Is there a term for nouns used as adjectives?



I know that a verb used as a noun is called a gerund. An example (from American baseball) is a "run," or a "home run," where a "run" across the plate scores a point. "Run" is the gerund.

In the term "home run," home is a noun used as an adjective for the gerund run. Is there a grammatical term that describes "home" in this context, i.e. a noun used as an adjective?

Tom Au

Posted 2014-07-17T17:56:30.657

Reputation: 2 535



To begin with, run in the phrase a home run is not a gerund. A gerund is an -ing form employed as a noun or as head of a clause acting as a noun. It maintains many properties of a verb: for instance, it may take objects, and it may be modified by adverbs.

Be particularly careful in running machinery you are not familiar with.
Running swiftly will tire you out.

Run in home run is simply a noun derived from the verb run. It does not take objects, and it is not modified by adverbs.

Be particularly careful in run machinery you are not familiar with.
Run swiftly will tire you out.

A noun employed as a modifier on another noun, like home in home run, is called an attributive noun. Some more examples:

  • home improvement
  • noun phrase
  • grammar book
  • lunch box
  • flight attendant

StoneyB on hiatus

Posted 2014-07-17T17:56:30.657

Reputation: 176 469

I'd believe running shoes as a "gerund functioning as adjective", but running machinery just looks like a continuous verb form to me. Same for running swiftly. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-07-18T03:39:17.853

@FumbleFingers What if we make a little change: "I hate his running machinery he's not familiar with"? – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-07-18T10:58:31.760

I think you're more the expert on terminology, but I suppose I'd have to admit the possessive *his* means it must be a noun, therefore it must be a gerund, not a participle. The question then arises whether we can/should parse "I hate running machinery" as parallel to *"I hate me being poor"* or *"I hate my being poor"*. To which I don't know the answer - I just thought there must be more "clear-cut" examples of gerunds than your first two. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica – 2014-07-18T12:59:33.373

1@FumbleFingers The last is a good point. I'll revise. ... as for the terminology, there's folks out there that sidestep the question and call it a gerund-participle. I follow the old use and call it a gerund when it heads a clause that acts as an NP and a participle when it heads a clause that acts as an adjective; but it doesn't lose its 'verbal' (rhemic) quality in either case. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2014-07-18T13:09:41.733