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I have heard "Government officials," "Government officers" etc. Here, the word "government" is used as adjective, but it is not a real adjective. So where should I use "governmental" and where I should not? The below sentence is an example that has used the word "governmental." Can I replace it with "government"? Does its meaning change?

The possibility of an attack on Indian Point, a nuclear power plant, has caused local governmental officials to plan evacuation routes, build shelters, and offer citizens potassium pills in order to have fewer casualties in case of a leak.

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    We use a lot of things as adjectives that aren't "real" adjectives. For example, in horse race, factory floor, or picture frame, horse, factory, and picture aren't adjectives, but we can use them like one to mean "race of horse(s)", "floor of (a) factory", or "frame of (a) picture". "Government officials" is no different.
    – stangdon
    May 23, 2016 at 14:06
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    @stangdon My question is when we have the accurate adjective of that noun, why do we choose the noun as adjective?
    – ARYF
    May 24, 2016 at 4:05
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    You ask a good question; the best thing I can tell you is that "government officials" is just more idiomatic than "governmental officials". To me, there's a slight difference in that "government X" implies "X belonging to the government", whereas "governmental X" means "X, of a type associated with governments".
    – stangdon
    May 24, 2016 at 14:54

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"Government" is an attributive noun, "governmental" is an adjective. They mean the same thing, and I believe you can use either word whenever you want. That said, I do believe "government" is a little more commonplace, but that may differ depending on the phrase.

For example, I think "government official" is probably more commonplace than "governmental official," at least in modern English. Another example: I've seen "governmental bodies" many times. In formal English, you might see "governmental" more often.

Ultimately, I think it doesn't matter which you use, but it might be a good idea to pick one and be consistent with it.

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Changing Government to Governmental has changed the meaning to one that might not be correct. It is quite subtle. A Government Official is someone who is an employee or officer of the Government and is implementing the decisions of a Governmental Body. A Governmental Official is more likely to be someone like a Prime Minister or President who creates Government rather than implements the decisions made elsewhere; which is how I might interpret it.

Elsewhere the wording could be improved. The tablets used are Potassium Iodide and are normally shortened to Iodide Tablets and not Potassium Tablets. It is the Iodine that provides the protection from radiation leaks.

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  • For example, if I consider US President Obama is "Governmental official," then who is "Governmental official"?
    – ARYF
    May 23, 2016 at 8:23
  • I disagree that a governmental official more often refers to a prime minister or president. I just can't find any evidence of this. If you google "obama governmental", the search is automatically changed to "obama government," which suggests that Google doesn't even distinguish between "government" and "governmental".
    – Ringo
    May 23, 2016 at 9:10
  • @Ringo Please provide references to make your argument robust.
    – ARYF
    May 23, 2016 at 10:26
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    @ARYF That's the thing, I can't seem to find references. I did find this page which describes the difference between "government" and "governance": grammarist.com/usage/governance. It doesn't talk about "governmental" vs. "government" at all, which suggests to me that grammarist.com doesn't distinguish between the two.
    – Ringo
    May 24, 2016 at 4:40
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Is always a difference of nuance. For instance, when in a sentence someone wants to write about "...agencies that belong to government..." then this can be replaced by "...government's agencies..." or "....governmental agencies...". Using one expression or the other could be only a matter of contextual relevance. In the end, I believe that it's just about someone's momentary "language feeling".

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