A great American consulting firm official

What does this "great" modify? Could it modify "consulting firm?"

I think it can only modify "official". If it can modify "firm", then it should be

A great American consulting firm's official


It can be modifying consulting firm or it can be modifying official.

Consulting firm is a noun which is restricting the sort of official, another noun, that we are discussing.

American is describing one of the nouns. Although the same word could be used as a noun in a different phrasing.

Great is describing one of the nouns.

If you wanted to be truly unambiguous...

That great American is an official at a consulting firm.

The American [person] is [acting as] an official at a consulting firm.

He is an official at a great American consulting firm.

The consulting firm is both great and American, and he is an official there.

He is a great American official at that consulting firm.

That official is both great and [an] American [person], and he officiates at that consulting firm.

This sort of ambiguity is not uncommon:

For sale : Queen Anne table by nice lady. With nice legs and big drawers.


I don't see any problem here. A group of adjectives modifies the noun "firm" (a great American consulting firm). The official belongs to the above-mentioned firm. "A great American consulting firm" functions as an attribute to the noun "official".


Here are two more possibilities.

There are theme parks named "Great America". It is possible that

A Great American consulting firm official

is an official who works for a consulting firm that does work for the Great America company. Or the Great America company could own a consulting firm, and the official could work for that consulting firm.

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