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This may come off as strange, but I just have to ask. If I were to express my desire for a romantic partner that who is also a vampire, would it be correct for me to say:

(a) I wish I had a vampire lover

(b) I wish I had a lover vampire.

I'm leaning towards option (a), but then again it may be misinterpreted as me wanting a person that loves vampires as much as I do rather than a vampire that loves me. If that makes sense. Still, option (b) sounds somewhat weird -- I wouldn't really call "lover" an attribute.

Either way, what would the general rule be when it comes to attributive nouns? Especially in the case with lover vampires, or vampire lovers. Interested for no particular reason.

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  • (b) is decidedly weird, so I'd forget that one. I can only imagine it being said by someone who already had some other kind of relationship with a vampire, as in I've got a brother who's a vampire, but I wish I had a lover vampire - and even there it's not great. The problem with (a) is a vampire lover is likely to be interpreted as a person who loves vampires, rather than a lover who is a vampire. So maybe just stick with I wish I had a lover who was a vampire, OR I wish my lover was a vampire. Jul 21, 2023 at 20:31
  • ... The general rule is neither "vampire" nor "lover" are particularly suitable for use as "attributive nouns" (nouns used adjectivally). Which in context I can't help noticing is also true of nouns like "brother" and "sister", but I don't know if there's an even more general rule telling us how to identify such nouns. Jul 21, 2023 at 20:35

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A compound noun is a noun made of two nouns, one after the other, like "cookie crumb". In all cases, the second noun is the root word, and the first noun modifies the root indicating its type. So in my example, "cookie crumb" is a crumb, and the type of crumb is "cookie". So it's a crumb from a cookie.

In your example, you're looking for a lover. What type of lover in particular? A vampire. So the correct form is "vampire lover".

It's worth noting that "lover" also means "someone who loves something", so "vampire lover" also means "someone who loves vampires", whether they themselves are a vampire or not. Context should make it clear though.

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The first is more idiomatic. You wish for a lover. What type of lover? A lover who is a vampire... ie a vampire lover. This makes sense because wanting to have a lover is a fairly normal, you are describing the particular type of lover.

On the other hand it is strange to want a vampire. While many people want a lover, and it might make sense to ask "What type of lover do you want?". People don't usually want a vampire, so asking "What type of vampire do you want?" just seems odd. Hence "I want a lover vampire" seems doublely odd. It assumes that wanting a vampire is normal thing.

Of course "I want a vampire lover" is ambiguous - it could mean a lover of vampires. This is often the case with attributive nouns. Context would normally avoid any problematic ambiguity.

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    In speech, the tone would make the sense clear. 'VAMPIRE lover' - a person who loves vampires. 'Vampire LOVER' - a lover who is a vampire. Jul 21, 2023 at 20:48

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