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What is the difference between an attributive noun and an adjective?

An attributive noun (also called noun premodifier) is a noun functioning as a modifier, usually as an adjective. An attributive noun may itself be a compound noun or noun phrase, in which case it is usually hyphenated. The noun phrase "ice cream" consisting of the adjective modifying the noun, becomes the attributive noun "ice-cream" and can modify the noun sundae in the noun phrase "ice-cream sundae." The hyphen allows a reader encountering the words in sequence to understand them immediately as a modifier. If a compound attributive noun is written without a hyphen, then a reader is likely to misinterpret it initially as a subject or predicate. Please note that an attributive noun is also defined as a noun that modifies another noun, such as "leather handbag" or "stone artifact." Nouns used in this way are sometimes said to be adjectives or to behave like adjectives. Attributive nouns may be marked in dictionaries with a label like often attrib placed after the part-of-speech label for noun. While any noun may be used attributively, the label is limited to those quite frequently used in this manner. An adjective is defined as a word standing for the name of an attribute which describes a noun more fully, e.g., "yellow flower."

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