Can Nouns Be Adjectives?


In the English language, words are organized by their function (how they are used). A part of speech is a group of words that are used in a certain way. All words in the English language are divided into eight different parts of speech:

  • nouns (cat, house, boy, flower, etc.)
  • pronouns (he, she, I, you, etc.)
  • adjectives (nice, cool, good, bad, etc.)
  • verbs (go, jump, sleep, eat, etc.)
  • adverbs (fast, slowly, well, nicely, etc.)
  • prepositions (in, on, under, behind, above, etc.)
  • conjunctions (and, but, or, etc.)
  • interjections (Hey! Ouch! Yay! Wow! etc.)

In the English language, many words are used in more than one way. Some words can function as several different parts of speech. In this lesson, we will answer the question: “Can nouns be adjectives?”.

A noun is a word that names a person, place, or thing. 

Examples: hat, man, school, New York, Kelly, child, car.


Learn about English plural nouns with English Plural Nouns: A step-by-step Guide. This booklet is also available as a free bonus in any of the following products: 

English Plural Nouns, a Step-by-Step Guide

adjective is a word that describes a person, place, or thing.

Examples: strong, purple, American, tiny, original, wooden, pink.

a pink book

So, adjectives are used to describe nouns. An adjective can be placed before or after the noun it describes. 


  • strong man or the man is strong
  • purple hat or the hat is purple
  • American school 
  • tiny child


In English, many words can function as more than one part of speech. Sometimes, nouns can function as adjectives to describe other nouns. In that case, the first noun acts as an adjective

Attributive Nouns

Nouns that describe other nouns are called attributive nouns. Attributive means “joined directly to a noun in order to describe it.” 



noun as adjective
attributive noun)





We read a war story in class.



The news reporter looked at the camera.



Where is the bathroom?



They were involved in a car accident last week.

We can write attributive nouns and the real noun in several different ways.

  • separate words: peanut butter
  • hyphenated words: ice-cream
  • one word: sunflower

    Using Multiple Attributive Nouns

    Just like adjectives, you can use more than one attributive noun to describe a noun. Do not use commas to separate the attributive nouns.


    • research committee meeting
    • summer baseball team coaches

      Attributive Nouns with Adjectives

      When an attributive noun is used with a real adjective, the adjective always comes first. 


      • expensive dog food
      • empty coffee cup
      • healthy bean soup


        1) Which of the following words are nouns? Circle them.

        wow, eat, he, nice, boy, she, on, I, money, under, you, cool, cat, fast, in, sleep, tree, above, sun, slowly, and, but, house, nicely, well, or, good, dog, bad, go, behind, jump, flower.

        2) Which of the following words are adjectives? Circle them.

        pink, wow, eat, he, nice, boy, she, on, short, I, money, under, you, coolcattall, in, sleep, tree, above, sunyellow, slowly, and, but, house, nicely, dry, or, good, dogbad, go, behind, jump, flower.

        3) Complete each sentence using one of these attributive nouns.

        1. dog
        2. history
        3. bicycle
        4. ice
        5. foot
        6. coat
        1. She put three ____________ cubes in her glass before filling it with water.

        2. We need a ____________ house for our new puppy.

        3. Hang your jacket on the ____________ rack.

        4. I kicked the ____________ ball down the field.

        5. You can ride down the ____________ path to school.

        6. I forgot my ____________ book at school. 




        1) Which of the following words are nouns? (in bold)

        wow, eat, he, nice, boy, she, on, I, money, under, you, cool, cat, fast, in, sleep, tree, above, sun, slowly, and, but, house, nicely, well, or, good, dog, bad, go, behind, jump, flower.

        2) Which of the following words are adjectives? (in bold)

        pink, wow, eat, he, nice, boy, she, on, short, I, money, under, you, cool, cat, tall, in, sleep, tree, above, sun, yellow, slowly, and, but, house, nicely, dry, or, good, dog, bad, go, behind, jump, flower.

        3) Complete each sentence using one of these attributive nouns.

        1. D = ice cubes
        2. A = dog house
        3. F = coat rack
        4. E = football
        5. C = bicycle path
        6. B = history book