're right that attributive adjectives (adjectives that directly modify nouns) normally come before the nouns they modify.

When we invert this word order, it's still correct, but it sounds very poetic, not at all natural. So in this case, it was a stylistic choice by the writer who apparently wanted this title to sound poetic.

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Well, ‘whole and free’ should come before ‘Europe’, as these two adjectives bring more details about ‘Europe’. However, in this specific example, I actually think you can put these adjectives after Europe ; it doesn’t sound odd to me, and it obviously doesn’t change the original meaning.

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    This is a non-answer. You say, ‘it should be this, because of this, but then again it could also be this instead’. Feb 27, 2022 at 5:52
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    Hello Sean, and welcome to ELL! We expect answers here to be verifiable (not just opinions) and include explanations that refer to general concepts, like parts of speech, grammar rules and so on, rather than referring only to the words in the example. What's the general rule here that normally requires "whole and free" to go before "Europe"? Why is it OK in this example to put them after "Europe", beyond that it sounds OK to you?
    – gotube
    Feb 27, 2022 at 5:53

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