All About Modified Nouns in English Grammar

Due to the large cast of modified nouns, one can often find considerable confusion surrounding them. And it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish what is a modifying noun and what noun is being modified.

What are Modified Nouns?

Modified nouns are nouns modified by a pronoun, determiner, quantifier, or description. A modified noun is when an adjective or a participle is attached to the word, making it stronger. For instance, “chicken” is just a noun word. But when you say “chicken burger,” the word chicken acts like an adjective modifying the noun burger.

In simpler words, a modified noun is an adjective that predicts or defines the thing or event it is referring to. Below are examples of some of the most common types of noun modifiers.

Type 1: Adjectives

Example Sentence: I can’t find my gold chain.

The noun entity is ‘chain,’ and the modifier is ‘gold.’

Type 2: Verb-ing Modifiers

Example Sentence: Laura caressed the cat sleeping in the sun.

The noun entity is ‘the cat,’ and the modifier is ‘sleeping the in the sun.’

Type 3: Verb-ed Modifiers

Example Sentence: The car parked in the garage belongs to my friend.

The noun entity is ‘The car,’ and the modifier is ‘parked in the garage.’

Type 4: Prepositional Phrases

Example Sentence: The girl in the red dress is my colleague.

The noun entity is ‘The girl,’ and the modifier is ‘in the red dress.’

Type 5: Relative Pronoun Modifiers

Example Sentence: The man who is standing outside my class is my brother.

The noun entity is ‘The man,’ and the modifier is ‘who is standing outside my class.

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How Do You Use Noun Modifiers?

As the name implies, noun modifiers are used to modify a one-word noun or a noun phrase. A modified noun goes beyond just telling us the description of a noun. It tells us what is related to the noun in one way or another. It will help to maintain a logical and unambiguous meaning of the sentence. Because noun modifiers affect noun entities, they must be positioned as close as possible to the item they modify.

Some of the common ways of using a noun modifier are as follows:

1. The first noun in a sentence can often modify or describe another noun following it in a sentence. A modifying noun gives more information about the noun (being modified) following it.

For example, The gift shop was closed on Tuesday.

In the above sentence, ‘gift’ is a modifier noun. It modifies the noun ‘shop.’ It helps the reader understand that the shop was specifically a gift shop, not any other regular shop.

2. When a modifier noun is paired with a number expression, the noun becomes singular, and a hyphen is used to indicate a relationship.

For example, He works with a four-person music band.

3. Two noun modifiers can be used together in a sentence to clarify the meaning better.

For example, Their two-partner IT start-up got off the ground.

In the above sentence, the two noun modifiers ‘two-partner‘ and ‘IT‘ modify the noun ‘start-up.’

Modification of Nouns

When modifying the meaning of a noun, we often use a modifier. A modifier is a word or phrase that tells more about, changes, clarifies, or limits a noun.

A singular countable noun can be modified in a variety of ways. We can use expressions like quite a/an or rather a/an before singular countable nouns. But with uncountable or plural nouns, this structure is not feasible.

Example 1: John is quite a genius

Example 2: John is rather a genius.

We can also modify a singular countable noun by using a quantifier with of.

Example 1: It was more of a study tour than a picnic.

Example 2: Let’s see how much of an artist you are.


Noun modifiers are words, commonly descriptive words, and adverbs added to nouns to describe them. It is essential to understand which words modify which nouns when creating your sentences.

You need to recognize the difference between using nouns as a noun and as adjectives. This article will help you understand more about noun modifiers and how to use them effectively to add meaning and detail to a sentence.

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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